A magnificent and rare sapphire and diamond ring. Photo Sotheby's

The cushion-shaped sapphire weighing 16.40 carats, flanked by baguette diamonds, mounted in platinum, size 7½. ESTIMATE 1,000,000-1,500,000 USD. Lot Sold: 1,594,500 USD

NOTE: Accompanied by Gübelin report no. 11085093 stating that the sapphire is of Kashmir origin, no indications of heating, and AGL report no. CS 45823 stating that the sapphire is of Kashmir origin, no gemological evidence of heat.

"Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight" The above quote by John Ruskin, considered the leading art critic of the Victorian era, testifies to the pleasure this particular hue can bring. As cherished as a gift from the gods, blue surrounds our world as the color of sea and sky. Its power to soothe and calm has helped make it the favorite hue of the majority of the population.

Although sapphires were prized throughout history, it was only at the end of the 19th century when the world was able to view the particular beauty of sapphires from Kashmir. The legendary mines were located at the height of approximately 15,000 feet above the village of Sumjam in the Himalayan Mountains. Sapphires were discovered by chance after a landslide exposed a pocket of large crystals. Their value was not immediately recognized and they were first traded for salt and other goods on a weight for weight basis. It was not until some of the crystals reached Simla, the summer capital of India, that their true value became apparent. Almost immediately the Maharajah of Kashmir took control of the mines and prohibited private trading. By 1887 the initial mine was exhausted and mining ceased temporarily.

In first decades of the last century, new mines had been worked alternately by the government and private investors but have since been abandoned. The high altitude, poor weather conditions and rough terrain made mining extremely difficult and possible only during the summer months. Few Westerners have ever gained permission to visit the remote location but they have reported that all mining activity has long ceased. A collector now wishing to own a Kashmir sapphire must look to jewelry of the past.

Kashmir sapphires are cherished by connoisseurs for their intense blue color accompanied by a soft, velvety luster. It is this unique appearance that sets them apart from sapphires of other locations. Furthermore, the highly saturated color of a fine Kashmir sapphire holds up under both natural and artificial light, making it the perfect stone to be worn in the evening. It is extremely difficult to find a gem-quality Kashmir sapphire over 10 carats on the market. The gracefully proportioned cushion-shaped stone presented here is an impressive 16.40 carats in size. Combined with the unforgettable vivid blue color and velvety texture unique to Kashmir sapphires, it is truly 'Blue Heaven.'

Sotheby's. Magnificent Jewels. New York | 07 Dec 2011