In July 1938 a son was born to the Marquess and Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava. The baby's christening was held at Clandeboye.
The young Earl of Ava, who received the names Sheridan Frederick Terence, is seen in his mother's arms in the photo above.. Also in the front row were Lord Dufferin, the Ladies Caroline and Perdita Blackwood (young daughters of the house), and Lady Honor Channon née Guiness (a godmother). Maureen Constance Guinness the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava wore her famous sapphire clip brooch with two important sapphires and the clip in diamonds made by Cartier.
It was "designed as a stylised ribbon, set with an oval and a cushion-shaped sapphire weighing 55.19 carats and 25.97 carats respectively, embellished with circular-cut and baguette diamonds.
Also accompanied by a copy of the inventory from Hariot Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava (1843-1936) that mentions:
'Two large sapphires set with diamonds as pendant – given me by people of Punjaub (sic) & sent after my return’.
The sapphires were given to Maureen Constance Guinness, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava (1907-1998) by her grandmother-in-law, Hariot Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava (1843-1936) the Vicereine of India.
By family tradition, the sapphires were later mounted in the brooch by Cartier in the 1930s.
Lord and Lady Dufferin’s tenure in India came to an end in 1888, and a leather bound inventory of Lady Dufferin’s possessions made that same year lists the jewels and ornaments in her collection, which amusingly includes a horseshoe sapphire and pearl brooch, ‘Given by Eugenie, Empress of the French, to Lord Dufferin as a prize for winning a foot race’. After the printed list of jewels on the first page is a handwritten addendum: ‘Two large sapphires, set with diamonds as pendant – given me by people of Punjaub (sic) & sent after my return’.
These two large sapphires were from a newly discovered deposit, which had been uncovered by a landslide in the Zanskar range of the northwestern Himalayas in 1881. The deposit, later known as the ‘Old Mine’, soon came under the ownership of the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir and was a source of exceptional sapphires until around 1887, when it was finally exhausted. Thus, this brief six year window of mining, in a remote and inhospitable corner of the world, yielded the fabled Kashmir sapphires - some of the finest in history - and two of its largest known finds were gifted to Lady Dufferin.
The Dufferins’ departure in 1888 coincided with the exhaustion of the mine, which was closed from 1888-1905. While new deposits in the area were later discovered, and reworking of the Old Mine yielded a few more gem-quality finds in the early 20th century, the scale of production and the quality of the sapphires never managed to equal the initial yield, making Kashmir sapphires as rare as they are beautiful.
While large sapphire crystals were reported during the initial discovery of the Kashmir deposits, examples over ten carats are particularly rare, and the Dufferin Sapphires, weighing over 25 and 55 carats respectively, are two of the largest Kashmir sapphires known to have ever come to auction. Each exhibits the deep, velvety blue for which sapphires from these fabled mines are best known, owed to fine clouds of dispersed nanoparticles of iron and titanium, which scatter the light and give the stones a dreamy haziness, quite unlike sapphires from other locations.
The handwritten entry for these sapphires in Lady Dufferin’s inventory is marked with a cross in blue ink, and one line of text - ‘Later left to Maureen, Lady Dufferin’, points to the next chapter in their story, and explains why they appear today in such a striking diamond brooch.
In 1930, Basil Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava (1909-1945) married Maureen Constance Guinness (1907-1998). She was the granddaughter of the 1st Earl of Iveagh and an heiress of the Guinness brewing fortune. They were known as the ‘Golden Guinness Girls’ due to their beauty, fashion sense and style. With their striking glamor and opulent lifestyle, there was a fascination surrounding the three sisters. The press covered their every move, especially their talent for throwing outlandish parties.
By family tradition, the sapphires mentioned in the inventory from Hariot Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, were later mounted in the brooch by Cartier in the 1930s. The jewel has remained in the family and this is the first time it has appeared on the market and offered by Sotheby`s 2021 at Geneve Estimate: 1,860,000 to - 2,785,000 CHF.
The world’s finest and most sought after sapphires originate from the legendary mines of Kashmir. They were discovered by chance due to a landslide between 1879 and 1882, in the Kudi valley, above the almost inaccessible village of Soomjam, in the Padar Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Initially, local villagers traded these stones for salt and other consumer goods. However, in 1882 these extremely precious gemstones began to appear in the markets of Simla, the official summer capital of India, where consequently their popularity grew, leading merchands to recognize their true value. As a result, the Maharaja immediately sent his troops to protect and control the Kashmir mines and prohibited private trading.
The high altitude and the harsh weather conditions limited the mining operations to approximately three months of the year, from July through September. Despite these constraints, between 1883 and 1887, an intensive production yielded some of the region’s finest large crystals. By 1887 the original ‘Old Mine’ was exhausted. Its replacement, the ‘New Mine’, located one hundred meters south, was abandoned in 1908 due to poor weather conditions and the limited quantity of fine gemstones. Since those early times, their supply has been limited as Kashmir sapphires' mining has been sporadic at best due to this region's remoteness and political unrest.
Above all others, what elevates Kashmir sapphires is the unique combination of a rich, intense blue colour with a soft and velvety appearance; often compared to the vibrant blue hue of the cornflower. This outstanding colour, which is accentuated under artificial light, is unlike other sapphires from other sources, which may seem greenish or greyish in comparison.
The second picture on the right side above is of the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava wearing the large important sapphires, taken in 1961 in London.