The Sapphire, one of the earliest gems known to man, is found in river-beds and torrents, the force of the water washing the stones from their matrix ; and to this day are still found under these conditions. In its finest quality the sapphire is of a deep blue colour, and the more it resembles the dark velvety blue of the Pansy the greater is its value.
Of coloured gems, the Sapphire has been the most venerated amongst all nations, and particularly in the East it is the stone most frequently consecrated to the various deities. Amongst Buddhists it is believed to produce a desire for prayer, and is regarded as the Stone of Stones to give Spiritual Light, and to bring Peace and Happiness as long as its wearer leads a moral life.
In the early days of the Christian Church, the stones and metal used in making the ring of a Bishop was left very much to the taste of the individual, but in the twelfth century Innocent III decreed that these rings should be made of pure gold, set with an unengraved stone, the Sapphire being the gem selected, as possessing the virtues and qualities essential to its dignified position as the badge of Pontifical rank and "a seal of secrets," for there be many things "that a priest conceals from the senses of the vulgar and less intelligent; which he keeps locked up as it were under seal".
Of this gem St. Jerome writes that "it procures favours with princes, pacifies enemies, frees from enchantment, and obtains freedom from captivity".
The Jews also held this stone in high veneration, the seal-stone in the ring of King Solomon being said to be a Sapphire, and in Exodus xxiv. 10, we read in the description of a manifestation of Jehovah:
"There was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness".
This description of clearness, if taken as meaning transparency, would indicate a familiarity with the qualities of the stone as we know it, although in most of the ancient writings all blue stones are loosely described as Sapphires, including the Tables of the Law, which it is practically certain could not have been of Sapphire and in all probability were of Lapis Lazuli.
During the Middle Ages the qualities attributed to the Sapphire were that it preserved Chastity, discovered Fraud and Treachery, protected from Poison, Plague, Fever, and Skin Diseases, and had great power in resisting black magic and ill-wishing ; in smallpox it preserved the eyes from injury if rubbed on them. It also gave concentration; but if worn by an intemperate or impious person, it lost its lustre, thus indicating the presence of vice and impurity. It is recorded that in the Church of Old St. Paul's, London, there was a famous Sapphire given by "Richard de Preston, Citizen and Grocer of that city, for the cure of infirmities in the eyes of those thus afflicted who might resort to it,"
Cloudy Sapphires are sometimes found which owing to a peculiarity in their composition show six rays of light running from the top of the stone. These are known as Asteria, or Star Stones, and this Star Sapphire was much valued by the Ancients as a love charm ; they considered it peculiarly powerful for the procuring of favours, for bringing good fortune and averting witchcraft. Six is the number given to Venus, and is also the number of the true Solomon's Seal, whose virtues and qualities (treated of under Talismans, Part I, Chapter II (Taurus - The Bull. The Constellation - Aldebaran - The Chaldeans)) this stone represents.
The wife of the Emperor Charlemagne is reputed to have possessed a very powerful Talisman composed of two rough Sapphires and a portion of the Holy Cross, made by the Magi in the train of Haaroon Al Raschid, Emperor of the East. This Talisman was made for the purpose of keeping Charlemagne's affections constant to his wife, and it was so efficacious that his love endured after her death. He would not allow the body, on which the Talisman hung, to be interred, even when decomposition had set in; and burial was only permitted when Charlemagne's confessor, who knew of the Talisman and its virtue, removed it from the body. The confessor kept the Talisman and was raised to high honours by Charlemagne, becoming Archbishop of Mainz and Chancellor of the Empire. It was, however, restored to the monarch on his death-bed when he was suffering great agony, and it enabled him to pass peacefully away.