Ancient jewellers in India had classified gemstones into two major categories: Maharatnani (great gems) and Uparatnani (secondary gems). Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, pearls and emeralds were placed in the former class. In India, gemstones are believed to possess supernatural powers. All the gemstones are represented by some planet or the other. The famous Kashmir sapphires are extracted from a remote region in the Great Himalayas of north-western India. They are found in the small Kudi (rock) Valley (elevation of approx. 4500 m), near the hamlet of Sumjam, in the area of Padar in Kashmir.
Primitive methods have always been used for mining in Kashmir due to the remote location and altitude. The sapphires of Kashmir are known for their highly saturated violetish- blue color and “sleepy” or “velvety” transparency due to the presence of silk. They are extremely rare and so highly valued that they have gained an almost mythical reputation. They come from the outcrops in the high wall of the Kudi Valley which is quite a remote area and the weather is particularly harsh. Pink sapphires too have been found here. The sapphires of Kashmir and Sri Lanka bear an uncanny resemblance, with all of them being almost spindle-shaped hexagonal bipyramids. Some of them are slightly flattened.
These sapphires contain solid inclusions that are generally small. The haziness prevalent in Kashmir sapphires is of a very fine nature. It is not going to degrade the clarity of the stone but will impart a unique velvety lustre for sure. Strong color zoning is displayed in the cut stones because of the irregular distribution of color in the Kashmir region. According to the Moh’s scale the hardness of Kashmir sapphire is 9 which is just a degree below than that of a diamond.
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