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The sapphires of Kashmir form an exclusive class of their own. In the jewel trade it is customary to attach the appellation "Kashmir" to any fine sapphire regardless of its geographical origin. This is an indication of the outstanding qualities of Kashmir sapphires. The colour of these sapphires resembles the beautiful hue of the peacock's neck. Even a small concentration of that fine colour illuminates the entire structure of the gem. Rajroop Tank, 1971, Indian Gemmology
Kashmir Sapphires-Blue Velvet
Few localities in the world of gems are as singular as the fabled sapphire mines of Kashmir. First discovered about 1879-1881, Kashmir has produced little since the 1930's. And the lion's share of sapphires came out during a half-breath period of just seven short years, from 1881-1887. So fine were the stones unearthed from this tiny land slip high in the Indian Himalaya that, to this day, sapphire connoisseurs remain in utter awe. Indeed, the highest price ever paid for a sapphire at auction was for a Kashmir stone, a 22.66 ct cushion-shaped pendant, that sold at Christie's New York in April 2007 for a whopping $3,064,000 ( $135,216/ct).
What is it that makes the Kashmir stone so attractive? One factor is staying power. Many a sapphire looks magnificent under one light, but when brought into another, sheds its beauty. Not so for the gems from the mighty Himalaya. The finest Kashmir stones shine the blue fantastic in all conditions, be it candlelight or the intense tropical sun.
Kashmir sapphires are also famous for their velvety texture, a softness that envelopes all like a misty blue veil, banishing darkness and cold with that truest of blues. The cause is a scattering of light off tiny acicular inclusions, needles just fine enough to exile the night, but not large enough to materially affect transparency. Note that here we have a direct contradiction of the laws of diamond grading - as the inclusions that slightly reduce clarity actually improve the beauty of the gem.
Richard W. Hughes is one of the foremost authorities on ruby and sapphire. A fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, he has written several highly-regarded books about these gems. Formerly vice-president of Asian Institute of Gemological Science, he published dozen of articles that have appeared in major publications throughout Europe, Asia, North America and Australia.