Kashmir Sapphire with Historic American Provenance leads Bonhams New York Jewels Sale


The recent discovery of a rare Superb Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Brooch, circa 1910, estimated at $500,000–$800,000, in a private collection has delighted the descendants of a prominent American family. When Emily Waterfall, Los Angeles Head of Jewelry, first held the brooch, she knew it was something special. “We sent the sapphire to Switzerland for testing at the gem lab, and they confirmed it was not only a Kashmir sapphire, but Royal Blue, the rarest and most desirable velvety blue color. Picking up the phone to call the family and tell them how special this sapphire was that had been handed down through generations was a truly exceptional moment. The consignor remembers her mother wearing the brooch everywhere.”

The gem has remained in the same family for more than 100 years. The Smith family, of Vermont, were politicians, entrepreneurs, farmers, philosophers, philanthropists and writers. The patriarch, Gov. J. Gregory Smith, led Vermont in the 1860s during the Civil War and was one of the founders of the Northern Pacific Railway. His wife, Ann Eliza Smith, was an American author whose father was a prominent figure in the Underground Railroad and used his home and other properties to hide freedom seekers. The son of Gov. J. Gregory Smith, Edward Curtis Smith, also served as the governor of Vermont and was the one to acquire this remarkable brooch for his wife, Anna Bailey James Smith. Passed down through generations, the jewel was later worn by Margaret Smith at Richard Nixon’s inauguration. She wore the brooch frequently, never realizing the rare treasure she held.

Weighing 17.21 carats and determined to be of Kashmir origin, a sapphire of this size and color is exceptionally rare. Caroline MorrisseyHead of Sales, US, said “Sapphires from Kashmir are among the most highly prized gems in the world due to their rarity and their scarcity. They display a vivid blue hue that is unique to the region, so high and inaccessible it is referred to as ‘above the snows.’ No mining activity has taken place in Kashmir for many decades and the mine that yielded the finest specimens was largely exhausted by 1887. We are delighted to once again offer an exceptional Kashmir sapphire, with an unusual liveliness and a fascinating history.” 

The Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Brooch will be offered in the Bonhams New York Jewels Sale on December 7, 2020.

Bonhams has a strong track record with Kashmir sapphires, most recently an unmounted Kashmir sapphire of 9.23ct sold in the July 28 New York Jewels sale for $1,244,075 against an estimate of US$475,000–$775,000.Bonhams Kashmir sapphire

Superb Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Brooch, circa 1910, Estimate: $500,000–$800,000

Picture courtesy of Bonhams