When is a sapphire not a sapphire? When it's red, because then it's a ruby!
Both gemstones are a variety of corundum, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, a mineral second in hardness only to diamond.
Known in Sanskrit as Ratnaraj, the king of gems, rubies have been a treasured gemstone for centuries. The first reference of the stone dates back to 200 B.C., from the literature of the northern Silk Road where they were transported from China to Persia.
Rubies have been used throughout history to adorn the armor, scabbards, harnesses, and crowns of nobles, kings, and queens. Until the 20th century, the ruby was thought to be more valuable than the diamond. It is the birthstone for July and the symbol for love, vivacity, power, and passion.
Rubies are found in Tanzania, Kenya, Pakistan, Montana, North and South Carolina, and under the ice shelf in Greenland.
Burma has always been known as the source of the deep pigeon blood ruby, the most prized color in the ruby world. However, due to the Burmese government's egregious human rights record, Congress passed the Block Burmese JADE Act in October of 2008. Although the U.S. did have a ban on the trade of Burmese gems, this measure closed an important loophole that had allowed the import of Burmese gems via third countries, such as India.
The sapphire, most commonly known as a deep blue gemstone, actually has a fascinating range of color. Almost every color of the rainbow exists naturally in sapphires. A rare color-change sapphire exhibits blue in natural light and a violet-purple in artificial light.
Some stones contain inclusions of small rutile needles that exhibit a property called asterism. This effect produces the "...star sapphire, displayed only in a cabochon cut, and can have six to twelve rays emanating from its center."
The finest specimens of sapphire were mined in Kashmir, Northern India in the late 1800's to about 1920. Today they are imported from Eastern Australia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and are also found in Montana and North Carolina.
September is the month of the sapphire. In legend and folklore the stone is said to work as an anti-depressant and act as an aid in telepathy, clairvoyance, and astral projection. So whether you are feeling a bit down, want to know what's going on, or feel the need to get the heck off the planet, a piece of sapphire jewelry might be just what you need!