sapphirine - Sri Lankasapphirine - Sri Lanka

Sapphirine Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

Sapphirines are durable but very rare gemstones. Although named after their typically sapphire-blue color, these gems can occur in different hues and display pleochroism, too.

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Sapphirines are durable but very rare gemstones. Although named after their typically sapphire-blue color, these gems can occur in different hues and display pleochroism, too.

sapphirine - Sri Lanka
Oval Portuguese-cut sapphirine, 1.09 cts, 7.1 x 5.7 mm, Sri Lanka. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

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Sapphirine Value

sapphirines and muscovites
Sapphirine and mica (var. muscovite) crystals. Beraketa, Bekily Department, Southwestern region, Tuléar Province (Toliara), Madagascar. Photo by Géry Parent. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

What is Sapphirine?

Sapphirine has loaned its name to the sapphirine mineral supergroup, which contains three subgroups, including the sapphirine group.

Is Sapphirine a Type of Sapphire?

Despite its name and most well-known color, sapphirine is a gem species distinct from sapphire. However, like sapphire, it too occurs in more colors than blue, albeit rarely. These colors include shades of violet, purple, green, pink, and brown. In 2007, a red variety was discovered in Tanzania. In addition, sapphirines can show very strong trichroic colors depending on the viewing angle.

oval-cut sapphirine - Sri Lanka
Most rare gem-quality sapphirines are grayish blue, but rarer still are those that show different colors, like this dark brownish, somewhat purple specimen. 1.09 cts, oval brilliant cut, 6.9 x 5.5 mm, Sri Lanka. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

What is "Sapphirine Chalcedony"?

The term "sapphirine" has sometimes been applied incorrectly to blue specimens of chalcedony, crystalline quartz, and spinel. One specific usage in art history persists. The gemologist Fred Gray writes that the ancient Greeks created scarab-like seal rings and particularly favored light blue chalcedony. In recent times, this material received the French name of "sapphirine."

Although the material is noted correctly as chalcedony in the museum listing, this rectangular prism is still referred to as "sapphirine chalcedony," after the fashion of describing these antiquities. Minoan civilization, ca. 1900-1600 BCE, 1.65 cm x 0.75 cm x 0.65 cm. Bequest of Richard B. Seager, 1926. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

Does Sapphirine Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

With a hardness of 7.5 and poor or indistinct cleavage, sapphirines would make good stones for everyday jewelry wear, especially if you like their classic blue appearance. Unfortunately for jewelry connoisseurs, facetable crystals are exceedingly rare. On the other hand, most gem-quality rough is generally eye clean (although small).

Sapphirines occur most often as transparent grains,

How to Identify Sapphirines

Sapphirine's refractive indices (RI) are close to those of idocrase. However, sapphirines have a biaxial negative optic character, while idocrases usually have uniaxial optic characters. (Please note that idocrase may be anomalously biaxial). Sapphirines also exceed idocrase in specific gravity (SG).

An unusual, 1.54-ct, oval-cut, purplish-pink specimen from Sri Lanka (initially reported as idocrase) had the following properties: 

  • RI = 1.701-1.707 with a β = 1.705.
  • Birefringence = 0.006.
  • SG = 3.51.

The rare red sapphirine from Tanzania reportedly has the following luminescent properties under ultraviolet light (UV):

  • Longwave UV: dull red.
  • Shortwave UV: weak orange.

What's the Difference Between Sapphirine and Serendibite?

Serendibite, another rare mineral in the sapphirine supergroup, also occurs very rarely in gem-quality condition. Since the 1990s, faceted serendibites have begun to appear on the market. While sapphirines and serendibites may appear very similar and have overlapping properties, sapphirines usually have higher RIs and hardness.

faceted serendibites
A matched pair of oval mix-cut serendibites, black to very dark blueish green in strong transmitted light, 3.37 ctw, 6.4 x 8.1 mm, Myanmar. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Are There Synthetic Sapphirines?

Scientists have synthesized sapphirines for geological research. However, there is no known jewelry use for this material.

There are no known gem treatments for sapphirines.

Where are Sapphirines Found?

Madagascar and Sri Lanka are the principal producers of gem-quality sapphirines.

Other gem-quality sources include the following:

  • United States: Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan; Lake Superior, Minnesota; Milford, Utah.
  • Australia; Canada; Czech Republic; Greenland; Italy; Japan; South Africa; Sweden; Tanzania; Thailand; Scotland, United Kingdom.

How to Care for Sapphirine Jewelry

Sapphirines require no special care. You can clean them safely with mechanical cleaning systems.

sapphirine, silver, and enamel brooch
Sapphirine, silver, and enamel brooch from the Ivan Britsyn workshop, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1908-17. Collection V. Kirichenko. Photo by Shakko. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

Joel E. Arem, Ph.D., FGA

Dr. Joel E. Arem has more than 60 years of experience in the world of gems and minerals. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University, he has published numerous books that are still among the most widely used references and guidebooks on crystals, gems and minerals in the world.

Co-founder and President of numerous organizations, Dr. Arem has enjoyed a lifelong career in mineralogy and gemology. He has been a Smithsonian scientist and Curator, a consultant to many well-known companies and institutions, and a prolific author and speaker. Although his main activities have been as a gem cutter and dealer, his focus has always been education.

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