The football-sized Millennium Sapphire, a gem carved with the likenesses of famous historical figures, is available for sale if the right buyer can come up with $180 million and promise that the 61,500-carat marvel will be housed where the public can view it on a regular basis, according to The National.
Designed by Italian artist Alessio Boschi, the Millennium Sapphire was conceived as a tribute to human genius and includes 134 subjects, including the faces of Beethoven, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King. It also features representations of the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China and Gutenberg’s printing press.
A consortium of investors led by Daniel McKinney owns the Millennium Sapphire. Over the past 15 years, the impressive carved sapphire has been on public display only twice — in 2002 during the Academy Awards and two years later for the maiden voyage of the Sapphire Princess cruise liner. Otherwise, it has been tucked away in a safe in an undisclosed U.S. location.
Recently, the consortium agreed that amazing work needed to be enjoyed by the public. The owners opted against putting it up for auction, because they couldn’t control who the buyer would be.
“We’ve got offers in the past from various millionaires and billionaires from China and other places to buy it for themselves,” McKinney told The National, “but they would probably put it in their mausoleum and it would be lost to the world.”
“It would be great if it could be displayed in a museum as that’s why it was created,” said Scott Chapman, an associate of McKinney. “The consortium wants to be able to display it and show it.”
The 28 cm (11 inch) Millennium Sapphire was unearthed in Madagascar in 1995. It weighed about 90,000 carats in its rough state and lost about a third of its mass during the carving process, which took two years and was completed in 2000.
Before the carvers set to work, they practiced by producing each of the 134 design elements on pieces of lapis lazuli.