The A-Z of Jewelry: S is for... Sapphires

By Sotheby's

S apphire is the regal sister of ruby. Typically sapphire is blue, but it does occur in a rainbow of colors such as pink, green, yellow, purple and orange. Bulgari uses sapphires of all colors in their designs to great effect.

Coloured sapphire bracelet, Bulgari. Estimate CHF60,000—80,000. From Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels on 14 May in Geneva.

A sapphire of pinkish-orange hue may be called padparadscha. This name comes from Sanskrit and refers to the color of the sacred lotus blossom. Padparadscha sapphires are majestic and the rarest of the sapphire group. Tiffany & Co. and Cartier offer padparadscha sapphires, usually traditionally mounted to showcase the divine color of the stone.

Platinum, Padparadscha Sapphire and Diamond Ring, Cartier. Sold for $143,750 in 2015.

Sapphires have been popular gifts amongst royals. This impressive sapphire brooch was given by the Princess Isabel de Croÿ, Archduchess Frédéric of Austria (1856-1931) to her daughter Archduchess Marie Anne of Austria (1882-1940) on the occasion of her wedding in 1903 to Prince Elie de Bourbon Parme (1880-1959).

Impressive sapphire and diamond brooch, circa 1900. Sold for CHF555,000 in 2018. Given by Princess Isabelle de Croÿ, Archduchess Frédéric of Austria (1856-1931), to her daughter, Archduchess Marie Anne of Austria (1882-1940), on the occasion of her wedding to Prince Elie de Bourbon-Parme (1880-1959) in 1903.

Sapphires held in the highest regard are those which come from Kashmir. In the early 1880s sapphires were discovered in a remote valley in the Kashmir region of India. Active for a short period of time, the mine operated for just five years between 1882 and 1887, resulting from the depletion of the supply. Although there were sporadic subsequent attempts at a new mine, it did not yield much success. The majority of Kashmir sapphires on the market today were mined in the short lifetime of the original mine. Of course this makes them exceedingly rare, but they also possess a unique set of characteristics that sets them apart.

THE JEWEL OF KASHMIR, Exceptional Sapphire and Diamond Ring. Solf fo HK$52,280,000 in 2015.

Their incomparable color – often compared to that of cornflowers – surpasses that of all other sapphires and retains its luster in any light, further enhancing their appeal. Kashmir sapphires also exhibit a somewhat intangible quality, an almost soft texture that is often compared to velvet. All this has contributed to Kashmir sapphires’ status as the most famous sapphires in the world. The world record price for a Kashmir sapphire was achieved at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2015.

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