A history of magnificent sapphires at Christie’s

A history of magnificent sapphires at Christie’s

Ten stunning sapphires and sapphire-set pieces that have passed through Christie’s salerooms around the world, including a superb sapphire and diamond brooch being offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels  on 28 May

This rectangular-cut sapphire from Myanmar is the stone by which all other sapphires should be judged on size, shape, clarity and colour.

The Rockefeller Sapphire, a magnificent sapphire single-stone ring. Sold for $3,031,000 on 11 April 2001 at Christie’s in New York

The Rockefeller Sapphire, a magnificent sapphire single-stone ring. Sold for $3,031,000 on 11 April 2001 at Christie’s in New York

The sapphire also has notable provenance. It was purchased in 1934 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. from the Nizam of Hyderabad, in a deal brokered by the jeweller Raymond Yard. In the 1940s Rockefeller asked Pierre Cartier of the eponymous French jewellery house to recut the stone into this unique shape and mount it for his wife, Abby.

This is the largest sapphire on our list, by quite some margin, and among the five largest sapphires in the world.

A magnificent and historic sapphire pendant, by Cartier. Sold for CHF1,916,000 on 19 November 2003 at Christie’s in Geneva

A magnificent and historic sapphire pendant, by Cartier. Sold for CHF1,916,000 on 19 November 2003 at Christie’s in Geneva

First recorded in Cartier’s workshop in 1913, this historic sapphire pendant necklace was famously worn by Queen Marie — granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Czar Alexander II of Russia — to the coronation of her husband King Ferdinand of Romania in 1922. In 1947 it was sold to New York’s ‘King of Diamonds’, Harry Winston. It then entered the collection of the Greek Royal Family before being auctioned at Christie’s in 2003.

Richard Burton gave this magnificent sugarloaf cabochon sapphire to Elizabeth Taylor on her 40th birthday in February 1972.

A sapphire and diamond sautoir, by Bulgari. Sold for $5,906,500 on 13 December 2011 at Christie’s in New York

A sapphire and diamond sautoir, by Bulgari. Sold for $5,906,500 on 13 December 2011 at Christie’s in New York

This superb necklace, weighing approximately 52.72 carats, was offered in The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor: The Legendary Jewels Part I in New York in 2011, achieving a world record price per carat for a Burmese stone at auction.

Known as the Blue Belle of Asia, this highly prized peacock-blue sapphire with excellent clarity and well-documented provenance is deemed the most valuable sapphire in the world.

A spectacular sapphire and diamond necklace. Sold for CHF16,965,000 on 11 November 2014 at Christie’s in Geneva

A spectacular sapphire and diamond necklace. Sold for CHF16,965,000 on 11 November 2014 at Christie’s in Geneva

There are very few sapphires weighing more than 350 carats, and this example, at approximately 392.52 carats, realised more than double its low estimate in the Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva on 11 November 2014, establishing a new world record for any sapphire sold at auction.

This exceptional necklace, set with 21 top-quality Kashmir sapphires carrying a total of 109.08 carats, took more than 15 years to complete.

A superb sapphire and diamond necklace. Gübelin, 2018. Sold for HK$116,537,500 on 27 November 2018 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A superb sapphire and diamond necklace. Gübelin, 2018. Sold for HK$116,537,500 on 27 November 2018 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

The history of Kashmir sapphires begins in 1881, when a landslide in the Zanskar range of the northwestern Himalayas first revealed sapphire-bearing rocks. The majority of the world’s most beautiful and highly valued sapphires were mined from the region, including the present stones.

By 1887, Kashmir’s first sapphire mine had been exhausted and production ceased. As a result, gem-quality Kashmir sapphires are now extremely rare. With so many gorgeous sapphires in just one piece, the Peacock Necklace is one of the rarest items to have appeared at auction.

This extraordinary pinky-orange sapphire, known as a Padparadscha sapphire, comes from Sri Lanka — otherwise known as the Island of Gems. Its name derives from the Sinhalese for ‘aquatic lotus blossom’, and its pinky-orange colour from a combination of well-balanced trace elements in the gemstone.

A superb coloured sapphire and diamond ring. Sold for HK$19,300,000 on 28 November 2017 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A superb coloured sapphire and diamond ring. Sold for HK$19,300,000 on 28 November 2017 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Padparadscha sapphires are normally a salmon-pink colour, making this large orange-tinted example, which weighs over 28 carats, extremely rare.

The eight velvety-blue, cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphires on this Cartier bracelet graduate down in size from the largest in the middle, and are mounted in platinum between pavé-set diamonds.

An exceptional Art Deco sapphire and diamond bracelet, by Cartier. Sold for HK$56,120,000 on 30 May 2016 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

An exceptional Art Deco sapphire and diamond bracelet, by Cartier. Sold for HK$56,120,000 on 30 May 2016 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Made in France in 1923, its clean, sleek lines and refined, angular appearance capture the essence of the Art Deco style.

The 2015 sale of this gemstone of Kashmir origin saw a new record for the highest price paid per carat for a sapphire at Christie’s. Its brilliant clarity had been confirmed the year before when scientific analysis at the SSEF (Swiss Gemmological Institute) certified that its sparkle was natural, and not as a result of heat treatment.

An extremely rare sapphire and diamond ring. Sold for HK$19,160,000 on 2 June 2015 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

An extremely rare sapphire and diamond ring. Sold for HK$19,160,000 on 2 June 2015 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Its unusual circular-cut shape also helped it to soar at auction — as did its diamond-surround and the fact that it was mounted in an 18k gold ring.

Flanked by multi-coloured gems, this cushion-shaped sapphire, weighing approximately 58.29 carats, is set in a brooch designed by contemporary Asian designer Anna Hu.

The unique sapphire and multi-gem Côte D’Azur brooch, by Anna Hu. Sold for CHF4,197,000 on 12 November 2013 at Christie’s in Geneva

The unique sapphire and multi-gem Côte D’Azur brooch, by Anna Hu. Sold for CHF4,197,000 on 12 November 2013 at Christie’s in Geneva

Her work combines Eastern and Western influences, and is often inspired by classical music and nature, as well as by Impressionism and Art Nouveau. When it went under the hammer in Geneva in 2013, the Côte d’Azur brooch sold for almost double its low estimate.

This cushion-cut sapphire, which is offered on 28 May 2019  in the Magnificent Jewels auction at Christie’s in Hong Kong, is surrounded by old-cut diamonds.

A superb sapphire and diamond brooch. Cushion-shaped sapphire of 26.41 carats, old-cut diamonds, gold, 3.6 cm. Estimate: HK$32,000,000-50,000,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 28 May 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Stones such as this one from the mines of Kashmir contain little or no chromium, and therefore maintain their coveted deep-blue hue when moving between natural and artificial light. Examples in excess of 25 carats are part of an exclusive club, making this 26.41 carat gem particularly rare.