What's It Worth? Those Annoying Blue Pebbles

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Katrina and I have written a lot about sapphires. We love them and of course, as is the norm for gemstones, most we see are heated or treated, and with Thailand or Ceylon as country of origin.

“Country of origin” is of special interest, since some sapphires, notably those from Kashmir, can be worth millions of dollars. Our record for a Kashmir sapphire is when we were able to obtain a $750,000 offer for a sapphire that we helped a Chicago pawnbroker place in the market. Ten carats in size, it came with paperwork from the prestigious Gubelin Lab noting that it was not a particularly nice specimen, but was indeed from Kashmir, known for sapphires of a rich, hypnotic blue.

Other countries mine sapphires too, including Madagascar, Burma, Australia, China, Nigeria and Cambodia.

While noodling around on a recent online auction, I spotted an incredible art nouveau watch pin that had been altered into a pendant but was just gorgeous. I had a hunch it was something special and bid on it. The jeweler who was selling it did not note the country of origin and likely did not know. But I noticed the piece had an American hallmark and since the center stone was such an electric blue I had a hunch it might be an American-mined sapphire. I took a gamble and bought it for $900. We sent it to GIA and were rewarded with great news! GIA identified it as a Yogo Gulch sapphire from Montana! When you find these, they are typically cornflower blue in color and are known to have very few inclusions (flaws). Their unique shade of blue is a result of trace amounts of iron and titanium.

When miners in Montana panned for gold in the 1870s, they kept finding these annoying “blue pebbles” in their pans; until the 1890s no one knew what they were. Once that was figured out, Tiffany became a top buyer of these stones and even today, they rarely come to market. Because Yogo sapphires occur within areas of geological resistance, mining efforts have been sporadic and rarely profitable.

Even though the sapphire was small and the pin was altered, we were able to sell it to a fellow dealer in Los Angeles for almost $3,000. He has it in his retail store for $5,500.

If you have vintage sapphires or any fine gems you would like to sell, we would like to see them. We make house calls or will meet at your attorney’s office anywhere in Tampa Bay.

Former Sotheybys.com associate. You have read about usin The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Buying GOLD! Gold is at an historic high! Sell NOW!

JEFF HESS, Owner & Appraiser.
Comments, questions or suggestions for this column, please send to jeffreyphess@aol.com.
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