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