Sapphires and rubies both belong to a large family: the corundum family. They have the property and richness of being available in a rainbow of colors. We commonly associate blue with sapphire and red with ruby. And that's without taking into account the many different shades of light that these much-loved gems come in!

In addition to blue, sapphire can be colorless, yellow, orange, pink, violet, green, black... When it's red, it's generally called ruby. Thanks to impurities, oxides and other elements infiltrated during their formation, these corundums offer us a multitude of colors to contemplate. Nature's imperfections become a sublime asset. The diversity of these gems extends even further: some sapphires and rubies can be starry or change color depending on the lighting. So many treasures to discover through the beauty of these legendary gems...

 The family traits of sapphires and rubies...

Common properties of sapphires and rubies

Both corundum varieties have the same hardness: 9 on the Mohs scale(hardness scale from 1 to 10, 1 for dry soap and 10 for diamond). As a result, they are highly resistant to scratches and can be worn daily, in any form of jewelry.

They are aluminum oxides (i.e. composed of aluminum and oxygen). Their crystals can be hexagonal pyramids, barrel-shaped...

The characteristics of sapphires and rubies include: bands of color that intersect like silk threads, giving the gem a velvety appearance; areas of color concentration; small crystals; fingerprint-like liquid inclusions.

Some of these imperfections can work in favor of color, others against it. This is why the lapidary's work is crucial: depending on the cut, the brilliance will be different and the gem more or less sparkling. The aim is also to retain as much weight as possible while highlighting the gem's strengths, which often means transforming these flaws into advantages.

Both are born in a parent rock such as marble, gneiss or basalt, and are mined both at altitude and near rivers.

Sources of these gems are spread around the world, with a clear concentration in Asia and Africa.

Heating our beloved corundum

Of course, sometimes nature does things so well that no treatment is necessary: she herself creates gems full of life. When this is not the case, man continues the work that nature has begun. Many treatments exist to make sapphires and rubies more pleasing to the eye. Among them is heating. This process is an embellishing treatment to reveal and enhance the true color of the stones. Most of the sapphires and rubies on the market today undergo this practice, which has existed since ancient times in Sri Lanka and in no way devalues the gem. Some corundum is too pale, not sparkling enough, or, on the contrary, too dark... Artificially heating them does not alter the fact that they are natural stones, only highlights their brilliance. Just as nature allows their color during formation, man takes over and applies the same conditions to reveal their beauty. This is in sharp contrast to more recent treatments, which are highly intrusive and can distort the gem (e.g. rubies whose cracks are filled with colored glass to enhance their appearance). In this case, a foreign body is introduced into the stone: it is no longer considered completely natural.

An established reputation...

Sapphire and ruby are among the four gems considered to be the most precious (the other two being diamond and emerald). This is no coincidence, as these are hard stones that are highly resistant to impact.

For millennia, these corundums have been associated with the finery and crowns of the most prestigious people, evoking powerful symbols: passion, beauty and wisdom for rubies, and nobility, belief and sincerity for sapphires.

And of course...the most obvious thing they have in common is the attraction they exert on lovers of sparkling, beautiful pebbles...and have done ever since they were first discovered.

These gems are a must-have, a must-have: how can you get tired of the diversity of colors and brilliance with which nature has graciously endowed them?

Sapphire: the hidden face of a corundum we always thought was blue...

In its purest form, aluminum oxide is colorless. It is the impurities and other elements that determine its color. When we use the term sapphire, we mean blue sapphire. In Greek, "sappheiros" means "blue-colored stone". It is the combination of impurities such as iron and titanium that gives sapphire its coveted color. The more iron a sapphire contains, the bluer its color.

- Where it comes from: As with rubies, Asia is the cradle of sapphire. The three most important sources are Kashmir, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Blue sapphires from these locations are considered to be of better quality than anywhere else. Sri Lanka represents one of the world's most gem-rich lands. Most sapphires considered to be of superior quality and weighing over 100 carats come from Sri Lanka. Depending on its provenance, different terms and characteristics are attributed to the sapphire, sometimes to a fault. And it's not easy to confirm a stone's origin simply on the basis of its brilliance, its inclusions, the intensity of its color... For example, a sapphire whose color is similar to that of a cornflower, with its dominant violet-blue to pure velvety blue hue and its depth, is known as a "Kashmir sapphire", criteria typical of sapphires from Kashmir. This type of sapphire is very rare. Other important Asian sources are Thailand, Vietnam, China and Cambodia. More generally, sapphires are also found in Africa (Niger, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania) and Madagascar, where many have been mined for decades. They are often resold elsewhere as Sri Lankan or Ceylonese sapphires. Other sources include Australia and the USA (in the state of Montana). Most sapphires are cut in Asia.

