The Complete Guide to Buying Kashmir Sapphires January 3, 2022 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
Kashmir Sapphires are one of the rarest types of gemstones in the world. It’s synonymous with royalty and has long been considered the finest and most desirable sapphire in the world. However, there is a lot to learn about this elusive sapphire.
This article was written by Michael Khordipour, Afshin Shaddaie, and Benjamin Khordipour. They are among the foremost world authorities on Kashmir Sapphires. Together, they’ve been curating Kashmir Sapphires for over 40 years, and so, using their knowledge, they compiled a guide that will help you with everything that you need to know before you start your own collection.
- History of Kashmir Sapphires
- Why are Kashmir Sapphires so Expensive?
- Guide to Shopping for the Perfect Kashmir Sapphire
- Where to Buy Kashmir Sapphires?
- Talk to a Kashmir Sapphire Expert
History of Kashmir Sapphires
The history of Kashmir sapphires all started in 1880 in the Kashmir region on the Indian subcontinent. A landslide atop the Himalayas revealed an unusual type of rocks under the usual layer of soil. These rocks were almost completely bare except for the occasional protruding blue stones.
It took the locals a good period of time to realize that the stones were actually sapphire. This caught the eye of the Maharajah (a regional ruler in India), who sent a regiment of guards to protect the mine, along with miners to dig out more of the sapphires.
The miners had to work in extreme conditions in the regional hot summer with little to no rest.
By the end of 1887, the famous Kashmir Mine was exhausted. Hungry for more, the Maharajah sought the assistance of the British, who by then had ruled in India for more than a decade. And with the help of British geologists, they found a new mine in the valley below.
However, they quickly exhausted the other mine too. To this day, no other Kashmir deposits have been found.
Timeline of Kashmir History
The timeline of the events that led to the discovery and depletion of Kashmir Sapphires is fascinating. Here are, in bullet-point form, the most notable events.
- 1880. Discovery of the main Kashmir Mine.
- 1882. The largest Kashmir Mining discoveries. Most Kashmir Gemstones available today were mined during these five years.
- 1887. Depletion of Kashmir Mine.
- 1906. C.M.P. Wright and the Kashmir Mineral Co. leases the mines and digs in a new location (without realizing that he discovered the New Kashmir Mines). He eventually gives up due to difficulties with digging conditions.
- 1927. Last recorded small discovery of any Kashmir Sapphires from new mines.
Why are Kashmir Sapphires so Expensive?
The value of Kashmir sapphires is increasing every day. In fact, it is currently one of the strongest investment pieces of jewelry on the market.
Recently, Christie’s Auction House sold a 35.09-carat Kashmir blue sapphire for $7,357,999. For context, that’s $209,689 per carat. That’s the current world record. Expect it to go up in the following years.
There are three primary factors that make Kashmir so expensive:
- Quality. The Kashmir Sapphire commands a high price because many of them contain a top-quality sapphire specimens. You may come across other blue sapphires, but only those from Kashmir have what experts call blue velvet – a dreamy cornflower blue that reflects light under all angles. See below.
- Rarity. The Kashmir Sapphire is the rarest type of sapphire on the market.
- Prestige. The reputation of Kashmir Sapphires has taken on a life of its own. Most of the important pieces of sapphire jewelry in the world showcase the Kashmir Sapphire in the center.
On top of its texture and tint, the incredible public demand has only increased its price further.
All in all, Kashmir sapphires represent the crown of all sapphire gems; the perfect sapphire to mount on a ring, necklace, or earring.
The discussion of the Kashmir Sapphire vs Ceylon Sapphire vs Burma Sapphire always ends with the agreement among professionals that Kashmir is far superior.
Very Important Note: In order for a Kashmir Sapphire to be desirable it first needs to be “gem quality”. A poor-quality sapphire that happens to come from the Kashmir Mines will not have the premium investment qualities mentioned above.
Tips for Shopping for a Kashmir Sapphire
As already mentioned, you should always consult with a Kashmir expert before buying a Kashmir sapphire. Just one carat can cost north of $200,000. Thus, you need to be sure of what you’re buying. There are only about 10-20 experts in the world.
