Famous Jewels: Phenomenal Gemstone Stars
Believe it or not, some of the world's most famous gemstones are actually sapphires and rubies, not diamonds. Diamonds typically need to be faceted to bring out their brilliance, but ruby and sapphire can be admired without the need to be faceted. Many colored gemstones are prized and valued based on their color and size alone, often requiring only a light polish to bring out their luster. In fact, there are some gem types that are never faceted, particularly gems which exhibit rare forms of chatoyancy, including cat's eyes or asterism (the star effect).
Phenomenal gemstones are extremely rare and highly prized, which is why many of the world's most famous gemstones are star gemstones. When cut en cabochon, star gemstones exhibit asterism (the star effect) when viewed under certain lighting conditions. In most cases, the chatoyant star effect is a result of parallel aligned minute inclusions of rutile fibers referred to as 'silk'. In order to maximize the desirable asterism in such rare stones, skilled gemstone cutters very carefully orient the stones to ensure the gems have sharp, clear and distinct stars.
Most world-famous star gemstones are either star rubies or star sapphires, though asterism chatoyancy can occur in several other gemstone varieties such as garnet, moonstone, quartz and diopside. It is currently believed that the largest star gemstone in the world is the Neelanjali Star Ruby. The enormous star ruby weighs 1,370 carats and is famed for its unusual 12-point double-star asterism. The Neelanjali Star Ruby is privately owned by G. Vidyaraj of Bangalore, India, and is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest double-star ruby in the world.
The Black Star of Queensland is currently considered to be the world's largest gem-quality star sapphire. It weighs an astonishing 733 carats and was thought to have been discovered in Australia sometime during the 1930s. During the 1960s, the Black Star of Queensland was displayed in the Smithsonian Museum and later it was also exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum. Today, the Black Star of Queensland sapphire is privately owned by an unknown party and its current whereabouts remain unknown.
The Star of Asia is one of the most famous star sapphires to come from Burma. It is a large, 330-carat milky-blue star sapphire, and was once believed to have been owned by the Maharajah of Jodhpur. The Star of Asia is thought to have originated from the Mogok mines of Myanmar. Owing to its astounding size and remarkable color, the Star of Asia is one of the most renowned gemstones in the world. In 1961, the Star of Asia was generously donated to the Smithsonian Museum where it remains on exhibit along with many other famous gemstones, including the Star of Bombay sapphire. The 182-carat Star of Bombay is a Ceylon star sapphire, famous for its beautiful violet-blue color. In fact, the popular brand of gin, 'Bombay Sapphire' was named after this phenomenal gemstone.
Formerly owned by J.P. Morgan and now part of the American Museum of Natural History's jewelry collection, the Midnight Star Sapphire is a 116.75-carat star sapphire that is believed to have originated from Sri Lanka. It is famed for its deep purple-violet color, which likely inspired its interesting name. It is perhaps the world's largest star sapphire of its kind, as star sapphires are rarely found with such unique color. The Midnight Star Sapphire is part of J.P. Morgan's jewelry collection along with several other world-famous gems including the near-flawless 563.35-carat Star of India.
The Star of India sapphire was discovered roughly 300 years ago, and is believed to have originated from the mines of Sri Lanka. The Star of India is the largest known blue star sapphire in the world. Apart from its record-breaking size, the grayish-blue Star of India is also famed for its unusual asterism, which is displayed on both sides of the gem. Donated in 1900 by J.P. Morgan, the founder of the American Museum of Natural History, the Star of India and the Midnight Star Sapphire, along with several other famous jewels, were stolen from the museum in what became known as the 'Jewel Heist of the Century' in 1964. The estimated value of the stones taken from the J.P. Morgan's jewelry collection was $400,000.
Fortunately, the Star of India and the Midnight Star Sapphire were recovered a few months later, after being found inside a bus depot locker along with some of the other stones which were taken during the heist. However, not all of the stolen jewels were recovered, including one phenomenal star gemstone known as the DeLong Star Ruby. The DeLong Star Ruby is a 100.32 carat star ruby discovered in Burma around the 1930s. Although the world-famous star ruby was not recovered along with the Star of India and the Midnight Star Sapphire, it did eventually make its way back to the museum, thanks to Florida businessman, John MacArthur, who generously paid a $25,000 ransom to have the star ruby returned through an anonymous party.
Although these famous gemstones are considered rare and valuable, they should not detract from the uniqueness of other gemstones. Every natural gemstone has a history or story that may be unknown or untold. The gemstone you hold may have passed through many hands and been through exciting adventures before finally making it to you. Your gemstone just may be the next historical world-famous gemstone.
- First Published: January-19-2015
- Last Updated: August-23-2017
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