THE IMPERIAL BLUE
Similar to rubies, sapphires belong to the group of corundum, which has a simple structure composed of aluminum and oxygen. Both elements are more than abundant in the earth crust, yet one of the colouring agents responsible for the alluring blue colour, titanium, is extremely scarce. In addition, the extreme conditions required for its formation is a major cause for inclusions in the crystals, making sizeable clean sapphires an exceedingly rare gem in nature. Of all the origins of sapphires that provided such geological conditions, one name spelled out the most revered and acclaimed cradle of the world’s finest sapphires – Kashmir.
Sapphires were first discovered in Kashmir, specifically in the Padar region in 1879 allegedly from a landslip. The amount of sapphire yielded from this area was plentiful to begin with, even the famous gem cutter Albert Ramsay, who visited India in the late 19th century, commented on this fact:
When I was last in the Srinagar palace of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir thirty trays were brought before me, and if I were to say that any one tray, sent to the market, would fetch a million dollars, I would be giving only a faint impression of the astonishing wealth and beauty of those treasures.
Over the course of six and seven years, the productivity of the mine had steadily decreased. Area known to us nowadays as the ‘Old Mine’, where most of the top-quality Kashmir sapphires on the market were mined, was completely exhausted. The ‘New Mine’ found later, unfortunately, was only able to produce somewhat frosty and partially blue gems.
Kashmir sapphires today set the standard to which all other sources are compared. The sapphire set on this ring to be offered is of saturated cornflower blue colour and velvety texture, both are hallmarks of Kashmir specimens owing to zonal turbidity and fine silks in the gemstone. Its remarkable weight of over 17 carats is practically unseen in sapphires of such pedigree; combined with a homogeneous kingly blue colour and exceptional clarity which made an emerald cut possible, this extraordinarily rare gem displays superior qualities which are even rarely found in the finest Kashmir sapphires.
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