Kashmir sapphire. Some have seen it, others do not even know what it is and the ultimate truth is, this gemstone is one of the most impressive specimens of nature’s beauty. As the name suggests, this colored precious stone comes from Kashmir, a region in northern India located in the Himalayan range. Today, a real Kashmir sapphire is almost impossible to see on the commercial jewelry market, due to its extreme rarity, which gives this gemstone another noteworthy attribute – the mysterious sapphire.
KASHMIR SAPPHIRE, WHAT KIND OF GEM IT IS?
Without beating around the bush, let’s get straight to the core of this particular matter – the major characteristic that makes this sapphire variety the most specific of all is the astonishing cornflower blue color. Thus, its other popular name, “the blue velvet sapphire”.
However, if arresting color is its strongest quality, softness is the weakest one. Due to this feature, this gemstone is exceptionally hard to work with, especially when it comes to sculpting it into a particular shape (cutting). It has a nice texture, beyond solid saturness and luster that cannot be compared to any other type of sapphire. Another phenomenon that is entitled to this gemstone’s existence is the perfectly clear blue color it displays when exposed to any type of light, without featuring grayish or greenish hues that might occur at some other sapphire varieties.
So, how this authentic gem occurs? Gemologists explain that the formation process in not simple at all and it starts with intrusive igneous rocks (pegmatites) cutting through limestone. The process itself induces a certain amount of heat, which helps the limestone to metamorphize into marble. This is how corundum, the mineral that sapphire is made of begins to form at the edges. Eventually, after a period of many, many years, a Kashmir sapphire gemstone will arrive on Earth’s surface with the assistance of the human hand, obviously.
Due to the fact that it is mined in limited quantities, the cornflower blue sapphire takes only a small percentage of the overall sapphire supply, globally. Regardless of its softness, this sapphire variety is often described by expert gemologists as a precious stone with an exceptional quality that represents a singular combination of origin, size, color and clarity elements. That is why Kashmir sapphire is of a great importance for gemology and the industries related to it, although it is so rare that it is hardly ever seen.
WHAT ABOUT ITS DISCOVERY?
According to the geological surveys, the place of origin of this fascinating sapphire gem is actually a remote area in the Himalayas known as Zanskar. This district is a part of the Jammu and Kashmir state in India, covering a total surface of 2702.715 square miles. The gemological data shows that the first apparition of the blue velvet sapphire took place in the early 1880s in a deposit located on a 14763.78 ft. altitude. However, various stories are told about the original discovery of this sapphire variety, usually by people living in or near the Zanskar district.
One of the most interesting stories is the one about a hunter who lost the flint from his gun, so in order to find a solid rock to strike a light for the gun’s pipe, he picked up a small piece of Kashmir sapphire and this way, sorted himself out. In fact, that little sapphire stone turned out to be the perfect tool for this kind of job, so the hunter continued carrying it in his pocket in case he need it again. After a few months of continuous use, the hunter met a Laholi trader to whom he sold the stone after the trader figured out that this is not an ordinary quartz rock, but some new, undiscovered blue-colored gem.
This is how the existence and value of the cornflower blue sapphire has been recognized and brought into the splendid world of gemstones. From 1882 to 1887, Kashmir mines worked efficiently, which is in fact, the only period when the jewelry industry had been provided with a continuous supply of Kashmir blue velvet sapphire. After 1887, these mines were completely drained out of this one-of-a-kind sapphire material.
WHERE TO FIND IT?
Museums and auctions are the only places left today that gemstone enthusiasts and collectors can see or buy this highly valuable stone. Unfortunately, the combination of extreme scarcity and outstanding beauty makes it being a target of thieves and smugglers, which had been proven in several occasions in the past. For example, one of the epic Kashmir sapphire robberies that will forever be remembered was the one of a 65.16 carat cushion-cut bracelet which was stolen (others refer to this as “mysteriously disappeared”) only a few days before being offered on an auction in Geneva, Switzerland.
WHAT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE KASHMIR SAPPHIRE GEM IN THE HISTORY?
“The Pride of Kashmir” is the name of the largest and most expensive cornflower blue jewel in the world in possession of Sotheby’s, which weighs an incredible 20.22 carats. It was a part of a huge auction that took place in 2016 in Hong Kong, where its price was estimated to be somewhere between $3.8 and $5.8 million