A History of Sapphires in Culture: Catherine the Great

Throughout time, sapphires have been revered for their beauty, their strength and durability, and the perceived powers of wellness and protection. In a celebration of the special cultural relevance of sapphires, we have gathered together some of our favorite stories to share of historical sapphires through all cultures. Part VIII continues Catherine the Great.

Catherine the Great and the Romanoff Jewels – 1729–1796

Catherine II of Russia was known as an enlightened despot.  She became Empress after a bloodless coup deposed her husband, the eccentric Peter III.  Under her rule, the Russian Empire grew by some 200,000 square miles.

Like her predecessors, Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, she had a great love for gemstones.  She was fond of decorating entire rooms with stones such as agate, jasper, marble, malachite, and porphyry.

An admirer gave her a magnificent 337-carat sapphire, which remained among the Romanoff jewels until it was sold by Nicholas II to finance a hospital during World War I.  “Catherine the Great’s Sapphire” later became part of Harry Winston’s celebrated “Court of Jewels,” but it is now owned by a private party.