Gemology 101: The History of Kashmir Sapphires

Gemology 101 - The History of Kashmir Sapphires

As far as gemstones go, Kashmir sapphires are relatively new — but they’re also incredibly valuable. Here’s everything you need to know about this unique sapphire named for a little region in India.

The Discovery of Kashmir Sapphires

In 1880, in Kashmir, India, an earthquake occurred. This earthquake, caused by movement in the Himalayas, revealed a layer of rock in the mountains. The rock face, interestingly enough to the residents below, now featured various flecks of blue. That blue belonged to some of the most vibrant sapphires in the world and, soon, the entire region was aware of the wealth that awaited within the Kashmir mountains.

By 1883, an official mine was established at the earthquake site and the Maharaja of Kashmir sent guards to protect his new mine, which was producing fine sapphires that became renowned for their “peacock’s neck” hue. The mining work was treacherous and exhaustive, only possible during short, three-month spans during the summer, when laborers were forced to work under near-impossible conditions to remove some of the largest and finest Kashmir sapphires from the ground.

Throughout the next four years, work was extensive. An additional mine was discovered, on the valley floor, adding to production. However, the Kashmir mine’s glory days would be short-lived.

Mining was brought to a halt in 1889 and no work was done on the mines for six years. The Kashmir Mining Company resumed work in 1906, but with little to show for it. Other, new mines were constructed at the site over the next few years as well, but there was never any great production like what was seen during those first initial mining seasons.

Today, the mines are quiet, but those first Kashmir sapphires live on.

Why are Kashmir Sapphires so Special?

Gemology 101 - The History of Kashmir Sapphires

So what makes these Kashmir sapphires so special? Why does it matter that a mountain in India gave birth to these sapphires over such a short window of time? Why have Kashmir sapphires sold for more than $7 million, setting world records at auction?

Firstly, it’s that rarity that makes the Kashmir sapphires so highly coveted among collectors. The limited number of sapphires results in a small collection of exclusive gemstones that aren’t as easy to find as your average sapphire, which you can purchase from any jeweler. Kashmir sapphires are difficult to find, and when you do find one, you snatch it up and keep it within your collection for as long as possible.

Of course, it helps that Kashmir sapphires are also very high quality. Kashmir sapphires feature a blue hue that gemologists refer to as a blue velvet. This blue velvet hue is furthermore considered a cornflower blue, which is extremely reflective and vibrant.

One of the most famous Kashmir sapphires is The Jewel of Kashmir, which weighs nearly 28 carats, mounted in 18-karat white gold and paired with pear-shape diamonds weighing in at their own 5.7 carats. The Jewel of Kashmir sold at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in 2015 for $6.7 million, marking a world record for the world’s most expensive sapphire at cost-per-carat. The Jewel of Kashmir was noted for its rich saturation, homogenous coloring and high degree of transparency, which made it stand apart as a higher quality among even the most valuable Kashmir sapphires.

Other famous Kashmir sapphire pieces include a 19th-century pair of earrings, with the two cushion-cut sapphires weighing in at eight carats each. Bonhams sold the earrings, which once belonged to an unnamed European princess, in 2015, for nearly $2 million

Kashmir Sapphires vs. Other Sapphires

Gemology 101 - The History of Kashmir Sapphires

Kashmir sapphires are separated from other sapphires by their trace elements and color. Additionally, they can be spotted in a range of Victorian and Deco pieces, when set, as these pieces would have been in vogue around the time that Kashmir sapphires were first being discovered. They’re also typically cushion cut or oval cut. As mentioned, Kashmir sapphires are known for their unique blue velvet, cornflower blue hue.

Comparatively, Ceylon or Sri Lankan sapphires are very close in quality, but also far more plentiful, meaning that you’re likely going to be able to find a Ceylon or Sri Lankan sapphire for a more
affordable price.

Australian sapphires, meanwhile, are some of the most affordable sapphires on the market, and often used by large jewelry manufacturers. Most Australian sapphires have a navy hue. Meanwhile, Montana sapphires are usually light, small and likewise affordable.

It’s Madagascar sapphires, however, that are most likely to be confused with Kashmir sapphires. The hue is similar and the material is similar. Additionally, some consumers may be confused as, occasionally, a Madagascar sapphire may list Madagascar as the stone’s origin, but then the stone may be listed as “Kashmir Type” elsewhere, for its qualities and hue. Many times, to distinguish between Madagascar and Kashmir sapphires, an expert will need to look at the gemstone’s internal make-up beneath a microscope. There, they’ll find particle patches and tracks arranged in varying patterns that can help to indicate a gemstone’s geographic origins.

Shopping for a Kashmir Sapphire

Reasons Customers Buy Jewelry from Specific Designers

If you’re shopping for a Kashmir sapphire, you need to have an expert on your side. Don’t just let this endeavor fall to any jeweler in your neighborhood. Sourcing one of these extremely rare gemstones, at such an expensive price, is not something that you want to leave to chance. On top of this, you’re likely not even going to be able to find a Kashmir sapphire on the open market. Rather, you’ll need your jeweler to help you source this sapphire, or you can buy the sapphire at auction. So, as you start shopping, be sure that you have a reputable, knowledgeable jeweler on your side (like the jewelers at Yamron!).

Once you’ve located a Kashmir sapphire or piece of Kashmir sapphire jewelry, you’ll want to ensure that all of the paperwork is in order. Your jewelry should have gathered this for you on your behalf but it’s always better to double-check that there’s correct documentation that the sapphire in question did indeed come from Kashmir. Look for documentation from a third-party, such as American Gemological Labs or Swiss Gemological Institute. Then, if not automatically provided, ask for a proper inspection to verify the gemstone’s quality.

Yamron Can Help

10 Steps On How To Start Your Fine Jewelry Collection

Are you looking to add a Kashmir sapphire to your own jewelry collection? The experts jewelers at Yamron can help you not only source one of these rare gemstones, but also help you to further gauge a gemstone’s origins, quality and value, so that you can be assured of the best jewelry investment possible.

Talk with one of our luxury jewelry experts to get started, by giving us a call at 239-592-7707 or an email at If you’re in Naples, stop by our showroom to speak with one of our team members in person.