Derived from the Latin word for the colour blue (sapphirus), sapphires are believed to be the gems of the heavens. The saturation of the blue hue is key to determining the value of this coveted gemstone, one of the big three alongside rubies and emeralds. “Invest in untreated sapphires of high quality and of Kashmir or Burmese origin, where most the world’s most beautiful and highly valued sapphires were mined,” says Vickie Sek, chairman, Jewellery Asia, Christie’s auction house. Kashmir sapphires can be traced back to 1881, when a landslide in the northwestern Himalayas revealed sapphire-bearing rocks. By 1887, Kashmir’s first sapphire mine had been exhausted and production ceased. As a result, gem-quality Kashmir sapphires are now extremely rare. Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Graff and others make emeralds a trend Kashmir sapphires are characterised by their luminous blue and silken transparency. Sought-after sapphires have not been mined commercially since the start of the 20th century, driving prices up. At the Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels auction by Christie’s in May, a pair of earrings with a 10.27ct and a 10.01ct Burmese no heat blue sapphire went under the hammer for US$320,513, while a 26.41ct Kashmir no heat sapphire brooch cost US$4.33 million. “Kashmir sapphires normally have a rich, cornflower blue or velvety blue colour, with an overall soft and velvety appearance,” says Christie’s Sek. While the term sapphire is usually associated with the blue variety of the mineral corundum, they come in almost any colour of the spectrum “except red, which is the colour variety of corundum called ruby”, says Daniel Nyfeler, managing director of Gübelin Gem Lab in Switzerland. STYLE Edit: Van Cleef & Arpels’ precious gemstones dazzle this winter “A deep saturated royal blue is the most coveted sapphire colour, occasionally found in different places including [Myanmar] and Madagascar. The sapphires from Kashmir, achieving record prices at auctions, show a different type of blue, also very saturated, but brighter, and of a velvety, hazy softness, sometimes referred to as ‘sleepiness’. Induced by microscopically small particles arranged in bands and blocks, Sri Lankan and Madagascan sapphires can also display this phenomenon,” explains Nyfeler. In Cartier’s high jewellery Résonances de Cartier collection, design inspiration starts with the gemstone. The Moires necklace is designed around a 19.79ct cushion-shaped Ceylon sapphire. And a rich vibrant 11.47ct cushion cut royal blue sapphire from Madagascar is at the centre of Le Royaume bracelet with 76 square-cut blue sapphires, part of Louis Vuitton’s new The Riders of the Knights high jewellery collection dedicated to medieval heroines and queens. Blue sapphires in various shades bring to life the Dragonfly brooch by Taiwanese jeweller Cindy Chao’s White Label collection. The Golden Oasis collection by Piaget showcases the Waterfall Ring with a Ceylon cushion-cut blue sapphire, while the necklace as well as the Diamond Veil ring are set with blue sapphires from Madagascar. Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Graff and others make emeralds a trend Sapphires are combined with amethysts, white cultured pearls and diamonds in the Balletti earrings by Van Cleef & Arpels. And inspired by supernovas, which occur on an average three times every century, is Wallace Chan’s A New Generation ring, with three blue sapphires representing the century’s supernovas. Associated with the third-eye chakra, the sapphire is said to invoke inner peace and well-being. STYLE Edit: What the modern woman loves about Laurence Graff For India-based jewellery designer Neha Dani, the royal-blue sapphire is “synonymous with aristocracy symbolising wisdom and purity”. Dani is inspired by sea plants and coral, referenced in her one-of-a-kind blue sapphires Rhea earrings. A 12.15ct blue sapphire is at the centre of a Graff bracelet from the new Inspired by Twombly collection. The Threads necklace by Graff is made of 43.37ct sapphires. “Each piece rests like a network of gems upon the skin,” says Anne-Eva Geffroy, design director at Graff. “The sleek lines of the custom-cut diamonds accentuate the graphic silhouette of the jewels.” French house Boucheron also makes use of the beautiful gem in its whimsical designs, from necklaces to rings. Famed for exquisite craftsmanship, Hong Kong-based Edmond Chin, creative director of Geneva jeweller Boghossian, has created the Icicle earring, playing with various hues of pink sapphires. “They were inspired by the beauty of frozen water drops,” explains Chin. “Since the discovery [in the late 1990s] of the Madagascar sapphire deposits, we’ve been able to have all these lovely shades of pink.” A 8.25ct Madagascar no heat Padparadscha sapphire (a rare colour) ring fetched US$256,410 at Christies earlier this year in Hong Kong. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .