The sapphire is one of the two gem varieties of the mineral corundum (the red ruby is the other). While deep blue stones are the best known and are considered the most desirable, sapphires may occur in almost any colour including colourless and shades of grey/black.
Possibly named after the Greek word sapphiros, meaning blue (although all blue gemstones were called sapphiros at that time), sapphires were unknown in the west before the Roman Empire; however in the east, stones were mined in India and Sri Lanka from at least the 1st Century BC onwards. They became associated with royalty via the legend that the Ten Commandments were inscribed upon tablets made of sapphire, and in the far east kings wore sapphires as protection from harm and as an amulet of luck and good fortune, while priests considered them symbolic of wisdom and purity. Sapphires were also believed to protect against envy and poisoning and when ground to a powder, the stone was believed to cure colic, rheumatism and mental illness, and to strengthen eyesight.
As with all of the precious gemstones, the value of a sapphire depends on its colour, clarity, size, cut and overall quality as well as its geographic origin. Most of the world's sapphire deposits are found in Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, East Africa and at various locations in the United States.
Famous sapphires include those in the British Crown Jewels and the Star of India (at 563 carats the largest sapphire in the world). Prince Charles chose a sapphire stone for the engagement ring he gave to HRH Princess Dianna.
Image of a ptolemaic princess carved on a sapphire cabochon
Sapphires and rubies are second only to diamonds in hardness, making them desirable gemstones for setting into jewelry. The 45th wedding anniversary is also known as the Sapphire Anniversary, representing sincerity and faithfulness. But it is the striking deep blue ocean colour of a precious sapphire that strikes an elemental cord into the heart of many people, ensuring this stone's place in today's modern world.
Linda has a Honours degree in Marine Biology and a PhD in Ecology from the University of NSW, Australia. She has travelled extensively and is a passionate writer on subjects as diverse as the role played by women throughout history, tribal communities and their customs, symbology and ethnology, talismans and their history. Occasionally she also writes about her travel experiences, her new life on a 25 acres in the Northern Rivers region of northern Australia and her black miniature poodle Phoenix. She is currently writing her first book on talismans.
In 1989 my father Bernard packed in his house painting business and set off for two years on a backpacking trek to the remotest corners of the world. When he finally arrived in the oasis city of Kashgar, China, he was so impressed with its history that he decided to start a new life collecting and selling exotic goods from all over the world. For 2000 years the legendary city of Kashgar was a melting pot of ideas and a key trading post on the historic Silk Road. It was this unique combination of philosophy and trade that my father wanted to recreate at home.
Starting in markets in 1991, he opened his first store in the Sydney suburb of Newtown in 1994. I gave up my own career as a government scientist to join him in 2000 and soon convinced my partner Ian to join us in what was to become the Family Business.
Today our version of Kashgar stocks a hugely diverse range of furniture, rugs, textiles, antiques, handicrafts and jewellery sourced from over twenty different countries including India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Thailand, Burma, Laos, the Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Our collection includes contemporary and tribal silver and gold jewellery, a unique range of headhunting curios, antique Buddhist relics and a collection of one-off necklaces, earrings and bracelets that I design and create myself using the beads and jewellery making techniques of ethnic minorities from around the globe.
Kashgar is a philosophy as well as a store. We are committed to supporting traditional artisans and small village communities by selling authentic handcrafted goods which are personally collected by us. By supporting traditional methods of design and production we hope to encourage local cottage industries which have a low impact on the environment and help ethnic minorities maintain their self-sufficiency into the 21st Century. We are particularly committed to assisting women around the world and to this end have worked with several organisations including the Hua Bin Women's Union of Vietnam, the East Timorese Women's Association and Tikondane in Zambia. Time honoured means of craftsmanship and traditional ways of life are disappearing as people all over the world give up their identity in favour of jeans and T-shirts. We see our trade as a means of staving off the inevitable encroachment of the 21st century, assisting communities to decide for themselves which parts of the western world they wish to incorporate (medicine, education) and which they wish to reject (prostitution, drug production, begging and servitude to warlords). We encourage our customers to think of the handicrafts and artifacts they buy from us as an investment: a piece of history and a way of life that may soon be gone forever.
Kashgar has recently closed its retail outlet and gone completely online.
In the past our pieces appeared in many movies including The Hobbit, Mission Impossible 2, Queen of the Damned, Scooby Doo, Moulin Rouge and Wolverine, and in many televisions series, as well as in plays, commercials and exhibitions. We've found special pieces for individual customers as well as for film sets, event management companies, hotels, businesses, consulates and embassies. The uniqueness of our stock means that we are also very appealing to interior and fashion designers with a taste for the exotic.
There is something for everyone at Kashgar - collectors, the curious, those looking for a special present or for something unique to adorn the home. Most of our items are one-off specialties; other pieces we only stock in small quantities so as to continuously offer a wide and ever-changing range of interesting products. We are also packed with ideas for decorating home and work premises that will challenge your established concepts of design and storage.
Please enjoy - Linda Heaphy
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