The Millennium Sapphire Project

MS Token
8 min readJun 15, 2021

The Consortium, led by Mr. Daniel McKinney, purchased the Millennium Sapphire in the rough intending to upgrade its beauty and value. The investors decided to create a finished carving that would retain the Sapphire’s extraordinary size.

To achieve this goal, the Consortium started looking for an exceptional designer for the job of carving one of the most significant gemstones ever discovered. Several elite designers from Europe and America were considered. Eventually, the group of investors gave the job to award-winning Italian master designer Alessio Boschi. With Alessio on board, the Millennium Sapphire project was born.

Millennium Sapphire

Next, a design concept had to be chosen. Carving something that would continue to be meaningful over the centuries was the goal. The group thus decided to produce a carving that would pay tribute to the human genius. To do this, Boschi would carve the images of humanity’s greatest people and achievements on the surface of the Sapphire. The concept focused on a wide range of subjects like inspiring individuals who brought about change, great civilizations, and remarkable discoveries and advancements over the last 5,000 years up to the dawn of the new Millennium.

What Does a Sapphire Symbolize?

Traditionally, a sapphire symbolizes honesty and faithfulness. Also, it is the September birthstone. Sapphires have been known as the “celestial gemstones.” According to ancient Persians, “the Earth rested on a giant sapphire, whose reflection colored the sky.”

The Millennium Sapphire project pays tribute to individuals who, over the centuries, have “reached for the stars!”

Selecting the Representations

Choosing the greatest examples of humanity’s ingenuity and accomplishment was not an easy task. It was with great difficulty that certain outstanding individuals were chosen over others. After months of meticulous research, Mckinney and Boschi selected 134 representations of great individuals and milestones in human history.

These people and achievements represent the fields of philosophy, human rights, fine art, science, literature, music, sports, performing arts, war and peace and architecture.

Creating the Design

Boschi started the design process with preparatory sketches. Together with the photos of the 134 representations, Boschi came up with a proposed design for the Sapphire carving.

The structure of the human DNA molecule, which is a spiral helix, inspired the design of the Millennium Sapphire. This shape provided the most effective way to present a logical progression of images around the giant Sapphire. In ancient art, spirals were used to depict a long sequence of events like Trajan’s Column which was erected in 113 AD in Rome. In ancient Phoenician and Greek times, the spiral was an aquatic symbol, and it symbolically connects us to life because we are all “born of the water of the womb.”

The base of the Millennium Sapphire carving features naked masculine figures. Most of these figures are from renowned classical sculptures. Just like Atlas, the Titan god in Greek mythology bore the heavens on his shoulders, the masculine figures at the base of the Millennium Sapphire uphold the story of humanity.

Furthermore, these Atlas-like figures are positioned in the four elements: water, air, earth and fire. The Greek philosopher Empedocles theorized that all matter is made up of these four elements. The figures are also presented standing at four doors opening to the story of humanity. The four doors depict the four elements.

The Millennium Sapphire was discovered in Madagascar. This origin is portrayed as an outline positioned in the center of the water door. Also, the year when the Sapphire was discovered, 1995, is written in ancient script in the center. On the opposite side, the year the Millennium Sapphire project started, 1999, is written in modern script on the air door.

As mentioned earlier, sapphires symbolize the heavens. Therefore, “the progression of the carvings highlights people and achievements related to the heavens.” The sculpture begins with the Orion constellation, which is used for navigation and identifying other stars. The next carvings are ancient Egyptian, Mayan, and Mesopotamian pyramids and medieval castles designed around a celestial theme.

The images of Ptolemy, Newton, Galileo, and Copernicus, individuals that have contributed vastly to human knowledge through Astronomy are the carvings that follow. The celestial theme is completed by Neil Armstrong in his Lunar suit, Mariner 10, Sputnik, the Space Shuttle, and the binary coded message regularly beamed to the stars from the Arecibo deep space antenna.

This and other thematic progressions on the Millennium Sapphire demonstrate the Rousseau quote that “history repeats itself.” For instance, Aphrodite of Milos from ancient Greece represents feminine beauty. The same theme is also represented by the 1498 Botticelli painting “The Birth of Venus.”

Carving the Millennium Sapphire

Carving the Millennium Sapphire was challenging. Sapphire belongs to the Corundum family which is the second hardest mineral in nature after diamonds measuring 9 Mohs. Due to this, Boschi and his team could not afford to make any errors. To solve this problem, the team decided to painstakingly carve each design element they had planned on a slab of lapis lazuli, a soft deep-blue metamorphic rock. The carvings on the lapis lazuli would work as a prototype. After successfully testing the designs on the lapis, the sculpting work on the gem began.

The Millennium Sapphire is accompanied by enlarged 3D representations of each element carved on lapis lazuli rough. Every piece has a description explaining the element and the reason it was chosen. These prototypes allow viewers to get a better glimpse of the elements carved on the Millennium Sapphire. The lapis prototypes also give viewers a better understanding of the complexity of human history.

