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Lot 234
27 April 2022, 11:00 BST
London, New Bond Street

Sold for £466,500 inc. premium

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Designed as a flowerhead, the central cushion-shaped ruby, weighing 4.07 carats, within six petals, each set with a cushion-shaped sapphire and single-cut diamond surround, the sapphires weighing 2.03, 2.07, 2.52, 3.03, 3.10 and 3.25 carats, diameter approximately 3.7cm, gems illustrated unmounted


The six sapphires accompanied by reports from SSEF stating they are of Kashmir origin, with no indications of heating. Report numbers 119993, 119992, 119991, 119990, 119989, 119988 all dated 13th December 2021.

The ruby accompanied by a report from SSEF stating it is of Burmese origin, with no indications of heating. Report number 119987 dated 13th December 2021.

Sapphires from Kashmir were first discovered in the late 1870s/early 1880s high up in the snow-clad Great Himalayas of north-western India where a landslide revealed hitherto unknown deposits in a rock valley 4500m above sea level. By 1882 the Maharaja of Kashmir had taken control of the mine that could only be worked from July-September each year due to the high altitude and near perpetual heavy snowfall. Because of its remote location mining techniques were always primitive. This first mine, known as the Old Mine, was really just a series of shallow pits sunk into the rock. Apparently, the first specimens were so huge and abundant, they were studded in places as thick as "plums in a pudding" and could be plucked from the rock. By 1887 the Old Mine was nearly exhausted and a New Mine, on the valley floor 250m below, gave up some fine sapphires but they were generally of lesser quality, size and quantity. The area was worked sporadically until the late 1920s/early 1930s but the glory years of the 1880s were never repeated.

Legend tells that the finest stones from this 30-40 year period were all acquired by the Maharaja and jealously guarded in the chambers of the Kashmir State Treasury. British geologist, Charles Stewart Middlemiss, Superintendent of the Mineral Survey of Jammu and Kashmir State from 1917 until 1930, recorded seeing some of this fabled hoard, describing the sacks of rough and cut gems as a "king's ransom", with some sapphires the size of polo balls.

The ruby is important for many cultures and historically has been a talisman of power, protection, wealth, status, a cure for illness and a symbol of peace. The Sanskrit name, ratnaraj or 'King of Precious Stones' given to rubies very much embodies the value bestowed upon this gemstone. For over 800 years, the finest rubies have been unearthed in the Mogok Stone Tract region of Burma, now Myanmar. Burmese rubies are prized for their vibrant fiery colour which is caused by high levels of chromium saturating the ground from which they are mined. It is this colour combined with their strong fluorescence which gives them a glowing, fiery radiance.

Today, Kashmir sapphires and Burmese rubies set the standard against which all other sapphires and rubies are measured and are avidly sought by collectors who are prepared to pay princely sums for top-quality specimens.

For further reading see, Hughes, R. W., "Ruby & Sapphire", RWH Publishing, 1997 and Ramsay, A. (with Sparkes, B.), "Bright Jewels of the Mine", 1934.

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