Our upcoming online auction, Fine Jewels: Ode to Nature on 15 – 16 October 2019 features unusual coloured stones that are increasingly attracting interest globally. From intriguing origin stories to mesmerising hues and optical effects, we share five of our top picks from the sale.
Tracing their origins to the state of Paraíba in Brazil, these rare, neon-blue stones are a fairly recent addition to the tourmaline family. Also known as cuprian elbaite, this variety of tourmalines gains its vibrant colour, often described as a “Hollywood swimming pool blue,” from the presence of copper, which illuminates them from within. The colour only manifests when the gemstone is cut, and a higher concentration of copper results in the coveted electric blue tone.
Paraíba tourmalines were discovered in the 1980s by an ambitious and persistent gem miner named Heitor Dimas Barbosa, who did not know what he was looking for but was convinced that he would find something “completely different.” It took five years, but the search was eventually rewarded – signs of a unique new tourmaline were found in the “tangle of galleries, shafts and tunnels.” The first handful of these spirited blue tourmalines, in a colour the world had never witnessed before, was brought up from the mines into the daylight in the autumn of 1989. The difficulty in mining Paraíba tourmalines is what makes these gems among the most expensive in the world.
Cat’s Eye Chrysoberyl
Chrysoberyls are one of the few gemstones that exhibit chatoyancy or the ‘cat’s eye’ effect. This phenomenon occurs due to sets of rutile needles inside the stone aligned in the same direction. When light interacts with the needles, it produces a streak of light that reflects from the dome of the stone. This effect is most pronounced when the stone is cut to produce a cabochon.
Translucent-yellowish in colour, the cat’s eye chrysoberyl originates in Brazil, India and Sri Lanka, and is one of the nine auspicious gems or navratna in Indian astrology.
A recent addition to the world of coloured stones, tanzanite was discovered in 1967 by a Masai tribesman named Ali Juuyawatu, who came across a cluster of iridescent blue crystals in the Merelani Hills of Tanzania. Initially mistaken for sapphires, their potential was soon recognised in the international jewellery market. Tiffany’s struck a deal to become its main distributor, naming the crystal “Tanzanite,” and Henry Platt, former president of Tiffany’s, stated that it was “the most beautiful blue stone to be discovered in 2000 years.” Tanzanite, which is found only in the city of Arusha in Tanzania, soon became a favourite with leading jewellery designers and gem professionals. A variety of the mineral zoisite, in their natural state, tanzanite crystals radiate three colours – blue, violet and brown; while the colours of polished and cut stones can range from a light lilac to a deep indigo.
Lot 99 is a Tanzanite and Diamond Ring estimated at INR 8 – 10 lakhs.
Star Purple Sapphire
One of the oldest and best known coloured precious stones, sapphires occur in a varied spectrum of colours, including ‘pink’ sapphires, which can range from shades of red to purple. Many sapphires contain inclusions, such as those which cause the stone to have a star-like appearance – a phenomenon known as asterism, originating from the ancient Greek word for ‘star.’ This effect is caused by thin mineral needles which are aligned such that they reflect and “scatter light, causing the coveted visual effect without negatively affecting the gem’s transparency,” and effectively increasing the value of the stone. In this stunning Star Purple Sapphire Ring, three streaks create a mesmerising six-ray star.
These luminous, highly durable star sapphires were considered powerful and mystical talismans, bringing luck and protection to travellers and seekers. They were referred to by some as “the stone of destiny.” According to legend, “The celebrated explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton travelled the Orient with a large star sapphire, known as an asteria. He found it brought him much luck, as the stone’s fame preceded him in his travels. Many believed simply viewing the talisman meant good fortune.”
Lot 111 is a Star Purple Sapphire and Diamond Ring estimated at INR 6 – 7 lakhs.
In 1902, an unknown pink crystal was found in San Diego, California, and sent to the legendary Tiffany & Co. mineralogist George F Kunz – after whom the gemstone is named. He recognised it as a unique variant of the mineral spodumene, occurring in shades of pink and violet. The soft colour comes from trace amounts of manganese. Currently, kunzite supplies come mainly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and several deposits are also found in California.
Kunzite crystals are often large, with relatively few inclusions, and make for fine finished gems usually ranging from 10-40 carats. The largest kunzite in the world, a faceted heart-shaped crystal weighing 880 carats, is on display at the Smithsonian Institution. One of the most famous pieces of jewellery made with this gemstone was ring set with a 47-carat cushion-cut kunzite, belonging to the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy.
Saffronart’s online auction Fine Jewels: Ode to Nature will take place on saffronart.com on 15 – 16 October 2019. The auction is preceded by viewings at the Saffronart galleries in The Oberoi, New Delhi (28 September – 1 October) and Mumbai (6 – 16 October).