Centering upon a cushion-shaped sapphire, weighing approximately 392.52 carats, suspending a brilliant-cut diamond tassel pendant with oval-shaped diamond terminals, to the brilliant-cut diamond neckchain, mounted in gold, 45.0 cm
Accompanied by report no. 72359 dated 2 September 2014 from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute stating that the sapphire is of Ceylon origin, with no indications of heating, and a Premium Appendix stating that the sapphire '.. possesses extraordinary characterists and merits special mention and appreciation'.

Report no. 14090018 dated 11 September 2014 from the Gübelin GemLab Institute stating that the sapphire is of Ceylon origin, with no indications of heating, an information sheet on 'Unheated sapphires' and an appendix stating that the sapphire '..is one of the largest faceted sapphires the Gübelin Gem lab has seen to date and possesses a combination of oustanding characteristics'.

Lot Essay

Many articles have been written on large sapphires in Royal and other important collections. Stones of over 100 carats will feature in several, but the quality and size of the present sapphire make comparisons difficult to find. An extract from the inventory of the Crown Jewels of Iran states that there are relatively few in the collection but three were worthy of special note, the largest weighing 191.58 carats. The Diamond Treasury in the Kremlin museum possesses a magnificent cornflower blue sapphire from the old Russian Royal regalia weighing 250 carats. Another large Russian sapphire is one that bears the name of Catherine the Great and weighs 337 carats.

From the very short list of faceted sapphires weighing over 350 carats, one has always remained a mystery. After the Blue Giant of the Orient (486.52 carats), the Queen of Romania's Sapphire (478.68 carats) and the Logan Sapphire (423 carats), comes the Blue Belle of Asia, a legendary sapphire the history of which has been kept secret for a long time.

This exceptional stone was discovered in 1926 at Pelmadula, Ratnapura ('The City of Gems') in Ceylon. Although it is difficult to locate information regarding the exact weight or shape of the gem at the time, it is often mentioned that it was 'valued at 50,000' in 1928, 'weighing approximately 400 carats after having been cut and polished'. It had a 'highly prized peacock blue colour and excellent clarity' and was owned by the well-known gem and jewellery dealers Macan Markar in Colombo. The famous firm, established in 1860 by O. L. M. Macan Markar, had one of the most spectacular collections of gems and among their clients were several members of the British Royal family including HM King Edward VII and HM King George V.

In 1937, the Blue Belle of Asia was sold to British motor magnate Lord Nuffield (1877-1963). The founder of Morris Motors Limited, he was also an important philanthropist and in the 1920s, he had made his first substantial public benefaction. In 1937, Lord Nuffield founded and endowed Nuffield College, Oxford and in 1943 he gave 10 million to form the Nuffield Foundation. The trust was designed to benefit medical research, hospitals and education. At the time of his death in 1963, he had given away more than 32 million to charitable institutions.

The reasons behind his purchase of the Blue Belle of Asia were mysterious. It was reported that the sapphire was to be presented to HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on her coronation day on 12 May 1937. The truth is that the Blue Belle of Asia 'disappeared' into private hands and that its location was unknown for the next 35 years. According to records from the 1970s, the famous Swiss based gem-dealer Theodore Horovitz had the opportunity to examine the sapphire. His notes and drawings give precious additional information on the shape and weight of the gem.

It is now time for the Blue Belle of Asia to get the recognition it deserves. Sapphires of this size, colour and clarity are extremely rare. This magnificent specimen must rank as one of the most prestigious coloured gems to have come to the market for many years, worthy of any leading collection.

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