Sapphire is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide (α-Al2O3). Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium can give corundum blue, yellow, pink, purple, orange, or greenish color. Chromium impurities in corundum yield a red tint, and the resultant gemstone is called a ruby.
Sapphires are commonly worn in jewelry. Sapphires can be found naturally, by searching through certain sediments (due to their resistance to being eroded compared to softer stones), or rock formations, or they can be manufactured for industrial or decorative purposes in large crystalboules. Because of the remarkable hardness of sapphires (and of aluminum oxide in general), sapphires are used in some non-ornamental applications, including infrared optical components, such as in scientific instruments; high-durability windows (also used in scientific instruments); wristwatch crystals and movement bearings; and very thin electronic wafers, which are used as the insulating substrates of very special-purpose solid-state electronics (most of which are integrated circuits).
Color in gemstones breaks down into three components: hue, saturation, and tone. Hue is most commonly understood as the "color" of the gemstone. Saturation refers to the vividness or brightness or "colorfulness" of the hue, and tone is the lightness to darkness of the hue.Blue sapphire exists in various mixtures of its primary (blue) and secondary hues, various tonal levels (shades) and at various levels of saturation (brightness).
Blue sapphires are evaluated based upon the purity of their primary hue. Purple, violet, and green are the most common secondary hues found in blue sapphires.Violet and purple can contribute to the overall beauty of the color, while green is considered to be distinctly negative. Blue sapphires with up to 15% violet or purple are generally said to be of fine quality. Blue sapphires with any amount of green as a secondary hue are not considered to be fine quality. Gray is the normal saturation modifier or mask found in blue sapphires. Gray reduces the saturation or brightness of the hue and therefore has a distinctly negative effect.
The color of fine blue sapphires can be described as a vivid medium dark violet to purplish blue where the primary blue hue is at least 85% and the secondary hue no more than 15% without the least admixture of a green secondary hue or a gray mask.