Sapphires of Loss

Everyone seems to be caught by pleasant surprise that a 19.88 carat cushion-shaped Kashmir sapphire – named 'the star of Kashmir' – has been sold for a record Rs 20 crore (USD 3.4 million) at a Geneva auction this week. This is not a small development considering that this price is the highest fetched for a sapphire ever. This development must generate a debate on how do we actually formalise the state’s sapphire industry, which has a potential of fetching huge revenue for the state. That debate must also assess the loss that years of state complacency and the functioning of a clandestine trade in these sapphires has incurred to us. This Geneva auction is not a case in isolation. In May 2012 a diamond-platinum ring with an 8.99 carat Kashmir sapphire sold for $527,500 (Rs. 2.86 crore) at an auction in New York. That sale also made some good headlines. It is not so well known in this state that the fine blue Kashmir sapphire forms a class that stands entirely alone in the world of fine sapphires. It is a pity that despite such a great global demand and a distinct uniqueness of our sapphire products, trade in this area remains highly limited, often manifesting in informal and clandestine extraction and trade, with little or no economic benefit to J&K state. Although J&K government has floated a global tender for more formal sapphire extraction recently, but it is intriguing that only “one major company” is said to have submitted the proposal for extraction of the sapphire. The Minister of Industries and Commerce – who hails from the same area where bulk of the sapphire mines are found - has maintained that private companies with interest in extraction will be strictly assessed for their financial and technical capabilities as well as past experience. There are many trade and industry voices within the state that believe that the qualification criteria for extraction need not be such so as to exclude the state’s own people from extraction. While competence and experience are necessary, it would still be possible to create possibilities for the state’s people to bid and extract sapphires.

Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 May 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 May 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 18 May 2013 00:00:00 IST

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