For over a century, Kashmir sapphires have been the scarcest and most coveted type of sapphire in the world. The first Kashmir sapphire mine was uncovered after a landslide in the Himalayas in 1879 but depleted just over a decade later. Since then the prized sapphires have been mined are few and far between. Attempts to find new deposits of the Kashmiri stones in were curtailed by challenging weather conditions (the region is covered with snow three quarters of the year) and political unrest in the region.
As a result, the majority of the Kashmir sapphires on the market were mined before the turn of the 20th century, and significant stones rarely come up for sale. When they do, they can sell for millions more than non-Kashmiri sapphires of comparable size. Next month Sotheby’s Hong Kong is selling a 20.22-carat Kashmir sapphire, named the The Pride of Kashmir, for an estimate of $3.8 million-$5.8 million.
Kashmir sapphires are prized not only for their scarcity, but for their velvety blue color. The stones were formed over 25 million years ago, and unlike other types of sapphires, which can have purple or gray hues, Kashmir sapphires retain their dark blue color and opacity under any type of light. Burmese and Ceylon sapphires are the only other types of the stone that could even be compared to Kashmiri examples.
Kashmir sapphires in excess of 20 carats have been among the most expensive sapphires to ever sell at auction and their values have only risen over the past decades. They are still, however, a less expensive (but equally azure) alternative to one of the jewelry world’s most popular investments,blue diamonds.