Kashmir sapphires were first discovered as the result of a landslide between 1879 and 1882 in the Kudi valley near the hamlet of Sumjam in the Padar region of Kashmir in the Himalayas. Upon hearing of these superb gems, the Maharajah sent a regiment of sepoy(soldiers) to protect the mines.
The first few years saw prolific mining for these fine gems and by 1882 they began to appear on the Indian market in Simla. Even in these early years, however, the recovery of these stones was exceedingly difficult due to the high altitude of the terrain, the inclement weather conditions and the fact the mines were only accessible during the short summer months from July to September.
In 1887 the British sent the geologist TD La Touche to the Kudi valley, who after an extensive survey, discovered that there were two mines. The original 'old mine' which procured the finest gems, consisted of a series of shallow pits on the Northeast wall of the valley, and the 'new mine' a trench located 100 metres south of the 'old mine'. Both mines were leased to C.M.P Wright and the Kashmir Mineral Company in 1906, but after the discovery of limited fine gems and due to the poor weather conditions they ceased in 1908.
Since the time of their initial discovery the production of Kashmir sapphires has remained sporadic and their supply limited. Valued for their velvety blue colour with a greenish dichroism when viewed from the side, these sapphires sometimes appear milky due to minute liquid filled cavities or crystals within the stone, an appearance which is often described as "sleepy'. Read more on blue sapphire .
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