Longtime readers of the Vintage Section of Bleeding Cool will know that figuring out the real-world inspirations for characters, stories, and plot elements is one of my favorite things about vintage comic books. It's the old cliche made real: I've learned an astonishing amount of history from unraveling the inspirations behind the comics. The reasons can range from important to trivial, from complex to completely obvious. Every so often it's as plain as the nose on your face — or the ring on your finger. But that doesn't make such inspirations any less interesting. In the case of the debut of Star Saphire in All-Flash #32 in late 1947, that inspiration also explains a lot about where the character went from there. There's an All-Flash #32 CGC 4.5 in the upcoming Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation, Video Games & Art Weekly Online Auction 122102 from Heritage Auctions.
A company called Linde Air Products applied to patent a process for developing synthetic star sapphires (and synthetic star rubies) in mid-1947. Linde Air Products was a division of chemical megacorporation Union Carbide. Linde had been making synthetic sapphires since World War 2 for military applications. In the words of Linde Air Products magazine marketing from 1943: "Sapphire is necessary for the security of this country. Out of this jewel stone are made hard, long-wearing bearings for precision instruments. The various precision devices of a modern battleship require more than 4,000 jewels; about 100 more are needed in fire-control mechanisms. Modern pursuit planes and bombers require up to 100 sapphire bearings in their instruments.
In other words, sapphires were a key to unlocking weapons of tremendous power.
With the war over, Linde found a consumer market for the products of its synthetic processes. A coordinated media blitz accompanied the announcement of the technical breakthrough in the development of synthetic star sapphires, with rings and other jewelry featuring the unique gems available in stores at nearly the same time.
What is a star sapphire gemstone? If you're familiar with the iconography of the DC Comics character of the same name, then you already know — though you may not know that you know, so to speak. A star sapphire is "a rare variety of sapphire that exhibits a rare asterism under specific lighting. When viewing star sapphire, a six-rayed star will appear to float across the surface of the stone. … Star sapphires contain unusual tiny needle-like inclusions of rutile. Aligned needles that intersect each other at varying angles produce the rare phenomenon known as asterism." In other words, a star sapphire is a gemstone that displays a distinctive star pattern across its face. Not unlike the iconic form used in the various versions of the DC Comics character.
Shortly after Linde Air Products' star sapphire announcement and marketing push, the December 1947 / January 1948 cover-dated All-Flash #32 featured the Golden Age version of the character, Star Saphire came to earth in a craft with a symbol that resembles an iconic star sapphire set into its surface, and seemingly wore a large star sapphire gemstone in a tiara.
Appropriately enough, later versions of the character would wield a star sapphire ring — like its apparent 1947 inspirations, a gemstone used to unlock great destructive power, reimagined into a small piece of jewelry. This is a gem of an example of just the kind of comics history I find fascinating, and there's an All-Flash #32 CGC 4.5 in the upcoming Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation, Video Games & Art Weekly Online Auction 122102 from Heritage Auctions.