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A Stone of Unhappy Princesses

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

This stone is in the top four world's most expensive minerals. And despite it falling short of diamond's hardness, it is much more beautiful and by far more costly. Now, this is the stone that should have been a girl's best friend!

It is hard to imagine, but three hundred years ago, the mineral, which is now among the most sought-after and expensive ones, did not even have a name. Besides, sapphire was often mistaken for lapis lazuli that was commonly used as an ornamental material. Sapphire was not considered a gemstone back then, yet royals highly valued it. There is no other stone to have been added to the crowns of ruling monarchs as often as sapphire was. Consequently, luxury, wealth, power - these all became synonymous with the mineral.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Blue sapphires sparkled on Cleopatra's crown. Empress Joséphine used to wear a ring with a blue sapphire until she died. The diadems worn by the British Royals are still decorated by the gem, same as the orb created for the coronation ceremony of Catherine the Great. The baculum of Ivan the Terrible, with which he never parted, was also adorned by the blue gemstone.

It was the beginning of the XX century when sapphires took a back seat, thereby paving the way for diamonds. And although interest in the world's hardest mineral was of artificial origin, provoked by numerous successful PR-companies, sapphire lost its status of the most valuable stone.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Ninety years have passed since then, and the mineral is slowly regaining its popularity. As the jewellery market is oversaturated with diamonds, there is gradually less initiative in buying them. In contrast, interest in rare gemstones is only growing.

Even the British Royal Family keeps sticking to jewels with sapphires for the wedding rings. Surprising as it is, the gem could not make yet a single royal lady happily married - all of them were cheated on. One of the most well-known stories is what happened between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, who cheated on Lady Di throughout the married life. When his wife died, the Prince married a woman he had fancied all that time.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Sapphire is no longer valued as a jewellery material only. Thanks to its properties, it can be of use in electronics, particularly in manufacturing internal components of various gadgets, protective screens for smartphones and watches. The gem is part of drilling rigs and laser equipment. There is also an application for sapphire in medicine. Since it does not accumulate toxins, the mineral is ideal for making artificial vertebrae, which primarily use is as implants when spinal fragments are destructed. Finally, the implant failure rate if using sapphire is substantially lower compared to other materials.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Sapphires discovered at different deposits may be coloured differently too, leading to variations in the value. Cornflower-blue sapphires are mined in Kashmir; they are generally the most expensive of all types. Burmese stones are next in the price line, with their colour being described as' midnight blue'. Sri Lanka, in turn, is known as the place where the world's largest sapphires are found. Thus, the sapphire" Blue Belle of Asia" eventually auctioned for almost $18 million was found in the Kashmir region.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей