The internet is buzzing about the discovery of the world's largest blue star sapphire — a palm-sized gemstone that its owner claims to be worth at least $100 million and could sell for up to $175 million at auction. We're not so sure, as we will explain later.
Mined in the Sri Lankan city of Ratnapura and weighing 1,404.49 carats, the sapphire displays a mottled medium blue color and a distinctive six-point asterism at its center.
"When the stone was brought to me I suspected that it might be the world's largest blue star sapphire," the anonymous gem dealer told the BBC. "So I took a risk and bought it."
He named the sapphire the The Star of Adam to honor the Muslim belief that Adam arrived in Sri Lanka after being sent away from the Garden of Eden.
But while the BBC, CNN and other leading news outlets are reporting the gem's value at $100 million or more, we're wondering how the anonymous owner came up with the valuation. If the gem eventually sells for that amount, it will be more than double what was spent on the current record holder — a 12.03-carat fancy blue diamond called “The Blue Moon of Josephine.” That stone sold for $48.5 million at Sotheby’s Geneva in November of 2015.
The Star of Adam weighs 1,404.49 carats and eclipsed the former blue star sapphire record holder by only 9.49 carats. The other stone, which was also of Sri Lankan origin and presents what we believe is a richer blue color, was the subject of a Bloomberg report back in December of 2012. At the time, it carried a price tag of $2.85 million — a far cry from The Star of Adam's purported value.
Another star sapphire was the center of controversy back in the 1980s. Students of gemology have heard the tale of the Roy Whetstine Star Sapphire that weighed 1,905 carats and was billed as the largest star sapphire in the world. The Texas gem broker purchased it at the Tucson Gem Shows in 1986 for a mere $10 because the seller believed it was a lavender agate. The gem was later confirmed to be a star sapphire and was appraised for $2.28 million.
According to Snopes.com, Whetstine and his gemstone became overnight celebrities. Their story was featured in People magazine, The New York Times, and on The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.
When Whetstine returned to Tucson a year later to sell what he named "The Life and Pride of America," there weren't any takers. Some critics at the show muttered that the "muddy grey" stone was hardly worthy of being a paperweight.
After inspecting Whetstine's sapphire, John Sampson White, the curator of the National Gem and Mineral Collection at the Smithsonian Institution, told The New York Times that although the stone was technically a sapphire, it had an unattractive color and was hardly of gem quality. He called the gem an "insignificant stone" and estimated the value at only a few hundred dollars.
The bottom line is that the value of The Star of Adam will be based on what a buyer is willing to pay. Stay tuned to this space as we monitor what is certain to be an interesting saga.
Credit: Twitter/BBC Earth; YouTube.