The splendor of the Empire

Impressive bangle with sapphire & old cut diamonds, England circa 1890

The British Empire comprised almost a quarter of the world's population at the end of the 19th century. As a result, a never-ending stream of exotic goods and treasures poured into the great ports of England from the colonies. Precious stones and diamonds were imported in unprecedented quantities, mostly from India and South Africa, and the jewellery production of those years was as rich as never before or since. Among the special treasures on which England had almost a monopoly were sapphires of all colours and shapes. A particularly fine specimen is found in the bracelet here, made in England in late Victorian times: the perfectly natural gemstone weighs about 5.30 carats and is not fired to enhance its color. In fact, artificially heating sapphires and rubies is common practice today because it can intensify the gem's colors. The rarer, therefore, are stones whose hue has been created without human intervention. To be on the safe side, we have sent the piece of jewellery to a renowned gemstone laboratory in Idar-Oberstein, which has analysed and evaluated it. The appraisal will of course be delivered together with the bracelet. While the dark blue sapphire forms the calm centre of the jewel's front, the sparkle of the jewel is taken over by diamonds. The combination of dark blue sapphires and diamonds was one of the most popular pairings in jewelry of the late 19th century: "Of truly enchanting splendor are jewels with {...} Sapphires, which are very much favoured by fashion at present," was the comment on the latest jewellery fashion in the ladies' journal "Der Bazar" in 1896 (Der Bazar. Illustrirte Damen-Zeitung, 42nd volume 1896, no. 26, p. 321). Not least, this popularity was also explained by the fact that the combination of sapphire and diamond enhances the colour effect of both gemstones. The present bangle shows this effect very beautifully and in an impressive way, since the gemstones used here are of a very special beauty. The design is based around a deep blue sapphire whose basic shape describes an elongated octagon. Twelve large diamonds in fine old cuts are set on either side of the sapphire, accompanied by a total of 36 other rose-cut diamonds. The showpiece, with its more than five-carat natural sapphire, also holds more than six carats of fine diamonds in individual cuts. Bangles like this were a typical part of the ballroom wardrobe in the late 19th century. Large earrings were less in demand in the 1890s, and were even considered unrefined; all the more splendid, however, were the sparkles allowed elsewhere. Moreover, as bangles were not worn on the bare arm in the evening, but on long light-coloured gloves, they were given additional emphasis. Our bracelet will also have experienced such festive events, as it was created precisely at that time. What chapters will you add to its history?

The sapphire is a truly royal stone. Even more frequently than the ruby, it adorns the crowns of the monarchies of Europe: the English state crown sparkles in the light of 18 beautiful stones, and that of the Bohemian king Wenceslas has just as many. And yet it shares many properties with the ruby, because for the mineralogist both stones belong to the group of corundum. The most famous sapphires in the world come from Kashmir, where today only a few sapphires are mined. Kashmir sapphires show a powerful cornflower blue and have a so-called "sleepy", slightly milky character. Sapphires from other sites show different shades of blue: stones from Mianmar, which can also reach the highest qualities, tend more towards an ultramarine. Sapphires from Sri Lanka tend to shine in a lighter, sky-blue tone. Sapphires from both locations tend to show stronger inclusions.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.