Undoubtedly, the rarest and most beautiful of all sapphires are the legendary Kashmir. As befitting such otherworldly gems, Kashmir Sapphires originate in a dauntingly remote and ruggedly beautiful corner of the northwestern Himalayas situated between India and Pakistan. The deposits are located at a height of approximately 16,500 ft and were said to have first been exposed by a landslide in 1881. Local villagers begin trading the sapphires in exchange for decidedly more prosaic goods such as salt, which they exchanged on an equal weight for weight basis. It did not take long for these sapphire’s intrinsic beauty and value to be recognized and extensive mining took place shortly thereafter. The most productive years were from 1882 to 1887 yielding magnificent crystals of great size and beauty. Since then, while small amounts of Kashmir material appear on the market, significant quantities of any new material have failed to materialize.
The distinguishing feature of Kashmir sapphires is their vivid, pure shade of blue, described as a “cornflower blue” and velvety luster. The highly saturated blue is notable for the lack of any modifying colors such as green or pink and is maintained under any lighting conditions; it does not” bleed” color. The color has perhaps best been described by locals in India who compare it to the incredible blue of the peacock’s neck feathers. Kashmir sapphires almost always exhibit zoning; the distribution of color is typically associated with layers of liquid inclusions which are the cause of its distinctive “sleepy” transparency.
- Atkinson, David & Rustam Z.Kothavala. Gems & Gemology. Gemological Institute of America, Summer 1983.
- Schumann, Walter. Gemstones of the World. Sterling Publishing Co. Inc, New York, 1986.