Here is what you need to have in order before making the purchase. Listed in order of importance:
- Ensure that the sapphire is of Gem Quality (consult with an expert)
- Confirm the origin of the sapphire as being from Kashmir (ideally two certificates, with one being from an AGL certificate)
- Assertain that the color is cornflower blue or royal blue (consult with an expert)
- Check the certificate to confirm that the sapphire has not been heat treated
And we can’t restate this enough, only buy Kashmir Stones from reputable sellers. Jewelry requires a lot of good faith. Only purchase your sapphire from a seller that has a track record (and reputation) of trust.
Proving Origin for Kashmir Sapphires
Proving origin is one of the most important parts of buying and selling a Kashmir Sapphire. Genuine Kashmir sapphires come from the mines of Kashmir at the Zanskar mountain range of the Himalayas. Almost all of the premium value of the Kashmiri Gemstone will be wrapped up in its proof of origin. In order to hold your investment, you will want to prove that the sapphire came from the Kashmir Mines.
The good news is that there are laboratories that can determine the origin of stones. They will examine the sapphire carefully and they will provide a document guaranteeing its status.
The top companies that provide reputable certificates for origin are:
- AGL – American Gemological Labs. The AGL certificates are considered to be the strongest Kashmir certificates in the industry.
- SSEF – Swiss Gemological Institute. A very authoritative choice for determining Kashmir origin.
- Gubelin – Gübelin Gem Lab. Another very authoritative choice for determining Kashmir origin.
- Christian Duneg. This lab doesn’t have a website, but they are one of the top authorities on determining Kashmir sapphires.
- GIA – Gemological Institute of America. The GIA isn’t recommended. See below.
- AGTA – American Gem Trade Association. The AGTA Labs don’t exist anymore and their sapphire certificates are strongly flawed. See below.
If you’re looking to buy a genuine Kashmir sapphire, you need a confirmation of the origin. And not just any confirmation either, you’ll want an official certificate from a reputable source confirming that it came from the Himalayan valley.
In the 1980s, there were many problematic certificates that confused the origins between Kashmir and Madagascar. As a result, we strongly recommend not using AGTA and GIA to determine the origin of a sapphire. AGL, SSEF, Gubelin, and Christian Duneg are the highest authorities when determining origin.
Desired Color and Saturation of Kashmir Blue
The strongest distinguishing feature of any sapphire is its blueness. Obviously, the more intense the blueness, the more valuable the stone. Kashmir Sapphires are no exception to this rule. You can encounter pale or less intense blue sapphires, but they don’t hold the highest value.
The most desirable color for a Gem Quality Kashmiri Sapphire is Cornflower Blue. This has always been the highest color metric since the opening of the mines in the 1880s. This blue is lighter than the more renowned Royal Blue Sapphire. The cornflower blue should also feature a deep saturation, as found on the petals of the Cornflower.
Another color of note for gem-quality sapphires is the Royal Blue Sapphire. The Royal Blue contains a darker saturation of blue than a cornflower.
In gem-quality Kashmir Sapphires, you can also expect the characteristic velvet.
The least expensive Kashmir sapphires have subpar saturation such that they appear pale. There are plenty of these on the market. They are not Gem Quality Kashmir and run at similar prices to regular non-gem-quality sapphires.
Additionally, you should always focus on the purity of the color. There shouldn’t be overtones of any other color, especially purple and violet. Gem-Quality Kashmir sapphires should have an even spread of blue color from top to bottom.
Important Note: When it comes to the color quality of a Kashmir sapphire, you will not get an accurate reading from any certificate. This is something that only a highly qualified sapphire expert can determine.
Clarity Range of Kashmir Sapphires (and Silk Inclusions)
One of the most famous qualities of Kashmir sapphires is their silk-like rutile needles. These titanium oxides (TiO2) internal needles reduce the gem’s transparency, but in return present a beautiful velvety shine that’s almost entirely exclusive to Kashmir sapphires.
These inclusions also allow light to travel evenly throughout the gem. If you shine a light into the gem, it’s indicative of a genuine Kashmir sapphire if it lights up all sides.
