Lot 371
  • 371

The Richelieu Sapphires, a pair of rare and magnificent sapphire and diamond earrings

2,300,000 - 4,200,000 CHF
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  • sapphire, diamond, metal
Each set with a cushion-shaped sapphire weighing 26.66 and 20.88 carats respectively, suspended from a star surmount set with a cushion- and pear-shaped diamonds, post and hinged back fittings.


Jewels from the Collection of Odile de Richelieu, Countess Gabriel de La Rochefoucauld, Princess de La Rochefoucauld (1879-1974). It is understood that the sapphires in these earrings were given to Odile de La Chapelle de Jumilhac de Richelieu as a wedding gift on the occasion of her marriage to Count Gabriel de la Rochefoucauld, Prince de La Rochefoucauld, in 1905. The sapphires have been remounted as earrings twice since this date.


Stamped PT 950 for platinum and 750 on the clip fittings for 18 carat gold. According to the SSEF report the sapphires measuring 17.16 x 16.18 x 10.22 mm and 17.22 x 16.15 x 8.02 mm respectively, weighing 26.66 and 20.88 carats, are of Kashmir origin, with no indications of heating, blue of medium strong saturation; for further information on these two sapphires, please refer to the gemmological reports; with few typical crystal inclusions, the smaller sapphire with an eye visible nick below the girdle and abrasions to one facet edge on the table. Diamonds estimated to weigh a total of approximately 9.00 - 11.00 carats, of mixed colours and clarities, on average G-K colour and VS-SI clarity, as gauged and graded in mounting. No sign of wear to the metal; post and clip fittings. In excellent condition. Total gross weight approximately 26 grams.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Please note that colour, clarity and weight of gemstones are statements of opinion only and not statements of fact by Sotheby's. We do not guarantee, and are not responsible for any certificate from a gemological laboratory that may accompany the property. We do not guarantee that watches are in working order. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue, in particular to the Notice regarding the treatment and condition of gemstones and to the Notice regarding import of Burmese jadeite and rubies into the US.

Catalogue Note

The following is taken from the Swiss Gemmological Institute appendix letter, dated 3 July 2013. "The two gemstones form a perfectly matching pair in size and shape, combined with an attractive velvety blue colour and a fine purity. The inclusions found by microscopic inspection represent the hallmarks of sapphires from the reputed historic deposit in Kashmir, located in a remote part of the Himalayan Mountains in India. The velvety blue of these sapphires is due to very fine and subtle inclusions and a combination of well-balanced trace elements in these gemstones, typical and characteristic for the finest sapphires of Kashmir. In addition to these qualities, these sapphires have been spared exposure to heat treatment and their clarity and colour are thus all natural. A matching pair of natural sapphires from Kashmir of this size and quality is very rare and exceptional."

The world’s finest and most sought after sapphires originate from the legendary mines of Kashmir. They were discovered by chance as a result of a land slide between 1879 and 1882, in the Kudi valley, above the almost inaccessible village of Soomjam, in the Padar Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Initially, these stones were traded for salt and other consumer goods. However, in 1882 they began to appear in the markets of Simla, the official summer capital of India.  It was here that their popularity grew and their true value was recognized. As a result, the Maharaja immediately sent his troops to protect and control the Kashmiri mines and prohibited private trading.

The high altitude and the harsh weather conditions limited the mining operations to approximately three month of the year, from July through September. Despite these constraints, between 1883 and 1887, a labour-intensive production yielded some of the region’s finest large crystals. By 1887 the original ‘Old Mine’ was exhausted and its replacement, the ‘New Mine’, located one hundred meters south, was abandoned in 1908 as a result of poor weather conditions and the limited quantity of fine gemstones. Since those early times their supply has been limited as the mining of Kashmir sapphires has been sporadic at best, due to the remoteness and political unrest of this region.

What elevates Kashmir sapphires above all others is the unique combination of a rich, intense blue colour, with a soft and velvety appearance. Such attributes have often been compared to the vibrant blue hue of the cornflower. This outstanding colour, which is accentuated under artificial light, is unlike its rivals from other sources, which may seem greenish or grayish in comparison.

Such a set of very well matched Kashmir sapphire drops of fine quality is unprecedented at auction and can be classified as extremely rare.