Origin of name
It is not known exactly what inspired the name “The Lone Star” for this massive blue star sapphire weighing 9,719.5 carats, discovered in the mountains of North Carolina in June, 1989, by Harold Roper, a resident of the small hamlet of Marble. Previously, the largest blue sapphire in the world was the 563.35-carat “Star of India”, a Sri Lankan gemstone owned by the American Museum of Natural History, New York City. In terms of weight “The Lone Star” is 17 times larger than its immediate rival, the “Star of India.” In this sense Harold Roper’s star sapphire is indeed a “Lone Star”, propelled to the coveted position of the largest blue sapphire and the largest blue star sapphire in the world, with no immediate prospect of a rival surfacing in the foreseeable future. The massive size of the blue star sapphire isolated it from the rest of the famous blue star sapphires in the world whose weights were around 500 carats and less, making the sensational stone an incomparable star sapphire among other star sapphires in the world, appropriately named “The Lone Star” sapphire.
Characteristics of the gemstone
The weights of the rough and finished stones
The massive rough stone when unearthed weighed 10.5 pounds equivalent to 4.77 kg. In terms of carats the weight of the rough stone works out to 23,850 carats. After cutting and polishing, the finished stone weighed 9,719.5 carats (1.944 kg). Thus only 40 % of the original weight of the stone was retained in the finished gemstone. The remaining 60 % represented non-gem grade material that had to be removed necessarily in order to turn out a gem-quality star sapphire of reasonable grade.
The cut, shape, color and clarity of the stone
The finished stone was reported to have the size of an egg-shaped cantaloupe, in common parlance. In gemological terms this means an oval- shaped cabochon-cut stone. Star sapphires are usually cut as round or oval-shaped cabochons with a dome-shaped face on which the gliding 6-rayed or rarely 12-rayed star appears, when exposed to a direct source of light such as natural sunlight or light emanating from a torch light or a flash light. The color of the stone is said to be good, with a blue color having a hint of lavender. Translated into technical terms it means a blue color with a purplish overtone. The intensity of the blue color cannot be ascertained from this description, but the clarity is said to be opaque. The opaqueness is undoubtedly caused by “silk” which is another term for rutile fibers that are aggregated together into bundles which are arranged in a three-fold pattern at an angle of 60 degrees to one another. The rutile fibers impart a milkiness to the stone tending to reduce the intensity of the blue color. The bundles of rutile fibers are also responsible for the star effect known as “asterism,” each bundle forming a luminous line after light entering the stone from the dome-shaped face is reflected by the bundle. The three luminous lines produced by the three bundles of rutile intersect one another forming a six-rayed star.
Why sapphires can grow to enormous sizes whereas rubies cannot ?
The cut and polished star sapphire was examined by the curator of gems at the British Natural History Museum, Mr. Roger Harding, who confirmed that the enormous gemstone was indeed a sapphire. Sapphires and rubies belong to the same group of minerals known as corundum, a fact which was not known to the gem trade previously, until in the year 1802, when the French mineralogist Count de Bouron showed by chemical analysis that both belong to the same group of minerals called corundum. In fact all colors of corundum except red are known as sapphires, and only the red variety of corundum is known as ruby. Rubies do not grow to enormous sizes like sapphires as the element chromium responsible for the red color of rubies is also the cause of cracks and fissures in the crystal. However, in the case of sapphires the blue color is caused by atoms of titanium and iron, which do not hinder the growth of the crystal, and the hexagonal prisms can sometimes grow to enormous sizes.
The quality of the star ?
This article is based entirely on a newspaper article published in the North Carolina Observer of December 6, 1989, appearing on the web page titled Roper Family in North Carolina, 1900-99, at their website www.roperld.com dated March 6, 2002. No images of “The Lone Star” sapphire has ever been published on the web, and it is difficult to comment on the quality of the star unless one can see the gemstone first hand or at least has access to a good photograph of the stone. However, for the information of readers we would like to list the following features that should normally be present for a star sapphire to be characterized as perfect.
1) The star should be centered.
2) The legs of the star should be sharp and well defined and not blurred.
3) The star should be silvery or milky white.
4) The length of the rays should extend up to base of the stone.
5) The stone must be translucent.
6) The stone should have a desirable body color, which is intense pure blue for blue star sapphires.
To find a blue star sapphire that can combine all the above features together will be very difficult. Sometimes when the star is perfect and well defined the stone may not be translucent or have a perfect color. Likewise, a gemstone with a perfect color and translucency may not have a well-defined star.
