Kashmir Sapphire


New sapphires are no longer discovered in Kashmir, and in fact most of the Kashmir sapphire that exists was discovered more than 120 years ago. Kashmir sapphires are so highly valued because the finest specimens have a superb royal blue color and a velvety texture due to fine silk inclusions. Some of the best Burma, Ceylon and Madagascar sapphires come close, but Kashmir sapphire continues to have a nearly mythical reputation in the gemstone world.

Kashmir Sapphire Ring
 Kashmir Sapphire Ring

Kashmir sapphires are so scarce that they rarely appear even at auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's, though they draw records prices when top stones come on the market. A cushion cut 22.66 carat Kashmir sapphire, set in a pendant surrounded by diamonds, was sold at Christie's auction in 2007 for $3,064,000, setting a new record for the highest price paid for a sapphire. Then an even larger Kashmir sapphire cushion -- 42.28 carats -- was sold for $3.5 million by Christie's in Hong Kong in November 2008, setting yet another record.

Kashmir is located in the the northwestern corner of the Indian subcontinent, in a valley between India and Pakistan. Kashmir was a princely state in the 19th century, but became a disputed territory after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, when it became part of India. The dispute over the territory continues to this day, with parts of Kashmir currently occupied by Pakistan.

Kashmir Region

Sapphire was first discovered in Kashmir around 1880, high up in the Himalayas at about 4,500 meters. The mine was mainly productive during the period bewtween 1882 and 1887, yielding sapphire crystals of exceptional size and quality. But by 1887 declining production led the Maharajah of Kashmir to request geological assistance from Brtish, in the hope of finding more material. The British geologist found the original mine to be exhausted, and turned his survey to placer deposits elsewhere in the valley.

But subsequent exploration failed to uncover significant new material. Over the years occasional geological surveys were mounted and mining efforts undertaken during the three months of summer. But the marvels that came out of the original mine were never matched in any way, and today the area is mostly under control of Muslim guerillas. Whether there is more of this marvellous material to be found in the Indian Himalayas is a matter of speculation.

Since Kashmir sapphires are so valuable, it is wise to be cautious when you see one offered for sale. Unfortunately some dealers are less than scrupulous in stating the origin of their gems, and try to capitalize on the Kashmir reputation. Leading gemological laboratories are able to provide opinions on sapphire origin, based on distinctive inclusions in stones from different regions. Any sapphire offered for sale purpoting to be from Kashmir should be accompanied by one or more test reports from internationally recognized gemological labs.

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