Unearthing Legends: The Saga of Kashmir Sapphires and Argyle Diamonds

High in the Great Himalaya mountains, tucked away in an obscure setting lies the fabled kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. Long before recorded time, this mysterious terrain was the setting of exotic folklore, and the object of contentious land disputes.

Today, the ancient mountainous district is administered by the state of India. Yet pockets of this richly complex region still remain off limits to the outside world.

Quake that Rocked the Gem World

Kashmiri legends recount an event there so drastic it upended the gemstone world forever. Early accounts claim that these now legendary stones were stumbled upon by nomadic herdsmen roaming high in the Padar region during the latter part of the 19th century. Were it not for a massive landslip after an earthquake, its mountains would never have yielded this priceless trove. Early traders described these sapphires as profusely abundant and of enormous proportions.

The Sapphire Mines
The Sapphire Mines

Sapphire mining commenced as soon as word of its discovery reached the outside world. But—as quickly as it sprang up—it disappeared. By the early part of the 20th century, those mines were mostly depleted.

Adventurous Rogue Miners

Various individual miners came and went until around until 1930—when all excavation ceased completely.    Over the years, a few hearty souls have risked going up to this forbidden region—mostly without success. The nearly inaccessible and hostile (to outsiders) region offers a very small window of opportunity each year to access.
At over 15,000 feet in elevation, it’s not for everyone. A fleeting 3-month summer season allows a persistent explorer to brave these mountains. After that, the area may be blanketed in thick snow until next summer.

Adventurous Rogue Miners

Fascinating Parallels

So the lifespan of the Kashmir deposit was extremely short - even shorter than the Argyle mine which closed after 37 years of operation. But there is a great parallel between these two color gems which excel in their extreme beauty and rarity.

Only Kashmir Sapphires

Kashmir sapphires are distinguished by their exceptional cornflower blue color and what experts describe as their unique “velvety appearance.”  This dreamy look is the result of light being scattered via microscopic particles within the stone.

Only Argyle Diamonds

Argyle pink diamonds also have distinguishing traits which place them in the rarified air of world-class jewels. Prior to the production at the Argyle mine, pink diamonds were exceedingly rare. More importantly, they lacked the intense saturation exhibited with Argyle pink stones—and the spectral hues for which Argyle pink diamonds became famous. Many Argyle pink diamonds are distinguished by a vivid raspberry hue viewed face up.

A Coveted Kashmir Stone

Kashmir sapphires are found in larger sizes than most sapphire recovered elsewhere, with some of the finest ones exceeding 30 carats.

A Coveted Kashmir Stone
Kashmir Sapphire 

27.68-carat The Jewel of Kashmir - $6,700,000

27.68 carats of pure awesomeness--is what this gemstone is all about. Kashmir sapphire again claimed center stage when a 27.68-carat Kashmir sapphire sold for $6.7M US at Sotheby's Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels and Jadeite Autumn Sale last May 2015. 

.  .  .   And a Spectacular Argyle Stone

Argyle pink diamonds are produced in much smaller carat sizes, yet their color can be similarly awesome.  The world’s largest Vivid Pink Argyle stone earning a 1 P grade from Argyle is our 3.16 carat Fancy Vivid Pink cushion. See it for yourself in our New York City office at 580 Fifth Avenue.

Many of the larger Kashmir sapphires and also Argyle pink diamonds have been repolished many times in order to produce the finest color and luster.

Supplies Feed Market Health

But all this superb craftsmanship is irrelevant if no more stones are coming onto the market. 

In order to produce vitality in the marketplace, you need a flood of new stones reaching the surface. When the Argyle Mine closed its operation in November 2020, that flow of goods ceased.

The Argyle Mine The Argyle Mine 

Argyle Certificate

Argyle started its own certification program around 1995 and shortly thereafter began the laser inscription process on the stone’s girdle.

In the beginning no one paid any attention to these certificates. Most of us just disregarded them or threw them out. Nowadays, the Argyle Certificate is an important document which adds critical authenticity to these coveted pink diamonds.

Many pink diamonds
Many pink diamonds

Renewed Interest in Old Stock

So Argyle began re-examining old diamond stock in their Antwerp laboratory and issued authenticity reports for some of the older Argyle diamonds which had been polished years before the first Argyle certificates were ever issued.

We have been working with Argyle diamonds since the very beginning of the Rio Tinto pink diamond sales. I still vividly recall the first allocation we received from Argyle---those early prices were a fraction of today’s prices.

 We have many old stones including pink diamonds--- great pinks which are from Argyle but don't have a certificate. So we decided to send them to Argyle for authentication via an Argyle certificate.

We recently received four new reports on stones which we have had for many years in stock but did not have the pedigree of authentication from Argyle.

1.12 carat, Fancy Vivid Pink, princess shape diamond with I1 clarity, graded by GIA and Argyle 3 P. An amazing Argyle vivid pink diamond- with an exceptional pink color face up- with an Argyle certificate. The stone exhibits Excellent polish and Good symmetry.

For many years Argyle refused to examine old stones which lost or never had a certificate of origin. But these days, they have now changed their approach and have begun to examine and issue new certificates for potential Argyle stones.

One of the interesting stones we just received back with a new Argyle certificate is a 1.45 ct Fancy Intense Pink GIA VS.

1.45 carat, Fancy Intense Pink, Princess cut Diamond with VS2 clarity, graded by GIA, Argyle 5P.   A fabulous Australian Pink Diamond with a remarkable Rose color tone and lively sparkle.  The stone has Very Good polish and Good symmetry, and original Argyle certificate and laser inscription. It is rare to find an Argyle diamond in a Princess cut and in this size and clarity. 

The traceability and origin of both diamonds and gemstones is critical today. And it’s not just because of the recent embargo on Russian goods, but because the value of a gemstone is heavily influenced by its origin.

So dealers mistakenly think that Argyle’s new certification campaign will dilute the prices of Argyle diamonds. I disagree. In order to sustain a lively trade, there needs to be a new flood of goods in the market. This will produce a Renaissance for the Argyle pink diamond market.
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