Unmounted Montana Sapphire
The Big Sky Sapphire is accompanied by a GIA Monograph.
The beauty of gemstones begins with their subtle nuance of color: the red of a ruby is not exactly like the red of a rubellite or a spinel. Emeralds, tourmalines and tsavorites each exhibit their own particular shade of green. And yellow stones whether diamonds, sapphires or citrines, all have their own personalities.
Blue stones vary from the watery, light hues of aquamarine to the rich, violetish tones of tanzanite. The most precious of blue stones, the sapphire, offers a wide range of hues inextricably tied to their country of origin. From the deep, velvet of Kashmir to the royal blues of Burma, to the lighter, brighter colors of Ceylon, each shade is unique. Montana sapphires are no exception, offering a bright, “cornflower” blue unlike sapphire from any other part of the world.
Sapphires were first discovered in Montana in 1865 by prospectors panning for gold in the Missouri river. The rough stones were sent to Tiffany & Co. where their authenticity was confirmed. Thirty years later in the Yogo Creek area of Montana, another group of miners discovered some “pretty blue pebbles” in the Missouri River. This time the stones were sent to the chief gemologist for Tiffany & Co., George F. Kunz, who declared them “the most important precious stones mined in the United States.” Kunz kept the parcel of sapphires, paying $3750 for the lot.
These stones would eventually be set in one of Tiffany & Co.’s most iconic turn-of-the-century designs. Paulding Farnham, Design Director for Tiffany, created a spectacular life-size ‘Iris’ brooch featuring the Montana sapphires for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, for which he won the gold medal. Farnham, along with Louis Comfort Tiffany, would go on to produce many exquisite pieces featuring Montana sapphires, often contrasting their bright, blue sparkle with the subdued glow of moonstone. This truly American gemstone became a mainstay of early 20th century design at Tiffany & Co. and continues to be seen in Tiffany jewels today.
The stone pictured here is known as the ‘Big Sky Sapphire’ and for good reason. Though prized for their special, unenhanced color and exceptional clarity, cut sapphires from Montana rarely weigh more than 1.00 carat. At an impressive 12.54 carats, the Big Sky Sapphire is the largest of its kind ever recorded, adding to its rarity. The original rough stone was mined in 1972 and weighed in at more than 24.00 carats. What resulted is this cushion-cut specimen of a unique blue color that is a most unusual, beautiful and intriguing product of nature.