The Richelieu Sapphires, a pair of rare and magnificent sapphire and diamond earrings
- sapphire, diamond, metal
"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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
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.