Sapphires in the Middle Ages

Throughout history, many powers have been attributed to sapphire. During the middle ages, sapphire was believed to shield the wearer from harm and disease and was used as an antidote against poison. It was the stone of choice for the ecclesiastic ” like the pure sky, and mighty Nature has endowed it with so great a power that it might be called sacred and the gem of gems”

After the break down of the Roman Empire, the rise of the Muslim world continued to use the trading routes between India and Europe, Mediterranean cities became the distributors to the rest of Europe. A second route to the east was established that allowed a faster and deeper penetration into Asia. These were the routes of the Slavic network connecting the German Hanze cities to the Mongolian postal routes and extending all the way to the eastern parts of present-day China.

New gem deposits such as Burmese, Thai and Cambodian sapphires from newly available localities were now accessible. When discussing long distance trade historically, one has to realize that the volume/weight to value ratio is important. The smaller, more precious an article, the easier for traders to transport and realize great profits. A certain amount of marketing by gem sellers was necessary and probably accounts for a good deal of the Lore and Legends associated with gemstones.

Traders from the east returned with first hand stories of faraway countries with untold wealth and gems beyond belief. Nothing could stop the European quest for possession of the prized sapphires from the East. During the 15th century, sea routes to Asia were the number one priority for European explorers. This was the end of Middle Ages and the birth of the Renaissance, a time when Italian goldsmiths and stone carvers were pursuing their trades so zealously that artisanship turned into art.