The best star effect is seen mainly in corundum originating from Burma and Sri Lanka, because of the presence of sufficient quantities of rutile that causes asterism. African and Thailand corundum do not produce well defined stars, due to lack of rutile in the mineral. The same may be true of the rutile content of corundum originating from Australia and the United States, and nothing much has been heard of blue star sapphires of any significance originating from these areas. Thus, we are not in a position to comment on the quality of the star in “The Lone Star” sapphire until more information is available.
History of “The Lone Star” sapphire
Harold Roper developed an interest in mining since early childhood
“The Lone Star” blue sapphire was discovered in June, 1989 by Harold Roper and his friend Rob Cutshaw, residents of the small hamlet of Marble in North Carolina. Harold Roper developed an interest in the mining of gems and minerals at an early age in life when he accompanied his father Harley Roper, on expeditions digging for Indian relics. While his father’s main interest was scouting for relics, Harold Roper got interested in the gems and minerals which were also brought up during these expeditions. Rob Cutshaw was Harold Roper’s high school friend who subsequently became Roper’s rock-hunting partner.
The discovery of the enormous deep blue rough stone
On that eventful Saturday in June, the two friends set off long before sunrise on their Dodge four-wheel pickup truck, carrying with them their mining implements and drove deep into the North Carolina mountains. They stopped at a familiar spot where they had been working for almost an year, and had discovered several rough rubies and sapphires, though not all of gem quality. They started digging at a certain spot, and when Roper had dug about two feet below the surface, he suddenly saw the surface of a large blue stone at the bottom of the pit he was digging. Roper stopped digging and put his hands into the pit and retrieved an enormous deep-blue stone. Since his early childhood Roper had always dreamed of making a valuable find, and he felt immediately that his long nurtured dream had at last come true. He tried slipping the enormous rough stone into his pants pockets, but the stone was too big to enter his pocket. Later they found a canvas sack from the pickup truck, into which they loaded their precious find, and returned home immediately storing the gemstone in Roper’s rock room in his house. But, before storing the rock, Roper ran the edge of rough rock over a grinding wheel, and to his greatest satisfaction found that deep blue particles spilled out of the rock.
Cutting and polishing of the rough stone
The enormous rough stone weighed 10.5 pounds equivalent to 4.77 kg in metric units. The rough stone remained with them until October that year, when Harold Roper and Rob Cutshaw finally decided that they would take the stone to Dallas to the gem cutter John Robinson, who had previously cut some of Cutshaw’s sapphires, in order to get his opinion on the cutting of the enormous stone. They also took some other stones with them to be shown to John Robinson, but when Robinson saw the enormous deep blue stone he grabbed it and did not want to see the other stones. After studying the stone for a long time, Robinson advised that the rough stone be cut and polished in London by the expert cutters R. Holt & Co. Accordingly Harold Roper together with the Texas gem broker Daniel Banks, carried the stone to London, and entrusted its cutting and polishing to R. Holt & Co. The cutters took almost three weeks to cut and polish the stone.
Roger Harding certifies the gemstone as a star sapphire
The finished stone was then carried to Roger Harding, curator of gems at the British Natural History Museum for testing and evaluation, who after studying the stone certified it as a star sapphire. Harding is reported to have told a Dallas newspaper that he knows of no other star sapphire the size of Roper’s stone. It was said that gemologists from Texas and London estimated the sapphire’s worth in millions of dollars.
Selling of the gemstone is entrusted to Texas gem broker Daniel Banks
The selling of the gemstone was entrusted to the Texas gem broker Daniel Banks, who said, “It’s a spectacular find. Like a fairy tale that’s come true. Everyone always wants to find a treasure. Mr. Roper has found a treasure.” He further said, “Soon it will hit the road for a years tour. Last week, the stone was put on public display for a day in a Dallas jewelry store. A thousand people showed up.”
Mr. Daniel Banks said that he plans to sell the stone through sealed bids. He said that he had already got three inquiries, two from collectors and one from a corporation.
The gemstone to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.
Harold Roper and Daniel Banks met with the Guinness editor Donald McFarlan and were confident that the stone will enter the next edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, as the world’s largest cut and polished star sapphire.
Has “The Lone Star” Sapphire been disposed of ?
It is not known whether “The Lone Star” Sapphire was sold by Daniel Banks. Readers who might have information about this transaction such as the selling price of the gemstone, the identity of the purchaser etc, are kindly requested to post this information as a comment, in order to make this web page devoted to “The Lone Star” sapphire as comprehensive as possible. For the same reason, readers who might have access to any images of “The Lone Star” sapphire are also kindly requested to upload these images at this link.
1) The Roper family in North Carolina – (1900-1999) – www. roperld.com
2) GEO347K GEM NOTES – Corundum – Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas.
3) Ruby & Sapphire – Richard Hughes