The very finest sapphires originate in Kashmir and were mined from a remote region high in the Great Himalayan Mountains of northwestern India. According to one account, a landslide had uncovered the sapphire deposits in a remote village in 1881. This small area located at an altitude of 4,500 meters became the legendary source for the famous blue sapphires of Kashmir.
The glory days of the Kashmir sapphire mines were situated in 1882 to 1887. During this period, stones were abundant and large crystals often came into existence. As early as 1887, one of the mines known as the "Old Mine" which produced large fine Kashmir sapphires, was already depleted. In just six years, this mine produced such a quantity of fine stones that they achieved a reputation that is still unparalleled.
The high value of Kashmir sapphires is due in part to its scarcity. The inhospitable landscape and climate of the area further contributed to the difficulties of exploiting the mines. The mines were intensively worked over a period of 30 to 40 years and since 1926, fine Kashmir sapphires are virtually unobtainable in a country plagued with internal turmoil and civil war. Yet the reputation of this source endures and Kashmir sapphires are coveted more than ever by collectors for their rich cornflower blue of unrivalled depth and brightness, with a subtle velvety sheen due to the inclusions of numerous fine lines known as "silk".
This bright, yet saturated and homogeneous blue hue, typical of the best Kashmir sapphires, is exemplified by Lot 2170, a stunning cushion-shaped sapphire ring weighing 8.88 carats. A Gübelin certificate indicates that a combination of such purity and vivid saturation is rare in natural Kashmir sapphires of this size. An added attraction is the carat weight of 8.88, which translates into a particularly auspicious number in Chinese popular belief to represent an abundance of wealth.
Equally rare and of the same excellent quality is Lot 2171, a pair of sapphire and diamond ear clips, each set with a cushion-shaped sapphire of vivid saturation and medium dark blue tone. Matching sapphires of such brightness and depth of tone have become exceedingly scarce. The virtual absence of impurities gives the stones an excellent clarity, which further enhances the beauty of the two stones.