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The Dazzling History of Sapphire Engagement Rings

Princess Kate's sapphire engagement ring

Lady Di’s 12-carat center Sapphire surrounded by 14 diamond accents now adorns the hand of her daughter-in-law Kate Middleton. The beautiful sapphire Ring is beloved the world over for its powerful yet delicate appearance.

Considered by jewelers to be one of the “big four” of precious jewels, sapphires have long held the fascination of the royal and commoner alike,  making it a natural choice for Engagement Rings.

The deep blue of the most popular sapphire evokes feelings of trust and fidelity, many say, while the pinkish-orange hue of the rare padparadscha, derived from the Singhalese word for a salmon-colored lotus blossom, seemingly transports the wearer to a tropical paradise.

It’s no wonder these unique gems have adorned engagement rings for two millennia.

The Most Famous Sapphire in All the Land

The most prominent sapphire engagement ring in recent history, of course, is the engagement ring of the late, adored Princess Diana.

Now worn by Kate Middleton, the beautiful, blue sapphire engagement ring entered the scene in 1981 and fascinated the world with its simplicity and availability to all, despite being worn by a princess.

One of the first known gems in the world, sapphires are favored by many and considered the most precious and valuable blue gemstone. In fact, jewelers say rubies are the king of stones, while sapphires are the stones of kings.

Why Choose a Sapphire Engagement Ring? What Makes Sapphires Unique?

Prince Albert Brooch of blue sapphire and diamonds

Blue sapphires have long been associated with the British royalty. Presented to Queen Victoria by soon-to-be Prince Albert prior to their wedding, this sapphire brooch became a favorite of the long-reigning queen.

At a glance, all sapphire engagement rings seem unique because they are simply so different from the diamond solitaire we have come to know and love over the last century. But did you know sapphires are distinct in other ways, too?

With a durability beyond compare, sapphires have been a favorite of royalty and clergy since the Roman ages. In fact, the only natural item that can scratch a sapphire is a diamond!

This resilience makes sapphires a great choice for a ring you will wear every day, like the modern engagement ring, or a brooch such as The Prince Albert Brooch, originally Queen Victoria’s favorite gift from her husband. Queen Elizabeth II inherited the brooch with the heirloom jewels in 1952 and she also wears the splendid brooch often.

A Rainbow of Colors

In addition to stellar sturdiness, sapphires come in a dazzling rainbow of colors. Blue sapphires are by far the most popular as well as rarest and most valuable. But sapphires are also found in hues of yellow, green, pink, and even black.

The rarest type of sapphire is a pinkish-orange gem called padparadscha, Sanskrit for “lotus flower.”

Another quality that makes the sapphire unique is its imperfect state. Each is distinctive, quite like us. While imperfections in diamonds are flaws that decrease the value of the stone, imperfections in sapphires add to their value and beauty. Jewelers sometimes even bring out a sapphire’s flaws using a special heating process to create a ‘star’ effect.

And then there’s the meaning behind the gem. The deep symbolism that has endured for millenia.

The Romantic History and Symbolism of Sapphires

Blue has long been considered the color of fidelity, and sapphires boast the deepest blue of all minerals in the world. Sapphires were the preferred gem for engagement rings long before diamonds became the rage in the early 1900s. In fact, Romans used the beautiful blue gems to show the honorable intentions of a groom-to-be.

To many, the sapphire symbolizes truth, sincerity, faithfulness and love. Dating back to the ancient Greek and Romans, deep blue sapphires were a favorite of royalty. Kings often wore sapphires when they signed treaties as a symbol of good luck.

Blue sapphire engagement ring with diamonds

Saphhires: Always in Demand

The popularity of sapphires in engagement rings has ridden a wave throughout recent history, but the desire for sapphires has been a relative constant for the upper crust since the 1200s or earlier.

They first grew in demand during medieval times, when it was widely believed that the color of the sapphire in a ring would fade if worn by an unfaithful person. Based on this belief, clergy began a mandatory waiting period – or engagement – before marriage in order to see whether the gem’s color faded.

Similarly, husbands returning from the Crusades believed they could test their wives’ faithfulness with sapphires.

In the 1700s, writer Mme de Jenlis’ popular fable, ‘Le Sapphire Merviellence,’ linked sapphires to fidelity once more, creating a fresh demand for sapphire engagement rings.

