Sapphires from the Yogo Gulch  

Sapphires from the Yogo Gulch

Blog | February 1, 2016

Many people are likely surprised to learn that, along with Kashmir and Burma, the United States is also a producer of highly prized sapphires. Central Montana is home to the Yogo Gulch sapphire deposit, which since its discovery in 1895, has produced stones highly valued for their uniform and intense saturation. While the majority of Yogo stones are steely blue, a small percentage are the highly sought after brilliant cornflower blue. Their supreme clarity means they do not need to be heated, which places them in the rare company of the most desirable untreated stones in the world.

One of the most famous examples of Yogo Gulch sapphires is likely the Tiffany & Co. Iris Brooch, designed by Paulding Farnham for the 1900 Paris Exposition. Purchased by railroad magnate and art collector Henry Walters, the brooch now resides in The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Its delicate, lifelike (and, impressively, life-size) blossom contains 139 Yogo Gulch sapphires. Given the rarity of the gem, it isn’t surprising that this significant piece of jewelry has found its way to a museum.

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The Tiffany & Co. Iris Brooch, designed by Paulding Farnham for the 1900 Paris Exposition

We were pleased to present a Yogo Gulch piece for the first time last fall, when we put a convertible platinum, gold, sapphire, ruby, diamond and seed pearl brooch/bracelet by Raymond Yard on the cover of our catalogue. The brooch contains eight Yogo Gulch sapphires and realized $21,500 against an estimate of $8,000-12,000.

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A Convertible Platinum, Gold, Sapphire, Ruby, Diamond and Seed Pearl Brooch/Bracelet, Raymond Yard

This spring, we are thrilled to announce we will be offering yet another jewel containing these coveted stones; an exquisite Marcus & Co. butterfly brooch. Its wings are set with 152 sapphires, the majority of which have been tested and certified as being of Yogo Gulch origin. When held up to the light, the effect is breathtaking: the sapphires are as uniformly deeply saturated as they are unincluded, comprised of the brilliant cornflower blue stones that the Yogo Gulch is known for. The platinum- topped gold construction of the butterfly’s body, combined with the timing of the discovery of the Yogo deposit, suggests the brooch is either late Victorian or Edwardian. Herman Marcus constructed this stunning brooch within several years of founding his own design house in 1892, Marcus & Co., after leaving Tiffany & Co.

Shortly after the opening of Marcus and Co., the two design houses began to compete for the business of New York’s elite. With the construction of this brooch, it seems Marcus & Co. diverged from its best-known Art Nouveau style plique-a-jour work, which had become extremely popular by the turn of the century, making this brooch an uncommon style for this designer. The brooch will be sold in the April 3 and 4 Important Jewelry auction, giving clients the opportunity to bid on a piece that represents a powerful combination of the Marcus & Co. maker’s mark and the Yogo Gulch certificate. The sapphire brooch is estimated at $6,000-8,000.

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A Platinum Topped Yellow Gold, Sapphire and Diamond Butterfly Brooch, Marcus & Co. Estimate: $6,000-8,000

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