The popularity of sapphire engagement rings has long been clear, but what is less well-known is that sapphires figure prominently in numerous beliefs and traditions. For centuries, sapphires have been regarded as the stones of wisdom and serenity; what is more unusual is the previous use of sapphires for alchemy, magic, healing rituals and astrological predictions.
It was believed by early priests and scholars that sapphires, as well as other precious gemstones, conveyed specific ‘virtues’ that could benefit man. According to legend, the key to Helen of Troy’s desirability, ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’, was her possession of a large star sapphire. Similarly, King Solomon’s famous sapphire, the ‘Seal of Solomon’, was said to give him the power to command demons and to speak to animals; reportedly King Solomon also used the magical influence of sapphires to seduce the Queen of Sheba.
During the Hellenistic period, gemstones were associated with specific deities or occult powers, and sapphires were routinely coupled with Jupiter, or Zeus, the god of the sky. Arabian kings during this period were also known to wear sapphires to protect themselves from envy and physical injury. However, in medieval times, sapphires were used as a test for fidelity, often on wives of crusaders when their husbands returned from their campaigns, as it was believed that the stones would change colour if worn by the unfaithful. Clearly sapphire engagement rings had their uses, though what was unfortunate was that some sapphires did actually change colour depending on the light.
As if sapphire engagement rings weren’t looking more and more useful, sapphires have also long been credited with an ability to heal numerous medical and mental conditions; they have been said to calm overactive body systems, treat disorders of the blood, regulate the glands and even cure epilepsy. This is in addition to their rumoured ability to alleviate the suffering caused by rheumatism, allergies, biliousness, hiccups and cancer. If placed on the forehead, the blue sapphire was thought to rid the sufferer of headaches, nightmares and nosebleeds, as well as increasing one’s life span. Even stranger were the health benefits that sapphires bestowed, varying according to where the sapphire was worn. For example, if placed on your index finger, a sapphire would ease ailments of the stomach and respiratory systems, but if you were foolish enough to wear a sapphire on your thumb, you would receive no health benefits.
Sapphires also have ancient associations with religion. The ancient Persians believed the Earth was balanced on a giant sapphire that reflected the colour of the heavens. In particular, sapphires are key symbols in Christianity, given their association with chastity, piety and repentance. Tradition maintains that Moses’ Ten Commandments were originally written on tablets of sapphire. Cardinals were also required to wear a sapphire ring on the right hand, because the stone was believed to suppress sexual desires and promote chastity and piety.
Whoever knew sapphire engagement rings could be so useful? When considering their reputation, it seems no wonder that sapphires have maintained such popularity after all these years.