-A rainbow of sapphires: Sapphire has a hidden face... It can take on a multitude of appearances, satisfying even the most demanding of admirers... One of the most coveted colors is pink-orange, orange-rose: this is the famous Padparadscha, which means "lotus flower" in Sinhalese. This sublime color, comparable to the flesh of a ripe guava, elevates this sapphire to the rank of the noblest and most esteemed. It owes its color to elements such as iron and chromium. Its color is unique. Like Padparadscha, sapphires of intense sparkling pink are highly prized for their uncommon beauty. Their color is largely due to chromium. A combination of iron, chromium and titanium generally contributes to the sapphire's purple color. There are also red-purple sapphires whose color is not due to chromium, but to the presence of beryllium. Green sapphires derive their color from several elements, including iron and titanium. It's not always easy to find green sapphires with bright intensity and vibrant brilliance. Other stones, such as tsavorites and tourmalines, are generally brighter green. Iron also contributes to the yellow-orange color of a sapphire.

Traces of chromium are sometimes added to give this color. Colorless sapphire or "leucosaphir" (leuco meaning white, colorless in Greek) is the purest of sapphires, as it is not colored by any impurity. It has often been used as a diamond substitute and is now more affordable. As is black sapphire, which has enjoyed a successful period with the success of black diamonds. Philippe Tournaire likes to paint with the palette of colors offered by sapphire, a gem full of surprises. By combining them, the artisan jeweler creates a harmony all his own: sparkling colors burst forth from the painting to bring it to life. It's the magic of the sapphire rainbow! 

Ruby is the red corundum par excellence

In Sanskrit, ruby is called "ratnaraj", meaning "king of gems". Considered the most prized variety of corundum, ruby owes its color to chromium. The more this element is present, the more intense the red. There's a great deal of controversy surrounding the naming of this gem: there's sometimes a fine line between an intense pink sapphire and a bright, sparkling raspberry-pink ruby.

- Where it comes from: A term often comes up when describing the best ruby color: "pigeon's blood". It's very rare to actually see pigeon's blood! This image indicates a slightly purple-tinged red, a very specific type of ruby. Jewelry designer Philippe Tournaire doesn't stop at this description: he chooses his rubies for their vibrant, intense, sparkling color, full of life. At the same time, the name refers to rubies from Myanmar, and Mogok in particular,

the most historically significant source of rubies. Despite established criteria of value, it goes without saying that the beauty of a ruby depends on individual appreciation and is therefore subjective. Rubies are found mainly in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Africa is also a rich source of rubies: Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Madagascar. This gem, unique for its intense red color and so adored the world over, stands out from the rest and is steeped in history forever. Coveted as soon as it was discovered, it was one of the first coloured gems to be imitated, thousands of years ago, by simple bits of coloured glass. But its impurities, which characterize it like sapphire, and its unrivalled color are not deceiving. The charm of nature's imperfections also lies in the fact that they herald the natural character of a sublime gem like ruby.

Chameleon and star corundum: "enigma stones

Sapphire, rainbow sapphires and ruby are the major players in the corundum family. However, this is a large family, and its members include sapphires and rubies of another type, just as extraordinary and colorful! Did you know that gemstones sometimes show marvellous stars? Once again, gemstones transport us into an imaginary world that lets us dream... Starry sapphires and rubies do indeed exist. This physical phenomenon, known as "asterism", causes a six-pointed star to appear most of the time (sometimes 4, sometimes 12 points, but this is very rare). This happens when light reflects small pin-like inclusions that interact in several directions. These gems are cabochon-cut, giving you a front-row seat for the unusual spectacle of a star in an enigmatic stone. A top-quality star sapphire or ruby should show a fine, distinct star, centered on the top of the stone and remaining the same shape when viewed from different angles. In any case, the greater the contrast between the color of the stone and the star, the higher its value. Generally speaking, star corundum is found in the same regions as sapphires and rubies that do not exhibit this type of phenomenon. Philippe Tournaire likes to enhance its jewelry creations by including rubies and star sapphires in strange, finely chosen colors, which sometimes transcend the ring, bringing out the unusual charm of these gems. Another atypical case of corundum is the "chameleon" sapphire: it changes color according to the light to which it is exposed. Thus, this intriguing gem, which looks blue-violet in daylight, takes on a crimson hue tinged with red when exposed to artificial light. The trigger for this phenomenon is vanadium. This impurity is rarely present during the formation of sapphires, which makes these"chameleon"gems all the more unique for their rarity. They are often compared to a gem called alexandrite, which reveals the same peculiarity.

The corundum family is more than just blue sapphire and red ruby. It encompasses the colors of the rainbow, the stars... This diversity is its strength. The same gem, with different inclusions, transforms and metamorphoses. So many colors to contemplate, so many journeys through these beauties that nature offers us... The kingdom of sapphires and rubies is constantly being rediscovered, with a pleasure that is renewed each time. Philippe Tournaire is very fond of this gem with a thousand faces, which is a key element in the creations of its jewels.

We organize gemology workshops where you can learn more about sapphires and rubies of all kinds. Enter the colorful corundum family!

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