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The sapphire is considered by many to be the most beautiful of all gemstones. Its beauty, resplendent, has throughout time, carried celestial symbolism. In the Bible, tradition dictates that the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai was engraved on tablets of sapphire. The Italian poet, Dante, described the Virgin in his Paradiso as 'il bel zaffiro del cielo', literally 'the beautiful sapphire sky'. This exalted regard for the sapphire gave rise to the belief that the gem endowed divine favour and protected the wearer from harm. The regal blue colour of the stone came to represent intelligence, understanding, wisdom and courage.
This highly-esteemed gemstone can be found all over the world but the finest originate from the mountains of Kashmir, a remote region that defines the northern most border between Pakistan, India and China. This isolated gem location is formed by the intersection of three prominent mountain ranges. The Himalayas, Karakorums and the Hindu Kush mountains were geologically forced into existence by the collision of two massive tectonic plates relentlessly travelling along the same geologic track. These two gigantic land masses have continued on their collision course over geologic time with such force that some of the highest peaks in the world now define this treacherous, but incredibly beautiful landscape.
However, this magnificent panorama of jagged rocks, glaciers, spectacular rivers, lakes and waterfalls is not without its challenges. This geologically complex region is also politically complicated. The entire territory, once collectively unified under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir, is now separated by a narrow ribbon of water that defines the bunker-laden line of control between Pakistani and Indian Kashmir. Lying at an extreme altitude of 16,404 feet, this small area is also harshly climatic. Accordingly, mining methods at the Kashmir deposit have always been primitive. Even today, the mines remain accessible only by foot or helicopter. First discovered in 1881 as the chance result of a landslide, this deposit produced mainly for just about seven short years and was completely depleted by 1925 - production has remained non-existent ever since. The rarity of these Kashmir treasures is evident; yet the reputation of their legendary mines endures and it is not difficult to see why.
Kashmir sapphires show an exquisite and rich cornflower blue, which exhibits an unrivalled depth of colour. Their high saturation combined with a fine milky lustre also exhibits a subtle velvety sheen. This distinctive texture, according to Richard W. Hugues, provides a 'softness that envelopes, banishing darkness with that bluest blues [it is] a removal of extinction, a scattering of light off extremely fine silk, which is just enough to exile the night but not enough to materially affect transparency'. Some of the finest Kashmir sapphires were amassed by the Maharaja Ranbar Singh of Kashmir who reigned from 1857 to 1885, and stored at the Kashmir State Treasury. Witnesses reported large sacks and chests of rough and cut sapphires hidden away in the state chamber.
Offered in this sale is a significantly-sized 11.18 carat Kashmir sapphire, an exemplary specimen of the fabled Kashmir material. The ultimate desirability of these highly esteemed creations of nature's alchemy stems from a subtle blend of strong body colour and soft, velvety-like texture. The present gem displays a pure and sumptuous blue hue softened by a warm inner glow. The elegant full body colour shows vivid saturation that does not darken the tone nor compromise the brilliance. This rich blue is homogenously distributed throughout the stone and the expert cutting allows for many internal reflections to be observed. This sapphire also possesses a high clarity, providing a superior degree of transparency. The fact that the gemstone has been spared exposure to any treatment, establishes it as completely natural, rendering it extremely exceptional and placed in a league of its own. Featuring finely-proportioned facets, the combination of characteristics in these gems is indeed rare in natural Kashmir sapphires of this size. A single Kashmir sapphire of this quality is incredibly uncommon and extraordinary.