THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  


57.     sapphire

Hebrew: cappÓr. Exodus 24:10, 28:18, 39:11; Job 28: 6 & 16; Song of Solomon 5:14; Isaiah 54:11; Lamentations 4:7; Ezekiel 1:26, 10:1, 28:13.

Greek: sappheiros. Revelation 21:19.

Probable Identification:

Biblical sapphire is lapis lazuli. See "LAPIS LAZULI."

Sapphires were unknown in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. When they made their way to the Mediterranean region in Hellenistic times, dealers gave the new gems the ancient name of the gemstone they replaced in popularity.


    Sapphire  is the blue gem variety of corundum (Al2O3), the second hardest mineral after diamond. Traces of iron and titanium give sapphire its blue tint. While the blue color is typical, black sapphires are also highly prized, and gem-grade varieties of corundum in colors other than ruby are also counted as sapphire. Padparadscha sapphire from Sri Lanka has a delicate pinkish-orange color. Corundum crystals have a prismatic habit, hexagonal form, vitreous to adamantine luster, and vary from opaque to translucent to transparent.

    Corundum occurs as an accessory mineral in metamorphic rocks and a few silica-poor igneous rocks. Associated minerals include chlorite, micas, olivine, serpentine, magnetite, spinel, diaspore, and kyanite. The most famous source of both sapphires and rubies is Mogok, 90 km north of Mandalay in Burma. These sapphires occur in the weathered solution residue of a metamorphosed limestone. The finest pale blue sapphires came from the remote Sonjam Valley of Kashmir. Burma, Ceylon--the modern Sri Lanka, Montana, and Thailand also supplied fine sapphires and rubies until the introduction of the Linde process made possible the synthesis of artificial sapphires that are indistinguishable in quality from natural stones. Deposits discovered in Madagascar in 1998 now supply half of today's sapphires and represent the world's largest known sapphire reserves.

Many dark, gem-grade sapphires also come from the Umba River valley in the Tanga province of Tanzania, and Australia has produced green sapphires. Sri Lanka has produced golden-yellow sapphires known as "Oriental topaz." Rappaport News (11 November, 2005) reported a new discovery of gem-grade sapphires at Aqpik on Baffin Island.

The addition of a little titanium produces star sapphires and rubies in which tiny oriented needles of rutile cause the star effect. Gueda is rough corundum rendered blue by heat treatment. Sri Lanka supplies 15 million carats per year of gueda. 

        The biblical cappÓr stone of Exodus 24:10 metaphorically represents the heavenly character of God, who is the foundation of the people of Israel and the Church of the Ages.



  Hughes, Richard W., 2002. Walking the line in ruby and sapphire. The Guide. 21-4: 4-8. 

  Hurlbut, 1952, op. cit.; 228.

  Ralph, Jolyon, 1993-2004.

Schumann, op. cit.; 86-89.

VanLandingham, Sam L., ed., 1985. Geology of World Gem Deposits. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

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