The Carvings

There are 134 representations of the human genius carved on the Millennium Sapphire. Some of those representations include:

  • The Orion constellation
  • The three Pyramids of Giza
  • Temple of Ur
  • The father of poetry, Humerus
  • Confucius
  • Discobolo, the discus thrower of Mirone
  • The Parthenon
  • The Acropolis
  • Aristotle
  • Socrates
  • Plato
  • Alexander the Great
  • Rafael painting inside the room of the Signatory in the Vatican
  • Archimedes
  • Marble statue l’Afrodite di Milo by Botticelli
  • Great Wall of China
  • Julius Caesar
  • Caesar Augustus
  • The Colosseum Rome
  • The chinese invention of paper by Ts’ai Lun
  • Ptolemy
  • Mayan hieroglyphic writing, calendar and the introduction in Mayan mathematical systems of zero
  • The Temple of Registrations, Mayan pyramid, Palenque, Mexico
  • Indian Numerology with the introduction of the zero
  • Emperor Giustiniano I mosaic in the basilica of St. Vitale to Ravenna
  • He was the encoder of the Roman laws: Corpus Juris Civilis
  • Byzantine symbol of the eagle on a gold and enamel pin belonging to the empress Gisela
  • The exceptional mathematical and astronomic mastery of the Arabs appears evident in this plain Astrolabe
  • Arabic numerical system that was adopted by Spaniards and eventually Italians
  • Samurai posted to watch an old building of the shogun
  • Castle of the Mountain, Bari, Italy. Gold Florin depicting the lily of Florence from which the name given to the coin was derived
  • The dome of the Cathedral, Florence, Italy, built by Phillip Brunelleschi
  • The Birth of Venus painted by Sandro Botticelli, Florence, Italy
  • Donatello’s David in bronze
  • David performed by Andrew of the Verrocchio
  • Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Proportions of the human body
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Columbus’ ship “Santa Maria”
  • Rafael’s Sanzio self-portrait
  • Michelangelo’s David, Florence, Italy
  • Michelangelo bust by Volterra
  • Nicolaus Copernicus’ revolutionary theory that the Moon revolves around the Earth and the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun
  • Queen Elizabeth I of England
  • Portrait of William Shakespeare
  • The telescope of Galileo built in 1609
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Bernini’s David, about to cast the stone
  • Portrait of Gian Lawrence Bernini
  • Borromini’s tall lantern-like spiral tower on the Church of Sant’Ivo to the Wisdom, Rome, Italy
  • Isaac Newton
  • The reflecting telescope of Newton built in 1688
  • Johan Sebastian Bach
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven
  • Francois Marie Arouet, better Known as Voltaire
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • James Watt
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe
  • First flight in a hot-air balloon, the brothers Montgolfier
  • A & B — two symbols of the French revolution, people of Paris rebel at the high taxes, the wealth & extravagance of King Louis XVI
  • The English physician Edward Jenner
  • Alexander Volta invents the first torchlight and in his honor, the electric unit is called the volt
  • Robert Fulton used the discoveries of Watt to invent the steamboat
  • George Stephenson introduces the first locomotive, the Blucher
  • Louis Daguerre conceived the first photographic method: the daguerreotype, patented and produced by his brother-in-law Alphonse Giroux
  • 1851, London, the Great Exposition of Culture and Industry, housed in Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace
  • Louis Pasteur
  • Monet’s Impression, soleil Levant
  • Thomas Alva Edison
  • Gottlieb Daimler put a motor on four wheels and created the original gasoline-powered buggy
  • Kiss by August Rodin
  • Self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh
  • Auguste Marie and Luis Jean Lumiere invented the Cinematographe
  • William Marconi, inventor of the radio
  • The first flight of the Flyer I built by brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright
  • Chimneys on the roof of La Casa Milà, Barcellona, Spain, by Antoni Gaudi
  • Dance by Henri Matisse in the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Albert Einstein
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Architect Gropius’s masterpiece Bauhaus, Dresden, Germany
  • Charles A. Lindbergh and his “Spirit of St. Louis”
  • Walt Disney
  • Women in the fire of the Suburb of Rafael by Picasso
  • Italian physicist Henry Fermi discovers nuclear division
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Mohandas Gandhi
  • Corbusier’s Unit d’habitation di Marsiglia
  • James Watson & Francis Crick discover the structure of DNA
  • Russian satellite Sputnik, first to orbit the earth
  • Elvis Presley
  • Martin Luther King
  • The Beatles
  • Singer Maria Callas
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Apollo 11 and the first astronaut to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong
  • The satellite Mariner 10
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nobel Peace prize winner
  • The Space Shuttle
  • Transmission into space of binary code electric impulses of the story of humans on planet earth by the radio antenna Arecibo.

The Finished Carving

The Millennium Sapphire project took three years to complete. The original concept was conceived in 1998, and the carving was finalized in 2000.

The finished carving is a masterpiece created in a precious and rare medium. This not only makes the Millennium Sapphire a valuable gemstone but also the largest carved Sapphire in the world.

The Millennium Sapphire only lost 5.67 kilograms (about 28 pounds) during the carving process. The finished carving is 61,500 carats and 28 cm long, 19 cm wide and 15 cm tall compared to the original 89,850 carats and 29 cm long, 19 cm wide and 16 cm tall.

Millennium Sapphire with lapis prototype

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Read the previous articles the Millennium Sapphire history and the prelude to the Millennium Sapphire.



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