September Birthstone –
September Sapphires from Ancient Egypt to Today
By Stephanie A White
In Ancient Egypt, sapphires were associated with thewisdom of the all-seeing Eye of Horus, which makes this gemstone the perfectbirthstone for the month of September. Then, as now, September was a month forcelebrating learning and knowledge. During September's autumnal equinox, whenday and night are in balance, the ancient Egyptians celebrated the wisdom ofIsis, who used her knowledge to resurrect her dead husband, Osiris. And sinceancient sapphires were prized by the Egyptians for their eye-opening qualities,they have come down to us as the birthstone for September--the month thatstarts our academic year, and our own quest for wisdom.
But when the ancients talked about sapphires (derivedfrom saphirus, the Latin term for 'blue stones), they were almost certainlyreferring to lapis lazuli. Modern sapphires are velvety blue gemstones made ofcorundum and they are second only to diamonds in hardness. By contrast, lapislazuli, the ancient sapphire, is a semi-precious gemstone with white and goldinclusions. Modern sapphires come in a variety of colours, though they are mostfamously blue, but lapis lazuli is made of a mixture of minerals that renderthem almost exclusively azure.
No matter which kind of sapphire the ancient writers saw,the oracular Eye of Horus was omnipresent in their minds. So strong was theconnection between eyes and the blue gemstones, that Egyptian physicians turnedancient sapphires into powder to be used as an eye wash to help patients seemore clearly. Cleopatra herself used ancient sapphires in her eye shadow andthe Egyptian Book of the Dead even describes a powerful magical amulet in theform of a carved eye made of sapphire.
The Greeks, who came to rule ancient Egypt after theconquest of Alexander the Great, would adopt the sapphire as the gemstone ofApollo-their own god of oracular wisdom and knowledge. They said that sapphireswould "open the third eye." Hebrews, after having been enslaved bythe Egyptians, developed the notion that the Ten Commandments, wisdom from God,were written on sapphire tablets.
The ancient Egyptian veneration of the sapphire and itsconnection to knowledge and wisdom passed through the ages to medieval monarchswho wore sapphires to help them rule wisely. Evidence the Imperial State Crownof the United Kingdom, which is set with two famous sapphires, one of which wasworn by Edward the Confessor at his coronation in 1042.
Even today, though we have given up magic amulets andoracles, we still take sapphires with us on our quest for knowledge; sapphireshelp us construct lasers and NASA uses sapphires as components of advancedparticle collectors. So while the ancient Egyptians saw sapphires in theheavens, we now send them there to unlock the secrets of the universe.
We may no longer celebrate the autumnal equinox as theancient Egyptians did, but we have inherited the idea of September as a time ofbalance and wisdom. Modern astrologers believe that those born in September areintellectually curious, so sapphires were chosen as this month's birthstone.Given their ancient heritage, what better way to honor September's challengesand promise than by giving the gift of sapphires? http://www.SWCreations.net
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