GENEVA - There is something undeniably romantic about the idea of the remote, inaccessible and depleted Kashmir mines. The stones which emerged in the mountainous kingdom at the close of the 19th century are prized for the unique, delicate, velvety blue colour that defines them, but this is not their only appeal. The majority of the Kashmir stones in circulation today, dispersed among various collections, come from the serendipitous emergence of a single seam following a landslide in the 1880s. Despite the great difficulty of extracting stones in this unforgiving landscape, the seam was soon emptied. ‘Kashmir’ is the rarest of all geographical origins. With supply not simply limited, but essentially exhausted, and demand for their irreplaceable soft blue hardly waning since their first appearance on the market, it is understandable that a fine Kashmir sapphire lends genuine importance to any collection of which it forms a part.


One such stone is the 13.26 carat sapphire, Lot 445 in the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale (780,000 – 1,350,000 CHF). Here, the colour appears richly and evenly saturated throughout the stone (traditionally described as ‘cornflower’ blue, but like so many of these comparisons, on seeing the stone first hand it easily surpasses its floral counterpart) its delicacy is complimented by the graceful, well-proportioned cut, and it stands free of any eye visible inclusions. As the Gubelin laboratory monograph accompanying the sapphire states, stones of this quality and size are rare and rightfully prized. For the keen eyed buyer, it is worth noting that Lot 417 in the same sale, though from a separate collection and very slightly lighter, is a wonderful match in the quality of the colour. Two such stones appearing at the same time is a highly unusual opportunity, and a matched pair of stones will always command a premium. 


Ultimately, the allure of these stones is hard to describe accurately but goes further than the simple aesthetic satisfaction of this elegant and rarely witnessed colour. The depth of sensation they are capable of producing is in part due to some of the inherent traits of the colour blue. At the far end of the spectrum, it is blue which endures when light is observed from a distance. It is to blue that landscapes dissolve, drawing in the eye. The great advance in the discovery of aerial perspective in painting, first discussed by da Vinci and Alberti, was the use of blue to replicate a landscape receding into the distance. Blue recedes on a canvas, drawing the viewer’s eye out to the horizon. In stones, held in the hand, with this extraordinary richness of colour, it draws in the same way, deep into the stone, an invitation almost to inhabit it, to be absorbed. It is an effect which only the finest gemstones can have and, at its best, is utterly enchanting.