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The Mystery of the Star Sapphire

Montana sapphires

September's Birthstone

Sep 1

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"It seems that I am happy, that to me A livelier emerald twinkles in the grass, A purer sapphire melts into the sea."

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Maud", 1855

The most famous of star sapphires, The Star of India (a milky blue large sapphire exhibiting the star pattern known as asterism), was mined in Sri Lanka, three centuries ago, and was the object of a famous jewel heist in 1964. Ignoring its reputation for being cursed, three jewel thieves broke into the American Museum of Natural History and made off with about $410,000 in stolen jewels (about $3 million today), including the Star of India. They were able to achieve this feat because the batteries in the display case alarm had been dead for months, the tops of the hall's windows were open for ventilation, and no security guard had been assigned to the room. The jewels weren't even insured, reportedly because premiums were prohibitive. The gems were eventually recovered from a Miami Trailways bus terminal locker shortly thereafter. More rare than the blue sapphire is the color-change sapphire, which exhibits different colors in different light. Color change sapphires are blue in outdoor light and purple under incandescent indoor light, or green to gray-green in daylight and pink to reddish-violet in incandescent light! 💎

The Mystery of the Star Sapphire

The sapphire is the stone associated with the month of September.

The sapphire (Greek: sappheiros, for 'blue stone', which probably referred to lapis lazuli in ancient times) is a typically blue gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide.


Trace amounts of elements such as iron, titanium, chromium, copper, or magnesium can give corundum respectively blue, yellow, purple, orange, or green coloring.  Chromium impurities in corundum yield pink or red tints, the latter being called rubies.  The most prized colors are a medium to medium dark blue or slightly violet-blue. 

Sapphires have been popular since the Middle Ages and, according to folklore, will protect your loved ones from envy and harm. Medieval clergy wore sapphires to symbolize heaven, while commoners thought the gem attracted heavenly blessings.

A star sapphire exhibits a six-rayed star-like phenomenon known as asterism because of intersecting needle-like inclusions following the underlying crystal structure.

The Star of India sapphire (see below), mined in Sri Lanka, weighing 563.4 carats, is thought to be the second-largest blue star sapphire and is currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

In 1964, this gem was stolen, when a group of thieves left a bathroom window unlocked during the day and climbed in through the window at night.

At the time, the uninsured Star of India was the only gem in the museum's exhibit that was protected by an alarm, but according to media reports, the alarm's battery went dead.  The men snatched the gem, along with several other precious stones that were on exhibit, and escaped back out the window.

The robbery was one of the biggest gem heists in American history, but the three thieves were captured within only two days. While some of the stolen gems were never seen again, the Star of India was miraculously recovered in a Miami bus station locker several months later.

Click the vintage book cover of another mysterious fictional sapphire, the Spider Sapphire, from everyone's favorite titian-haired sleuth with Scottish ancestry, Nancy Drew, for a recipe for a sapphire-blue cocktail, a "Sapphire Alpine", using Sapphire Gin and Blue Curacao.


Pictured above are the newest fad in sapphires, Montana blue sapphires, discovered in Montana, United States in the late 1800’s by a gold miner working on one of the gravel bars on the Missouri River near the town of Helena.  

The Mystery of the Star Sapphire

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The Mystery of the Star Sapphire

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