5: The Blue Belle of Asia: One of the largest blue sapphires in history
Although sapphires of more than 100 carats are very rare, records of them do exist in important gem collections around the world. The list of sapphires weighing more than 350 carats, however, is a very short one indeed.
The Blue Belle of Asia, weighing 392.52 carats, is the fourth-largest recorded blue sapphire in history. Only the Blue Giant of the Orient (486.52 carats), the Queen of Romania sapphire (478.68 carats) and the Logan sapphire (422.99 carats) are bigger.
This legendary stone was discovered in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), known as the ‘Island of Gems’, in 1926. It was recorded as weighing ‘approximately 400 carats, and valued at £50,000’ before being acquired by the famous gem and jewellery dealer Macan Markar in Colombo. In 1937, the sapphire was purchased by British motor magnate Lord Nuffield, the founder of Morris Motors Limited.
It was reported that the sapphire was to be presented to Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI and the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, on her coronation day in May 1937. Instead, the Blue Belle of Asia ‘disappeared’ into private hands, its location remaining a mystery for decades.
On 1 November 2014, the Blue Belle of Asia reappeared, presented for the first time at auction by Christie’s in Geneva as ‘The Property of a Private Collector’. It was bought for CHF 16,965,000 — around $17,300,000 — becoming the most expensive sapphire and the most expensive coloured stone sold at auction.
Content courtesy: Christie’s