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Deposits of the sapphires were first discovered and mined in the early 1880s, following a landslide in a remote valley. Hearing of these sapphires, brighter than any previously discovered, the Maharaja of Kashmir purchased the mine and worked it for just five years between 1882-87, when the supply was depleted.

A new mine was later opened and periodic mining has been carried out since, but the vast majority of Kashmir sapphires found on the market today were mined during this short period.

Certification is a must. The 19th century sapphire and rose-cut diamond ring offered at Fellows’ (23/15% buyer’s premium) Fine Jewellery auction on May 27 came with a 2019 report from SSEF, stating that the stone weighed 6.381ct, was from Kashmir and showed no signs of heat treatment.

It stole the show when, as the last lot of the day, it more than doubled the top estimate to bring £32,000.

Prominent Thornes

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Belle Époque brooch with a royal blue Kashmir sapphire – $325,000 (£250,000) at Doyle New York.

A yet more spectacular Kashmir sapphire was offered for sale at Doyle in New York on June 17 after descending in three generations of the prominent Thorne family of New York.

The Thorne fortune had its beginnings in 1795 with a Quaker country store in Washington, New York, and grew to encompass wool importing, cattle and sheep breeding and leather manufacturing.

This Belle Époque brooch, c.1910, centred by a 5.12ct sapphire was first owned by Phebe Ketchum Thorne (1865-1931) who, with her husband Edwin Thorne (1861-1936), lived in an elegant Fifth Avenue townhouse and homes in Millbrook and Long Island.

The stone came with an AGL report stating the colour as an intense ‘royal blue’. It was estimated at $100,000-200,000 and did considerably better, selling at $325,000 (£250,000).