Blue Giant of the Orient
Origin of name
The name “Blue Giant of the Orient Sapphire” seems to reflect the type of gemstone, its enormous size and the general region of origin of the stone in the world. The stone is an exceptional quality blue sapphire, and the use of the term “Giant” seems to reflect appropriately the massive size of the stone, which when discovered in 1907 and subsequently cut and polished became the largest faceted blue sapphire in the world, and retains this unique position to date, virtually unchallenged. The term “Orient” refers to the general region of the world, where the source country of the gemstone, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is situated, viz. the East.
Characteristics of the gemstone
The “Blue Giant of the Orient” is a cushion-cut, intense medium-blue color sapphire, an untreated natural stone with full color saturation, characteristic of most of the blue sapphires originating in Sri Lanka, which has given the stones a worldwide branding as “Ceylon Blue Sapphires”, a name that is synonymous with high quality untreated blue sapphires. The weight of the stone is 466 carats, making it the largest faceted blue sapphire in the world. The dimensions of the “Blue Giant of the Orient” when it was first cut in 1907, were 2 1/2 in by 1 3/4 in by 3/4 in which is equivalent to 63.5 mm x 44.5 mm x 19 mm.
Being a sapphire the “Blue Giant of the Orient” is a corundum, which is a crystalline form of Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3), in which the blue color is caused by a few titanium and iron atoms, displacing the aluminum atoms in certain positions in the crystal lattice. The hardness of corundum is also quite good, being 9 on the Mohs scale, only one less than diamond, which has a hardness of 10. In spite of the fact that the absolute hardness of corundum is only a quarter of that of diamond, sapphires are excellent durable gemstones that could last for several generations, and as such ideal for gemstone jewelry. Being a gemstone of Sri Lankan origin, the “Blue Giant of the Orient” should have a strong orange-red fluorescence in ultra-violet light of long wave length.
Sri Lanka renowned for its extraordinarily large gemstone quality blue sapphires.
Sri Lanka is the only country in the world that had produced extraordinarily large gem-quality blue sapphires over the years, and most of the crown jewels of monarchies, and museum collections around the world, include large blue sapphires that originated in Sri Lanka. Thus, the fact that the world’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd largest faceted blue sapphires are all of Sri Lankan origin, is a little cause for surprise. In fact, even the world’s largest rough sapphire crystal, weighing 42 pounds ( 19 Kg) is of Sri Lankan origin, and is the proud possession of the National Gem and Jewelry Authority of Sri Lanka. The world’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd largest blue sapphires are respectively the 466-carat “Blue Giant of the Orient”, the 422.99-carat “Logan Blue Sapphire” and the 400-carat “Blue Belle of the Orient.”
The Origin and source of the “Blue Giant of the Orient”
The “Blue Giant of the Orient” like other corundum minerals originated deep inside the earth 500 million to 2.5 billion years ago deep under its crust, in the magma, under the action of high temperature and pressure. Recent research carried out at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar, whose results were published in the year 2007, shows that rubies and sapphires found in alkaline basalts were formed under extremely high pressures of at least 20 kbar, at a temperature of around 1,100?C, at a minimum depth of 60 km, which is the boundary of the upper mantle, below the lithosphere. The upper mantle of the earth extends from about 60 km to around 400 km. Depths greater than 400 km extending down to about 2,890 km, consists of the lower mantle of the earth. Corundum is formed in the upper mantle where the basaltic magmas are also generated. The rising basaltic magmas are brought to the surface where they form igneous (volcanic) rocks. Some of the igneous rocks were converted to metamorphic rocks either by contact metamorphism caused by the intrusion of hot magma into cooler surrounding rocks or by large scale tectonic movements of the Earth’s lithospheric plates that alter the pressure-temperature conditions of the rocks. The alkaline basalts and metamorphic rocks were then subjected to long periods of erosion extending to millions or perhaps billions of years, that resulted in the corundum crystals being released from the rocks and carried down the hills and deposited as alluvial or placer deposits at the foot of the hills and the flood plains of rivers and streams, where they are mined by prospectors.
The source of the “Blue Giant of the Orient” are the placer deposits at the foot of the hills of the range of mountains known as the Adams Peak, which is part of the central highlands, situated in the south central part of Sri Lanka.A river known as the “Kalu Ganga” that originates from the Adam’s Peak, passes through the outskirts of the city of Ratnapura (Gem City), situated at the foot of this mountain range, and had over the years carried gem bearing gravel that were deposited in the flood plains of this river, forming one of the largest known alluvial gem deposits in the world that was the source of rubies and sapphires since ancient times. Most of the famous large blue sapphires originated in this region, including the “Blue Giant of the Orient.”
