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Gemstones: IGTV Interview with Gübelin Academy Trainer Mélanie Matthes. All things Sapphire.

Cartier's Panter Kashmir sapphire brooch with over 10ct

Since this month is September, and September's birthstone is Sapphire I, Jewellery Pursuer, wanted to find out more about Sapphire as a gemstone, its features, clarity, quality and many others. With this in mind, I have approached Gübelin Academy for more information - the academy is one of the renowned educational establishment that geared to share longstanding expertise in imparting passion, emotion and knowledge in the fascinating world of coloured gemstones to professionals as well as enthusiasts and connoisseurs of coloured stones.

I have conducted an interview with The Gübelin Academy Trainer Mélanie Matthes. Find out below what Mélanie had to say about Sapphire as a gemstone.

Jewellery Pursuer: Please talk us through about the Gübelin Academy, what it offers and programs. 

The Gübelin Academy Trainer Mélanie Matthes: The Gübelin Academy was founded in 2013 in Hong Kong – where we started by delivering a three levels program specialized on emeralds, rubies and sapphires, commonly known as the Big Three. Level 1, is more of an introduction and first approach to the world of gemstones in general. It is two days where you will learn about some important concepts such as rarity, beauty or value – but more importantly, you get a first glimpse at how to evaluate coloured gemstones, especially emerald, ruby and sapphire. Then, level 2 is an intense 5 days where you will learn about how gems form, the different formation processes, you will learn about all the gemstone properties, especially the one related to light or due to light. Even more exciting – you get to learn how to use tweezers and a loupe. So there is a lot of practice time as well, where you can have a first peek inside the gemstone and discover inclusions of emerald, ruby and sapphire. And finally, level 3, that’s the final deep dive into the inner beauty of our little gemstones. That’s when you learn to use the microscope and literally dive into the gems to look at and identify the different inclusions. My personal favourite part. Now, that’s our core program, but we also give corporate training, VIP or tailor-made classes – depending on the request. We are also very proud to announce that we are going to launch our very first online classes pretty soon! We give classes all around the world, mainly in Europe in Switzerland but also in Asia in Hong Kong and China.

Jewellery Pursuer: Let's talk about Gubelin Academy's expertise in imparting passion, emotion and knowledge in the world of coloured gemstones. 

TGA: The Gübelin Academy is built on the rich and vast knowledge of Dr Eduard Gübelin. During his life and career as one of the most renown gemologists, Dr Eduard Gübelin collected thousands of gem samples all around the world, that he carefully analyzed, identified and photographed, creating the biggest gemstone reference collection in the world. The Gübelin Academy works today with this powerful legacy, completed, and every day updated, with the experience, the expertise and the knowledge of our trained and passionate trainers. Our aim is to share and pass on this emotional, and especially inspiring side of the world of gemstones.

Sold at Bonhams for £723.062, 17.43ct blue sapphire

JP: Since it is September, as a sign of September birthstone I'd like to talk about Sapphires. What's your understanding of the stone? 

TGA: Sapphire is a beautiful blue gemstone composed of aluminium and oxygen making it an aluminium oxide, that we know as corundum. It is coloured blue by to colouring elements iron and titanium – and we actually need both these elements to get the blue colour in a sapphire. Regarding the associations that have been made with sapphire, we find this gemstone strongly linked to Heaven and the sky but also the Sea and the Ocean as a direct connection to its blue colour. In the Middle Ages, sapphires were often worn by people from the Church as they saw in the blue colour of this gem the direct reflection of Heaven. Sapphire has also been used quite a lot in engagement rings as a symbol of sincerity and faithfulness but above all loyalty. This association has been reinforced in 1981 when Prince Charles gave a blue sapphire to Princess Diana for their engagement. And more recently, in 2010, the same sapphire has been passed on from Prince William to Kate Middleton, re-popularising once again the romantic icon associated with sapphire.

Diamond necklace with ShiriLankan Sapphire, 400+cts, Henn of Henn London, Ltd

JP: A royal blue, it is the most coveted. How do you define a sapphire as royal blue based on a range of strict colour and quality criteria most coveted? 

TGA: A Royal blue sapphire is the most sought after the call for a sapphire, associated with highly valuable sapphires and often to the famous district of Mogok, in Burma. Now, at the Gübelin Gem Lab, to be attributed with this special call, a sapphire needs to fill up specific criteria. In terms of colour, a royal blue sapphire should show a bright pure blue colour of

medium tone, so it shouldn’t be too dark or too light, and of course a strong saturation – the more colour, the better. Now, in addition to that, the colour has to be evenly distributed throughout the stone – that’s very important too. In terms of clarity, the stone should show a high clarity which means no visible colour zoning, which would be those bands or lines of colours. And no opaque or dark inclusions. And finally, we will only adjudge a royal blue call when the stone shows absolutely no sign of treatment whatsoever.

Unheated Royal Blue Cartier's Bracelet, The Gubelin Report Stated, 47.07cts, origin Mogok Myanmar

Blue Ray Necklace by Bulgary, Cushion Cut Sapphire 36.45cts

JP: Where do the main and rarest sources of the sapphire source to date? 

