Kashmir sapphires are considered the most beautiful and expensive sapphires in the sapphire family. They are known for their highly saturated violet-blue color with velvety transparency “which is caused by the presence of silk”.
The sapphires come from a remote region in the Zanskar range of the Himalayas in India. These mines are known not only for blue sapphires but occasionally for pink sapphires as well. The Maharaja of Kashmir posted guards in the vacinity of the mine when he heard of the Kashmir blue sapphire’s beauty and value.
From 1882 through 1887, the mine was worked thoroughly during the summer months and the mine was depleted. Stones as large as eggplants were discovered.
By 1887, T. D. LaTouch, a geologist, discovered the stones came from two different locations. The “Old Mine” which included pits in the valley wall and another on the valley floor below the “Old Mine”.
A portion of the starting journey to the mines was treacherous traveling across the Wardwan and Chinab Rivers over a rope bridge 11,550 feet high in the mountains. The Chinab River runs through a very deep and narrow canyon. The traveling was difficult going, marching high and low through many side streams running through deep gorges. Although this portion of the journey took 5 days to travel it was only 24 miles from the start as a direct line. This was only the beginning of a very long grueling trip to the mines.
Over the past century, the site has been worked periodically but very few sapphires have been found. Most Kashmir sapphires are found in antique vintage jewelry.