Six-Rayed Star in Sapphire from Myanmar

by E. Billie Hughes

A Burmese sapphire shows a celestial scene both externally and internally.

This inclusion scene features an apparent iron sulfide crystal against a midnight blue backdrop. It is reminiscent of the night sky, echoing the surface appearance of the star sapphire host. Photomicrograph by E. Billie Hughes; field of view 2.15 mm.

Gems are renowned for their outward beauty, but their internal world can be just as striking. Lotus Gemology recently came across a Burmese sapphire, cut as a cabochon and measuring 8.92 × 7.10 × 4.75 mm, that displayed a six-rayed star. Once we examined it under the microscope, we were surprised to find that this celestial theme carried through to the inclusion scene inside (see above).

The long, undissolved rutile silk needles that form the six-rayed star are evident in angular zones. We could also see other inclusions typical of unheated sapphire, such as the tiny negative crystals forming a “fingerprint” at the top of the image. What was most interesting about this piece was the large, irregularly shaped crystal with a metallic appearance hovering close to the surface of the cabochon dome, which we believe is an iron sulfide crystal based on its appearance. This highly reflective crystal seems to float across a midnight blue backdrop, reminiscent of an asteroid floating in space and making for a fitting inclusion in a star sapphire.

About the Author

E. Billie Hughes visited her first gem mine (in Thailand) at age two and by age four had visited three major sapphire localities in Montana. A 2011 graduate of UCLA (B.A., Political Science), she qualified as a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (FGA) in 2013. Billie's photographic work has been published in Terra Spinel, the Wall Street JournalRuby & Sapphire: A Collector's Guide, Ruby & Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide and Inside Out. To date, she has visited scores of countries for research on gems, including the US, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Kenya and Greenland, and has delivered lectures in China, France, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UK, and the US. Her articles, gemological images and photomicrographs have appeared in Gems & GemologyThe GemguideThe Journal of the Gemmological Association of Hong Kong, and InColor magazine. She is a talented photomicrographer and has won prizes from the Nikon Small World, Gem-A, Clemson University, and Close-Up Photographer of the Year competitions.


This article first appeared in Gems & Gemology, Spring 2018, Vol. 54, No. 1

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