TREASURES OF THE EAST

Ex­cep­tional gem­stones that re­de­fine high jew­ellery

Solitaire (Singapore) - - Content - BY PREETA AGAR­WAL

THIS PAGE Model wear­ing ear­rings and ring from the Capri col­lec­tion, DE GRISO­GONO

OP­PO­SITE Blue sap­phire and di­a­mond ring, DER MOND

Home to many pre­cious stones, Asia is known for its im­pres­sive list of qual­ity gem­stones. Of the stones un­earthed here, th­ese four are renowned for their ex­quis­ite use in jew­ellery. From Kash­mir sap­phires and lush pink­ishred spinels, to fine, opaque jade and play­ful turquoises, th­ese Asian gems are rare, strik­ing, and def­i­nitely a sight to be­hold.

Kash­mir Sap­phires

Blue sap­phires are ex­cep­tional, but the most cov­eted ones come from Kash­mir, a state in north­ern In­dia. First dis­cov­ered in the early 1980s in a re­mote moun­tain­ous re­gion of Kash­mir through an accidental land­slip, Kash­mir sap­phires are one of the rarest and highly val­ued stones in the jew­ellery in­dus­try. The Kash­mir sap­phire mines caused a con­cern for the Ma­haraja of Kash­mir in 1887 when the yield started to de­cline. Fu­ture ex­plo­ration has failed due to se­vere weather con­di­tions and guer­rilla war­fare in the re­gion. Whether sim­i­lar qual­ity and sizes of blue sap­phires will ever be pro­duced out of Kash­mir val­ley again still re­mains to be seen. But the ones in the mar­ket that are from the late 1800s are fetch­ing record auc­tion prices, such as the Riche­lieu Sap­phires that were sold for $8,358,520 at Sotheby’s Geneva in 2013, set­ting a record price of $175,821 per carat.

Red Spinels

Deep, red gem­stones have al­ways been pop­u­lar in fine jew­ellery, and ru­bies have played that role quite well over the years. Another such red gem­stone, closely re­sem­bling a ruby, is the spinel, which only re­ceived its much-de­served recog­ni­tion in the late 19th cen­tury. Be­fore then, all deep red spinels were thought to be ru­bies. Many fa­mous old ru­bies were dis­cov­ered to be spinels, such as the enor­mous cen­tre­piece of the royal crown of Eng­land, the Black Prince’s Ruby. Found only in Asia and Tan­za­nia, spinels come

in many colours, with deep reds and pinks be­ing the most sought af­ter. Mostly un­der­val­ued and non-mar­keted due to scarce sup­ply, fine qual­ity red spinels are now be­ing used in high jew­ellery. Once favoured by roy­al­ties and rulers, th­ese gem­stones were an in­te­gral part of the Mughal trea­sury. Rare spinels have been found from the Mughal era with names of rulers and their years of reign en­graved on them.

Jade

Jade has great cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance in China. Sold at a low price un­til a few years ago, jade’s prices have climbed up the charts as the Myan­mar sup­ply dwin­dled and de­mand in­creased. Low grade and opaque but durable, Nephrite jade is known as mut­ton fat and com­monly used to make uten­sils and weapons. Mean­while, the more valu­able translu­cent Jadeite is used in jew­ellery, carved reli­gious fig­ures, and home dec­o­ra­tion items. Mov­ing from sim­pler bead jew­ellery, jade is now used in high jew­ellery by de­sign­ers such as Wal­lace Chan, Chow Tai Fook, and even JAR. A Cartier jade neck­lace that once be­longed to Amer­i­can heiress Bar­bara Hut­ton even made news when it sold above its es­ti­mated price at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2014.

Turquoise

One gem­stone that has suc­cess­fully tran­si­tioned from fash­ion jew­ellery to high jew­ellery is turquoise. This strik­ing, sky-blue coloured gem­stone started out with a hum­ble be­gin­ning in sil­ver jew­ellery. One of the old­est gem­stones, dat­ing back to around 3000 BC, turquoise has been part of dif­fer­ent folk­lore and le­gends, and was worn by Pharaohs and Aztec kings. Turquoise was also fa­mous in Chi­nese and Per­sian cul­tures. Its blue green colour tones add a sooth­ing ap­peal, which is easy to pair with var­i­ous shades of gold. A tra­di­tional De­cem­ber birth­stone, turquoise, is one of favourite gem­stones for Asian tribal jew­ellery due to its avail­abil­ity in the land.

From Kash­mir sap­phires and red spinels, to opaque jade and play­ful turquoises, th­ese Asian gems are a sight to be­hold

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