TGA: Today, sapphire occurrences are actually scattered all around the world. We find them in Australia, in America, like in the State of Montana for example, but also in Africa with countries such as Tanzania or Madagascar and of course also in Asia where maybe the most famous and historic sources of sapphires are located. Those would be Sri Lanka, Burma and Kashmir. Sapphires are still excavated from Sri Lanka and Burma today. Sri Lanka is known to produce also beautiful fancy coloured sapphires and is often considered as the most ancient source of sapphires. Apparently there are even records telling us about Alexander the Great already trading sapphires from the Island of Gems to the rest of the World. And finally, Kashmir, well that’s the origin considered as the rarest for sapphires. The mines actually got discovered in the 1880s in the Himalayas due to an accidental landslide. At first, the true potential and value of those stones hadn’t been noticed and those sapphires were initially traded for salt. However, a couple of years later, the Maharajah of Kashmir saw the full potential in those unique and gorgeous stones and sent his troops to guard and exploit the mines. The mines got heavily worked out during the next 5 to 10 years leading to the depletion of the site. Today, no more sapphires are found coming out of those mines, raising the rarity factor of those sapphires to another level. Another mine of sapphires has been discovered only a few miles away from the

original mine, so we do still find sapphires coming from Kashmir today. However, their composition, quality and colour are not comparable to that of the so called “historical” Kashmir sapphires.

JP:  Padparadscha Sapphire, a little known stone to a wider public. Why it is highly desired today?

TGA: So as we just said, sapphire can actually come in every colour. Actually, I should say

corundum. Corundum can come in every colour: when it’s blue we simply call it a sapphire, when it’s yellow we call it a yellow sapphire, when green a green sapphire, etc… and when red, well that’s our ruby. So Ruby and sapphire are both actually corundum. Now, when corundum comes with a very subtle mixture of a pink to orange colour, well then we call it a padparadscha sapphire. So, a Padparadscha sapphire is actually a variety of the species corundum. Padparadscha sapphires were first found in Sri Lanka – where the name padparadscha

also comes from, coming from the Sinhalese word “Padma” meaning colour and “raga” meaning flower – so basically we are talking about the colour of the Lotus flower here, that the stone is supposed to imitate. Now, to be called a padparadscha, first of all, we need that very subtle mixture of an orange and a pink colour – as mentioned previously - they need to be evenly

distributed throughout the stone. If there is too much orange, it becomes an orange sapphire and if there is too much pink a pink sapphire. In addition to this very subtle colour, it is one of the few stones where we will actually look for a weak to moderate saturation. Most of the times, the more colour, the more valuable, but for padparadscha sapphire it’s really this subtle pastel colour that is wanted. As you can imagine, this subtle mixture is incredibly difficult to find in corundum, increasing the rarity factor and therefore also the value of this stunning gemstone.

Padparadscha sapphire

JP: What's the name of the largest rough sapphire ever found? Do we have any sapphire items are kept in any museums to date? 

TGA: Sapphires commonly come in big sizes, giving us some impressive world record gemstones. Among world record sapphires, we have quite a few: There is the Millenium sapphire for example, which holds the title of biggest sapphire ever found. It’s a huge non-gem-quality carved sapphire rock that weighs around 12 kilos. It was found in 1995 in Madagascar and is carved with the creative genius of humanity: great minds, inventors or creators – Like Albert Einstein, for example, Michelangelo, Alexandre the Great, Mozart, etc… There is also the Star of Adam – that would be the biggest star sapphire ever found. It weighs around 1’400 carats (which equals more or less 280 gr.). It was discovered in Sri Lanka, in 2015, and actually displays a beautiful six-rayed star on its surface when stroke by light – hence the name. And then there is also the Blue Giant of the Orient, the biggest faceted gem-quality sapphire. It was unearthed in Sri Lanka in 1907, weighing 486 carats. Popped up for auction in 2004 without being sold and then disappeared from the market - I actually had the chance to see this beautiful giant a couple of years ago and it is absolutely mesmerizing: a few crystals scattered throughout the stone looking like little snowballs lost in an icy winter blue sky. But sapphire does not only surprise by its impressive size but also by its mesmerizing colour, its highly clear clarity and long history. A lot of important sapphires are actually exhibited in Museums for all of their unique qualities, meanings and history. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington actually holds quite a few important and historic sapphires. Such as the Bismarck Sapphire, which is a stunning 98 carats

royal blue sapphire from Burma, The Star of Adam, which we mentioned previously, but also the Logan Sapphire which is one of the largest facetted sapphires with its 422.99 carats. It comes from Sri Lanka, is set in a brooch surrounded by little diamonds, and was named after Polly Logan who donated the stone to the museum in 1960. We can also find historic sapphires exhibited in France, such as the Talisman of Charlemagne for example, which can be found in Reims, in the Palace of Tau. It’s a beautiful ancient piece of jewellery from the 9th century, which belonged to Charlemagne. Originally it was set with two sapphire cabochons from Sri Lanka, unfortunately, the one on the front got lost in the 19th century, today replaced by a big piece of blue glass. Another sapphire I could mention is the Grand Sapphire, exhibited at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Apparently, this rhombohedral sapphire of 135.74 carats was once part of Louis the XIV’s Crown Jewels. And I will end by mentioning a few important and historic sapphires exhibited in England. The British Imperial State Crown is famously known as bearing the world-renown Cullinan Diamond. However, this crown is also set with two gorgeous and

historic sapphires: the St. Edward Sapphire, which is located at the top of the crown in the middle of the Maltese cross. It is believed that this sapphire was originally set in the coronation ring of King Edward, hence the name. And then we also have the Stuart sapphire, of 104 carats, which prior to 1907, was set at the front of the Imperial crown.

The 1880s set with three high domed sapphire cabochons, 46.86cts, sold at Sotheby's Geneva, $3.3 million.

IGTV Interview with Gübelin Academy Trainer Mélanie Matthes.


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