Amidst the Himalayan Mountains lies the remote valley, which nowadays is intimately linked to some of the most sought-after sapphires in the world. The landslide that brought the first of these exceptional treasures to the surface is believed to have happened between 1879 and 1882. After the discovery of sapphires of exceptional quality and size in the region, mining began under the protection of the ruling Maharaja of Kashmir.
The mines of
Between 1882 and 1887, magnificent sapphires were unearthed during the few summer months in which the mine was accessible. Since this first mine, called the "Old Mine", was largely exhausted after 1887, a "New Mine" was established in close proximity. However, this mine as well as the few other deposits nearby, which were discovered in the years since, only yielded sporadic finds whose quality could hardly be compared to the original material.
The high desirability of Kashmir sapphires can be explained by two factors: beauty and rarity. Top quality sapphires from Kashmir distinguish themselves by a vivid fully-saturated blue colour, which is often poetically described by the trade as "cornflower blue". This unique colour combined with the velvety appearance, typical for these gemstones, caused by tiny inclusions scattering light within the stone, results in the optical spectacle Kashmir sapphires are renowned for. Their extreme rarity is mostly explained by the very short period of time over which these gemstones were mined from the original deposit. Since only few sapphires originating from the later mines could compare with the quality of the "Old Mine" sapphires, nowadays, only very few truly high-quality Kashmir gemstones are available on the market.
The gemstones of
Although the Kashmir region is particularly well known for its magnificent and almost legendary sapphires, other gemstones are being unearthed in this region. Among them are garnets, tourmalines and even some rubies.