Sapphire Engagement Rings in Modern Times

By the 1800s, sapphire engagement rings weren’t only for royal ladies or their hangers-on. Thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s longtime preference for the stunning diamond and sapphire brooch gifted to her by her husband, Prince Albert, just prior to their wedding, sapphires became quite popular in Victorian engagement rings, when they were often surrounded by smaller diamonds to create floral designs.

sapphire engagement ring

An Art Deco sapphire and diamond engagement ring from the 1920s or 30s.

By the early 1900s, often called the Edwardian era, engagement rings were everywhere, and they quickly becoming an accepted tradition across class lines. (The industrial revolution brought about an increase of wealth and a growing middle class in Europe and America, and fine jewelry was finally within the reach of the masses!)

While Edwardian engagement rings often contained diamonds in detailed, lace-like settings, the engagement rings of the Art Deco period in the 1920s and 1930s were big, bold, and often full of sapphires, which were once again popular.

The rings of that day were less feminine in nature and more geometric and modern, with diamonds accented by multiple sapphires and rubies.

Since then, no one trend has dominated the world of engagement rings, and sapphire rings have continued to wow the public when notable ladies make it their choice. Let’s take a look at some!

Famous Ladies and Their Sapphire Engagement Rings

sapphire engagement ring collage of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte gifted future empress Josephine with a tear-shaped sapphire alongside a tear-shaped diamond, each gem weighing about one carat, in an 18th-century gold setting known as “toi et moi,” or “You and Me.”

Surely the most famous royal blue sapphire engagement ring in modern history was Princess Diana’s, given to her in 1981 by Prince Charles.

That very ring is now worn by Kate Middleton, Diana’s daughter-in-law. The ring boasts a 12-carat center sapphire surrounded by 14 diamond accents and is revered the world over for its powerful but delicate appearance.

These leading ladies weren’t the first royals to sport the beautiful blue hues of sapphires, however.

Josephine Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte, madly in love with his future empress, the widow Josephine, scrimped and saved on a young officer’s salary to purchase a stunning ring: a tear-shaped sapphire alongside a tear-shaped diamond, each gem weighing about one carat, in an 18th-century gold setting known as “toi et moi,” or “You and Me.”

Handed down within the family from generation to generation, the ring is now one of the most famous engagement rings in the world. It sold at auction for $1 million in 2015.

The ring may seem small or commonplace considering it belonged to an emperor and empress, but many believe the simple beauty of the ring proclaims Napoleon’s feelings for Josephine, his future queen.

Modern Celebrities and Their Sapphire Engagement Rings

sapphire engagement ring on Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham has upgraded her engagement ring over 10 times, one time opting for a gorgeous blue sapphire.

After George Clooney gave his bride a 7-carat emerald-cut yellow diamond in 2014, men on slightly tighter budgets opted for yellow sapphires instead, as in the case of Donnie Wahlberg and the ring he gave his wife Jenny McCarthy.

In 2010 actor Javier Bardem gifted wife Penelope Cruz with a beautiful blue sapphire engagement ring: a 3-carat oval cut set in a flower-shaped halo of diamonds.

And one of Victoria Beckham’s many engagement rings from hubby David Beckham over the last 15 years is a round blue sapphire.

Princess Di and Duchess Kate

The ultimate trendsetter, though, was the late Princess Diana, who chose not a custom-made ring for a princess, but a ready-made ring that any subject could purchase.

The oval sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds and set in white gold was available from Garrard of Mayfair. The princess adored the ring so much that she continued to wear it even after her divorce from Prince Charles.

After Diana’s tragic death in 1997, her sons Princes William and Harry each selected a piece of her jewelry as a memento. While Prince William chose a Cartier watch, his brother Harry chose the famous blue sapphire engagement ring. In later years, the princes exchanged items when William decided Kate Middleton, soon to be the Duchess of Cambridge, should wear the striking ring in Diana’s honor.

Princess Diana and Kate sapphire engagement ring collage

In the early 1980s Princess Diana charmed the world by selecting a striking blue sapphire engagement ring surrounded by 14 diamond accents. The ring, available to all via Garrard’s, was an instant hit.

Choose a Sapphire Engagement Ring: A Unique Ring for Your Unique Lady

Over the centuries, sapphires have maintained their popularity and mystique, proving this distinctive gem is a unique pick for engagement rings, or any jewelry.

Whether you are seeking a sapphire and diamond wedding band, an a unique custom sapphire engagement ring, or a single sapphire stones, the sapphire is a wise choice!

The post The Dazzling History of Sapphire Engagement Rings appeared first on The Natural Sapphire Company Blog.



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