The Logan Sapphire- a sapphire and diamond brooch
Undoubtedly one of the most famous gems on display at the Smithsonian Museum’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems & Minerals, the Logan Sapphire is a stunning 423 carat Sri Lankan sapphire, mounted on a gold and silver brooch frame and surrounded by twenty round, brilliant-cut diamonds which have a total weight of 16 carats. The sapphire is an untreated natural blue stone, emanating a lush cornflower blue colour with slight violet overtones. It’s internally flawless and in natural light, radiates its colour with perfect clarity. The stone was cut into a mixed cushion cut with a flat table-cut face that allows a good view of it’s interior while enhancing the jewel’s enviable clarity and rich blue tones. The Logan Sapphire is comparable in size to a large chicken’s egg, making it the second largest faceted blue sapphire ever discovered and is also the largest set gemstone in the Smithsonian’s Collection.
Historically, the finest sapphires hail from Sri Lanka, Burma, and the Kashmir region of India, with the coveted bright light- to- medium “Ceylon blue” stones coming from Sri Lanka. The Logan Sapphire was mined in Sri Lanka, probably in “the city of gems”, Ratnapura, sometime in the 19th century. While the history of this gemstone is not entirely known, it was exported to Paris soon after it’s initial cutting.
After being re-cut in Europe, the stone was sold at auction, eventually ending up in the possession of Sir Victor Sassoon, third Baronet of Bombay, who is said to have acquired the gem from a Maharajah in India.
However the sapphire is most often associated with it’s final owner, Mrs. Rebecca “Polly” Pollard Guggenheim. She received the stone in it’s current brooch setting as a Christmas gift from her husband, Colonial Meyer Robert Guggenheim, in 1952. A noted Washington society family, the Guggenheims often hosted lavish society parties for diplomats and visiting dignitaries, and it was at one of these parties that Mrs. Guggenheim first caused a sensation by appearing with the brooch on the shoulder of her gown.
Mrs. Guggenheim was an art lover and avid painter, and the couple were devoted to supporting arts and culture. They were very involved with the funding and expansion of many American museums, even founding the Frank Guggenheim Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Smithsonian Institution. With their long friendship to the Smithsonian, it seems natural that Mrs. Guggenheim donated her famous sapphire brooch the museum about a year following the 1959 death of her husband. But, as with so many famous jewels, the story of the Logan Sapphire’s provenance is a little juicy.
Throughout his life, the Colonel was a notorious philanderer. After his death, it was revealed that this was the reason why his widow decided to part with her fabulous gift. When asked about the piece by her friend Jeffrey E. Post, curator of the Smithsonian’s Mineral Collection, Mrs. Guggenheim replied, “Every time I looked at it, all I could think of was my no good, cheating husband.”
Though officially donated in 1960, Mrs. Guggenheim retained the brooch in her possession until April 1971. By that time she had married John A. Logan and was known as ‘Mrs. Logan,’ hence the Sapphire was referred to as the “Logan Sapphire” instead of the “Guggenheim”. I can’t help but think she liked that.
The Logan Sapphire first went on display at the Smithsonian Institution in June 1971, and has been permanently on display ever since. It sits in a case alongside the famous Bismarck Sapphire Necklace and the Hall Sapphire and Diamond Necklace, but is undoubtedly the most beautiful gem in the Museum’s collection of stunning sapphires.
The Logan Sapphire is indeed a masterpiece of Nature’s creations, its perfect cut and brooch setting a masterpiece of the art of jewelry making. As it sits in the revered halls of the Smithsonian, we can be assured that it will continue to spark awe and admiration for generations to come.
Xx – Ana