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Article: Why Are Kashmir blue Sapphires stones ‘Velvety’ in Appearance?


Why Are Kashmir blue Sapphires stones ‘Velvety’ in Appearance?

In the world of gemstones, few possess the natural beauty, mystique and legendary status of Kashmir sapphires. Renowned for their exceptional blue color and velvety texture, these unparalleled gems hold a special place in the hearts of gem enthusiasts and collectors worldwide. From their genesis amidst the Himalayan Mountains to their unique coloration and mesmerizing light-play within their crystal structure, Kashmir sapphires embody a symphony of geological artistry and limitless intrigue.

But what exactly imbues Kashmir sapphires with their distinctive velvety appearance in particular? Let’s delve into the geological and structural intricacies of these gems that render them truly exceptional.

Geological Genesis of Kashmir Sapphires

The great fascination with Kashmir sapphires begins with their unexpected discovery in 1881 in a nearly inaccessible glacial cirque thousands of feet high on the slopes of the Himalayas rugged Zanskar Range in the Paddar region of Kashmir.

5.3-carat, cushion-shaped, unheated Kashmir sapphire

5.3-carat, cushion-shaped, unheated Kashmir sapphire

Unique geological conditions in this region created the perfect environment for the formation of exquisite blue sapphires gem with a distinctive velvety texture. The presence of specific metamorphic rocks, combined with precise temperature and pressure conditions, provided the ideal setting for the development of natural sapphires with microscopic inclusions (internal imperfections) called “silk,” the term for long, thin intersecting inclusions of the mineral rutile.

Surprisingly, these silk inclusions don’t diminish the transparency of these sapphires; instead, they scatter the light that passes through the stones creating a soft, velvety effect that enchants observers with its ethereal allure. This appearance, also referred to as “sleepy” in the trade, contributes to the unique character of these sapphires and serves as a visual fingerprint of their Kashmir origin.

Kashmir Sapphire’s Crystal Structure

As a member of the corundum mineral family, sapphire jewelry has a trigonal crystal structure that not only underpins its optical properties but also plays a pivotal role in defining its aesthetic appeal. The arrangement of atoms within this structure intricately influences how light interacts with the gemstone, giving rise to its unique visual characteristics.

9.08-carat, cabochon, unheated Kashmir sapphire ring

9.08-carat, unheated Kashmir sapphire cabochon ring

In the case of Kashmir blue sapphires, the presence of silk inclusions within this crystal lattice amplifies the scattering of light. This intricate interplay between crystal structure and silk inclusions results in a mesmerizing velvety sheen that sets Kashmir sapphires apart, adding an extra layer of enchantment to these extraordinary gems.

Elemental Influence

The combination of trace elements further enriches the visual tapestry of Kashmir sapphires. Elements such as iron and titanium, nestled within the crystal lattice, exert a profound influence on the gemstone’s extraordinary vivid blue color—often called cornflower blue”—a moderate purplish-blue, the finest of which is likened by those in India to the striking color of a peacocks neck.

As light dances within the gemstone, it interacts with these elemental nuances, infusing depth and richness into the color palette, thereby accentuating the velvety texture that characterizes these gems.

9.88-carat, unheated Kashmir sapphire pair

9.88-carat, unheated Kashmir sapphire pair

Moreover, Kashmir cornflower blue sapphires are, almost without exception, color-zoned. This distribution of color is usually associated with microscopic layers of liquid inclusions, which are also responsible for the typical velvety luster.

In essence, the velvety appearance of Kashmir sapphires is a unique interplay of geological serendipity, crystallographic intricacies and elemental alchemy. It’s the convergence of these factors that endows these gems with singular beauty and appeal, elevating them to the upper echelons of gemological marvels.

Top: 10.49-carat, sugarloaf cabochon Kashmir sapphire

All gems and jewels from the Jogani collection


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