Early History of the “Blue Giant of the Orient”
The early history of the “Blue Giant of the Orient” is well documented, according to a news report that appeared in the August 23rd, 1907, issue of the “Morning Leader,” a leading newspaper of Sri Lanka, published during that period. The news item was published under the headlines “A moonstone sapphire worth 7,000 pounds.” “The stone was mined in the Ratnapura district. In its finished state it is 2 1/2 ins. long, 1 3/4 ins. broad, and its greatest thickness 3/4 of an inch. The Sapphire, there is every reason to believe is the largest sapphire in the world.”
The news item indicates that the stone was mined in the Ratnapura district in 1907. The value of the stone is given as £ 7,000. The stone appears to have been cut in Sri Lanka, and the dimensions of the cushion-cut stone is also given. Sri Lanka can boast of a gem cutting and polishing industry, which is as old as the gem mining industry of the Island nation. Even in ancient times the country preferred to export its gemstones as cut and polished stones, instead of as rough stones.
The rough stone which weighed over 600 carats was purchased by one of the leading gemstone and jewelry dealers and exporters of Sri Lanka, at the time, Messrs O. L. M. Macan Markar & Co. Ltd., who got the stone cut and polished by experienced traditional gemstone cutters working for the company. The finished stone weighed 466 carats, and was reported to have been sod by the company to an anonymous American collector and connoisseur of gemstones and art works.
Later History of the “Blue Giant of the Orient”
The “Blue Giant of the Orient” after it left the shores of Sri Lanka, enters a completely mysterious phase and as stated earlier became part of the collection of an anonymous American collector. We hear nothing of the stone, until the year 2004, when the “Blue Giant of the Orient” suddenly appears at a Christie’s Magnificent Jewels sale held on May 19th, 2004, at Geneva, Switzerland. At a media preview held on May 12th, 2004, the “Blue Giant of the Orient” was displayed for the benefit of the press photographers by Mariano Bravo, an employee of Christie’s auction house. The gemstone was described as a rectangular-cut (cushion-cut) Kashmir sapphire, weighing 486.52 carats, and was estimated to fetch US $ 1.0 to 1.5 million dollars.
There are two discrepancies in the description of the “Blue Giant of the Orient” put out for sale by Christie’s, when compared to the original “Blue Giant of the Orient.” The first discrepancy is that the stone is described as a Kashmir sapphire, whereas the original stone is a Ceylon sapphire. This may not be a discrepancy at all, because the stone still being a Ceylon sapphire can be described as a Kashmir sapphire to indicate the highly valued “cornflower blue” color of the stone, that is so characteristic of Kashmir sapphires. Perhaps, the auction house had deliberately tagged the gemstone as a Kashmir sapphire, the most prized of all blue sapphires in the world, in order to enhance the value of the stone. Even though Kashmir has produced sapphires of exceptional quality, they are mostly of medium and smaller sizes. There is no record of Kashmir having produced any blue sapphires of enormous sizes of over 400 carats. Thus in all probability the 486.52-carat blue sapphire, the “Blue Giant of the Orient” advertised for auctioning by Christie’s, is the original “Blue Giant of the Orient” discovered in Sri Lanka, in 1907. The second discrepancy is that of the weight of the stone. Whereas the stone advertised by Christie’s weighs 486.52 carats, the original “Blue Giant of the Orient” processed in Sri Lanka was reported to have weighed only 466 carats, which is 20 carats less than that of Christie’s. This difference of 20 carats can be explained as due to an error in the recording of the correct weight in 1907, either due to the inaccuracies of the weighing scale or purely by an oversight. Significant differences in weights have been recorded for the same stones weighed using the traditional weighing scales and the more accurate electronic balances. Thus in all probability the “Blue Giant of the Orient” advertised for auctioning by Christie’s of Geneva on May 19th 2004, is the same “Blue Giant of the Orient” sold by the Sri Lankan dealer in 1907, for £ 7,000.
On the day of the auction on May 19th, 2004, there was lot of disappointment in the auction room, as there was no bidders for the “Blue Giant of the Orient.” However, immediately after the auction, Christie’s was able to sell the “Blue Giant of the Orient” by a privately negotiated deal for one million dollars, to an anonymous buyer. Thus the “Blue Giant of the Orient” changed hands from one anonymous owner to another, on May 19th, 2004. The nationality of the present anonymous owner is said to be a British. Readers who may have more information on the above transaction are kindly requested to update this page, by providing such information as comments to this page.
1) Siemens.com – forum for science, industry and business – understanding the origin of rubies and sapphires to improve prospecting strategies – published 4-12-2007.
2) An Introduction to Metamorphic Geology – 1989 – B. W. D. Yardly.
3) The Interior of the Earth : Its Structure, Constitution, and Evolution (1982) – Martin H. P Bott.
4) Roots Web – O. L. M. Macan Markar’s family
5) Ruby and Sapphire – Richard Hughes