Gem Guide

Legends & Lore of Gemstones

Star Sapphire & Star Ruby Lore & History

Star Sapphire (and Star Ruby) are sometimes classified in the more general category of Fancy Sapphire.  Fancy sapphire is a term used to describe any sapphire that is not blue. Green sapphire comes in many shades with the better stones generally coming from Sri Lanka and Australia. Quite a few nice ones come from Madagascar as well.

Lore:  Gemstones as star sapphire or star ruby behave in such a manner is a phenomenon caused by what is known as an asterism (or star) Asterism is an optical effect related to rubies and sapphires. Star rubies and sapphires have rutile silk inclusions that, when interacting with a point source of light, create a sort of star on gem’s surface. Ideally this star has six “legs” but there are also rarer cases that present even more unique combinations

Many different legends have formed around these magical stones. People have thought that they had demons or angels of light living in them. And because they turned dark at night, they were thought to go to sleep just like people (sometimes called sleeper stones. Another favorite legend was that the first star rubies and star sapphires were formed when a sunbeam was in love with a lovely star.  People have worn them for protection from evil spirits or attackers, they carried them in medicine and healing pouches, they are powerful spirits in the shamanistic world.

People use them for saying and seeing the future or for objects of meditation. They are said to speak for, or are the voices of the mineral world spirits. Most are hundreds of millions of years old. The stars in all stones are believed to increase the gemstones magical powers, because it’s the all seeing eye of the spirit contained in the stone. They speak only when in the light and their voice is one of movement and shadow light shades. They are the symbol of the heavens.

The three crossed rays are said to symbolize faith, hope, and destiny. It was said to warn off harm, so was only worn by kings.

So what do you look for when purchasing a star sapphire or star ruby?

The best star sapphire and star ruby (IMHO), come from Burma and Sri Lanka, The richer colors in Sri Lankan stones are mainly (but not always) found in the larger sizes, where the color builds due to the longer light paths of the stones
It’s always a balancing act with star sapphire (star ruby)

  • Color: As a prominent man in the gemstone business once told me about the three C’s of colored gems Color, Color, Color. Valuable stars with a poor color don’t exist
  • Transparency: If the proper amount of colorant exists in the stone, only good transparency will bring it out. The so-called ‘glass body’ is the ideal. Too much silk means short light paths, which translates into poor, grayish color.
  • Star: The star should be complete and sharp, with no missing or broken legs, and ideally each ray should extend to the girdle.
  • Clarity: The best and sapphire is semi-transparent with just the right mix of “silk” or inclusions to create a well-defined star
  • Cut: Medium to high domes is preferable as flat domes only allow the star to be seen only from directly above

Mary Pickford was never shown on film wearing more jewelry than a string of pearls to preserve her image of innocence but in real life she preferred very large rubies and star sapphires. She owned both the 60-carat Star of Bombay and the 200-carat Star of India. And she wasn’t shy about wearing them both at the same time

Joan Crawford loved sapphires so much the press called them “Joan Blue.” One of her favorite pieces was a bracelet set with three star sapphires of 73.15 carats, 63.61 carats, and 57.65 carats. She also had a 70-carat star sapphire engagement ring from her second husband. She also owned a 72-carat emerald cut sapphire which she often wore on the same finger! In the forties, Crawford added a 75-carat amethyst ring and a huge 100-carat citrine ring, both emerald-cut with a simple mounting.

Jean Harlow also collected sapphires: her engagement ring from William Powell was a 150 carat cabochon sapphire. She wore it in her last movie, Saratoga, in 1937, before her tragic death at age 26

Some Famous Star Sapphires

Star of Bombay (182 carats)- The Star of Bombay is a 182-carat (cabochon-cut star sapphire originating from Sri Lanka. The violet-blue cabochon was given to silent film actress Mary Pickford by her husband, Douglas Fairbanks. She bequeathed it to the Smithsonian Institution. It is also the namesake of the popular alcoholic beverage Bombay Sapphire

The Star of India is a 563.35 carat star sapphire, one of the largest star gems in the world.] It is almost flawless and is unusual in that it has stars on both sides of the stone. The greyish blue gem was mined in Sri Lanka and is housed in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City

The Star of Adam is an oval-shaped blue star sapphire, currently the largest star sapphire in the world. It weighs 1,404.49 carats and was mined in Sri Lanka. It was named “The Star of Adam” by the current owner, as a reference to Muslim beliefs that Adam arrived in Sri Lanka and lived on Adam’s Peak after leaving the Garden of Eden.

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