The Mystic Sapphire


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In the west, Sapphire rings became very popular in the ‘Middle Ages’. Clergy favored Blue Sapphire rings because the color represented heaven. Magicians felt Sapphire rings helped them command spirits, many others felt a Sapphire ring helped ward off evil and sickness, including the plague.

The merits of Sapphire are named at length by Bartolomaeus Anglicus, translated as Bartholomew of England, who was a 13th Century academic philosopher and instructor of theology at the renowned University of Paris. According to his predecessors, such as Damigeron, the Sapphire was the ‘Gem of Gems’ and a worthy adornment on the fingers of kings. Anglicus enlarged on the brilliant gemstone extolling the Sapphire’s superb healing powers and their alleged calming and cooling influence. Among the curative affects he alleged

that the Sapphire could calm fevers, dispel extreme perspiration, cease the flow of excessive bleeding and even control and calm an agitated heart.

At Anglicus’ time it was also believed that the Sapphire held antidotal powers that could purge poisons if placed next to the body. This he said, he proved with an experiment where a spider was placed in a box with a Sapphire. After some time the poor spider was said to curl up and die, expired by the supreme virtue and purity of the celestial gem: “His vertue is contrary to venym, and quencheth it every deale. And yf you put an attercoppe (Old English for spider.) in a boxe and hold a very saphyre of Inde at the mouth of the boxe ony whyle, by vertue there ofthe attercoppe is overcome & dyeth as it were sodenly, as Dyasc. sayth [pseudo Dioscorides]"

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In ancient times the Sapphire, although what ancients called Sapphire is now lapis lazuli, was reputed for it’s purity and has a number of references made to it in the Bible. For example the sacred character of the Sapphire was attested to in the story of the 10 commandments, which were said to be engraved on tablets of Sapphire. The Sapphire’s chaste symbolism, also arising from associations of natural innocence made between the gem and the color of the heavens, caused it to be selected as especially appropriate for the ecclesiastical rings of cardinals and high-church dignitaries in the 12th Century.

At the same time, the Sapphire was also a favorite among the necromancers, who honored it more than any other gem for its powers, which enabled them to hear and to understand the weirdest of oracles. Anglicus wrote: "Also wytches love well this stone, for they wene that they may werke certen wondres by vertue of this stone"

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At one point there was a superb Sapphire in the South Kensington Museum, in London, reputed for its abnormal coloration. The Sapphire was called ‘Le Saphire Merveilleux.’ translated as ‘The Miraculous Sapphire’, so named for it’s ability to radiate an intense Blue in daylight and a deep amethyst violet under artificial light. Today, this is the demystified color-change Sapphire, but to the people of the 18th Century and before this was a little known gem phenomenon that sparked the imagination.

This gem was originally in the collection of Count de Walicki, a Polish nobleman, and Mme. de Genlis. While in their family, the color-change Sapphire had become the centerpiece to a legend. The precious gem was said to prove female virtue, and that if it changed color it indicated the wearer’s unfaithfulness. If the owner of the Sapphire wished to prove that the subject of the test was innocent, she was made to wear the gem during three hours of daylight; but in the opposite case the test was so timed that it began in daylight and ended when the candles or lamps had been lighted. This Sapphire, still known as the "Saphire Merveilleux," was for a time in the collection of the Duke of Orleans, who bore the name of Philippe Egalite during the French Revolution.

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Aside from the color-change effect, another phenomenon in the Sapphire family reputed to possess special powers was the ‘Star Sapphire’. Regarded as a guiding gem, warding off ill omen and the evil-eye, the ‘Star Sapphire’ was sometimes called the ‘Stone of Destiny’ with each of the star’s three rays being believed to represent the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Destiny. One of the most unique of talismanic gemstones, it is said to be so potent that it continues to exercise its good influence over the first wearer even when it has passed into other hands.

The great Oriental traveler, Sir Richard Francis Burton, had a large Star Sapphire or asteria, as it was called. He referred to it as his talisman, for it always brought him good horses and prompt attention wherever he went. In fact, it was only in those places where he received proper attention that he would show the gem to the natives: a favor they greatly appreciated because the sight of the gemstone was believed to bring good luck.

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