One of the largest and most perfect sapphires to come to auction over the past three decades will headline Phillips’ Jewels & Jadeite Sale in Hong Kong on May 23. Weighing 118.35 carats and scoring an astonishing 98 out of 100 points on Gübelin Gem Lab's rating scale, the Sri Lanka-sourced stone is expected to sell in the range of $3.2 million to $4.5 million.
Gübelin Gem Lab awarded the cushion-shaped sapphire its coveted "Royal Blue" color grading, noting that the stone displays an even saturation rarely seen in a blue sapphire of this size.
The colored gem is horizontally set in a lavish diamond-and-platinum necklace designed by Bulgari in 2004. The luxury jeweler's executive director, Lucia Silvestri, remembered the feeling that overtook her when she handled the sapphire for the first time more than 20 years ago.
“I was so impressed and touched that I still remember the emotion I felt,” she said, adding that Sri Lankan sapphires possess “the transparency and luminosity” of “gems that are infused with light and joy."
Although it was designed in the 2000s, the necklace invokes the opulence of the 1950s, according to Phillips.
The auction house explained that the repeating circular links are typical of Bulgari’s “modulo” jewelry designs, where a single element is produced in series and then connected to each other.
Phillips compared the center stone favorably with some of the world's most famous sapphires, such as the 486.52-carat Giant of the Orient, the 422.99-carat Logan Blue Sapphire and the 392.52-carat Blue Belle of Asia.
The auction house explained that Sri Lanka’s gem mining history dates back nearly 2,500 years, making it one of the first sources of fine sapphire — the luxury gem coveted by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians.
The auction's top lot will be on exhibit in five cities — Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, Taipei, Geneva — before returning to Hong Kong for the sale on May 23.
Credits: Images courtesy of Phillips.