These thin inclusions are a great indicator of authenticity. If you don’t find these tiny needles (also known as internal silk) all over the core of the gem, it may be a good cause to raise your suspicion about the origin of the stone.
Important Note: A moderate amount of velvety silk is considered very desirable. If however there is too much velvety silk the desirability of the stone will start to go down.
Cuts and Shapes of Kashmir Sapphires
There are two things to know when researching the cut of a sapphire:
- How Perfectly the Sapphire is Cut
- The Type of Shape
You’ll very rarely find a perfectly symmetrical cut of blue Kashmir, and there are a couple of reasons for that.
First, Kashmir Sapphires are old. They’ve been around for at least 100 years, and throughout that time, it’s almost impossible that they wouldn’t have gotten a small bump here and there.
Secondly, the jewelers who would have cut the sapphire would have lived over 100 years ago. Stone-cutting technology has come a long way. In the early 1900s, the stone-cutting techniques were not too precise.
Additionally, Kashmirs would also require a great deal of patience and expertise to cut due to the tiny inclusions.
In regards to the shape, sapphires are usually cut to antique cushion cut, emerald cut, or oval-cut shapes. The less deep the stone, the better. Cutting the sapphire to be a little more shallow allows less light into the stone and keeps the stone with a deeper saturation.
But it’s actually the intact gems – those that aren’t cut at all – that are the most expensive. In fact, the aforementioned record-breaking stone was an uncut gem.
Therefore, you should know that a cut Kashmir sapphire usually sells for a lower price. For example, if you want a heart-shaped blue Kashmir ring for your wedding ring, you may get lucky and find one at a bargain price. However, always look to buy from a trustworthy jeweler.
Price of Kashmir Sapphires
Now that you understand all the determining factors, let’s talk about the price range of these gems. However, it can still be difficult to determine a realistic price.
There isn’t a long trail of established prices for Kashmir sapphires due to their rarity. Most stones are already in the hands of collectors, investors, and jewelers. Therefore, sellers can set the price at liberty.
In any event, the lowest-tier of gem-quality Kashmir sapphires may go for $5,000 per carat. One carat is 200mg (0.2g) just like any other precious gem.
If the stone is of the highest color and quality, it will significantly increase the price per carat. That’s why the record-breaking Kashmiri Gem went for $200k+ per carat.
Think twice if a vendor offers you a Kashmir sapphire at a cheap price. Check its quality, color, and clarity. And most importantly bring it to an expert who can determine that there’s nothing suspicious.
Where to Buy Kashmir Sapphires?
As said, it won’t be easy to find genuine Kashmir Sapphires. You can’t just go into your local jewelry store and expect to find them. If you really want authentic gem-quality Kashmiri Sapphire Jewelry, you’ll have to look very hard for them.
Once you find a seller, there are a few things to consider:
- Store Reputation – The store needs to be trustworthy and reliable. You should research a vendor very carefully before you even think of dealing with them. You will also want to ensure that the seller is an expert in Kashmir Sapphires.
- Image of the Sapphire – Request to see high-res images of the sapphire. Reliable sellers will make available photographs that you can zoom in on. This is especially important for Kashmir sapphires, as it allows you to notice the silk-like inclusions and the reflective hue.
- Certificates – Crucially, a reliable online store will have an official document vouching for the authenticity of the gem. It should always come from an internationally recognized gemologist institution and only the ones mentioned above. Most of them can confirm the geographic origin as well as the condition, shape, transparency, etc.
Always remember that it’s better to wait for the real thing than to let down your guard and end up with a fake.
Important Note: To view our entire rare collection of Kashmir Sapphires, please contact us directly and inquire.
Talk to our Kashmir Sapphire Experts
Are you looking for a Kashmir Sapphire? We have a very rare private collection of Kashmir Sapphires and Jewelry.
Here’s what you need to mention so that we can help you:
- Approximate Budget
- What type of Jewelry (Ring, Earrings, Brooch, Necklace, Bracelet, or loose stone) you are looking for?
- (Optional) Approximate Size of Stone