Rat­na­pura – city of gems

Sap­phires in jewellery have a long and rich his­tory, as James re­veals

EDP Norfolk - - Valuations - James Hawkins

“An­cient sap­phires sur­vive, like the famed Ro­man cameo de­pict­ing Aphrodite feed­ing an ea­gle”

THE FIRST known tran­scripts de­scrib­ing ru­bies, spinels and sap­phires were recorded by the Ro­man and Greek em­pires when they de­scribed the gems found on the is­land of Tabropane. The Per­sians also recorded riches from Serendib and the Old Tes­ta­ment records the gifts of sap­phirus given by the mid­dle east­ern King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba. The high priest’s breast plate from the book of Ex­o­dus was also jewelled with sap­phirus.

By the time of Alexan­der the Great in the 3rd cen­tury BC, trade routes were es­tab­lished for pre­cious stones through In­dia into Europe. Euro­pean me­dieval records de­tail Seilam (Cey­lon) the ‘Is­land of Gems’ – now Sri Lanka – where gem­stones floated down the river in vast waves ready for col­lec­tion.

Fables from the 13th cen­tury book Livres des Merveilles du

Monde, de­tail­ing the ex­ploits of Marco Polo, have thrilled read­ers for gen­er­a­tions. Rivers around Rat­na­pura have been de­scribed as flow­ing with gems and have wit­nessed waves of ad­ven­tur­ers seek­ing their for­tunes for gen­er­a­tions.

An­cient sap­phires sur­vive, like the famed Ro­man cameo de­pict­ing Aphrodite feed­ing an ea­gle, part of the Fitzwillia­m col­lec­tion. The Tal­is­man of Charle­magne, also known as the Carolin­gian amulet, was sent to the Holy Ro­man Em­peror by Caliph Haroud Al-Rashid; two sap­phire stones flanked and en­cased a lock of hair of the Vir­gin Mary. Sap­phires pre­served from the mid­dle ages have be­come some of the most recog­nis­able in the world, such as the 11th cen­tury St Ed­ward’s sap­phire found in the Im­pe­rial Crown, along with the 17th cen­tury Stuart sap­phire lo­cated in the Mal­tese cross sur­mount­ing the Im­pe­rial Crown.

Un­der Bri­tish rule the Is­land of Cey­lon was fa­mous for sup­ply­ing jew­ellers with the finest sap­phires to be found anywhere on the planet. This prac­tice con­tin­ues to­day with the most de­sir­able and best-coloured sap­phires still orig­i­nat­ing from the Rat­na­pura re­gion.

At Juels’ Lim­ited we stock an ar­ray of sap­phires; a re­cent pur­chase has been our ex­cep­tional Cey­lonese Rat­na­pura sap­phire and di­a­mond ring set in plat­inum. The cen­tral Cey­lon sap­phire is ap­prox­i­mately four carats with a fur­ther one carat of sap­phire around the edges that have been in­ter­val set with di­a­monds of the high­est qual­ity. The ring forms part of our cur­rent win­dow dis­play. If any­one has any jewellery they wish to have ap­praised please bring it along to James in the Royal Ar­cade who will be de­lighted to ex­am­ine, eval­u­ate and give a free val­u­a­tion.

Above: Sap­phires from Cey­lon (now Sri Lanka) have al­ways been prized

Be­low: The Juels’ ring

Be­low left: The Tal­is­man of Charle­magne

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