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GemSelect Newsletter - March 2011

In our newsletter this month:
Emerald from Afghanistan Back to Top

Afghanistan is most famous as the source of the world's finest lapis lazuli. Lapis comes from the Badakhshan province of Northern Afghanistan, where it has been mined continuously for over 6,000 years.

In addition to lapis lazuli, Afghanistan has important reserves of other gem varieties. Some of these Afghani gems are already on the international market; others are expected to make a major impact in the future. Thus far we've had stock in Afghan kunzite, morganite, turquoise and serpentine. We're awaiting an opportunity to see specimens of the high quality ruby, tourmaline and spinel that are said to be found in Afghanistan in small quantities.

We've now had our first chance to buy emerald from Afghanistan, and we're very impressed with the quality of the material. Though the stones are fairly small, the color is exceptional; on a par with the very best Colombian and Zambian emeralds. What makes the Afghan material unusual is the excellent transparency. Most emeralds, even very good quality stones, are heavily included and have tiny surface-reaching fissures that require fracture-filling with oil or resin. However, the Afghan emeralds we've found have been certified as untreated and are exceptionally clean for emeralds.

Emeralds are mined in the Panjshir Valley in the Hindu Kush mountains, about 100 km northeast of Kabul. The deposit was reportedly first discovered by a Russian geologist in 1970, and mining has been carried out at as many as six different mines. The emeralds occur at an elevation of 3,000 to 4,000 meters and the mines are accessible only by foot.

It is estimated that about 1,000 miners are employed at these emerald mines. Though the mines are ostensibly under government control, most mining and selling is done by local tribesmen. Afghan gems find their way to market via Pakistan and most of the trade is carried out in Peshawar, just across the border.

While the present hostilities and war-like conditions in Afghanistan have made mining and transportation of the gem materials difficult, the need for capital appears to have stimulated mining operations. Gem dealers have noticed that greater amounts of fine quality lapis lazuli are now available.

Rare and Unusual Gems Back to Top

Each month we focus on a rare and unusual gem from our inventory. This month we feature a top rubellite tourmaline from Mozambique:

Rubellite Tourmaline from Mozambique
Rubellite Tourmaline from Mozambique

Rubellite is the term used in the gem trade to refer to particularly vivid red to violet-red colored tourmaline. It is rare and usually heavily included. That's why most of the rubellite gems found are cut as cabochons. We only occasionally find material that is clean enough to be faceted. This 6.28 carat barrel-cut rubellite from Mozambique is a fine example.

Customer Questions Back to Top

Every month we answer questions of general interest from our customers. Please feel free to send your questions or suggestions to our support team at!

I'm confused about a gemstone called aventurine. I see you have a green stone called aventurine, but I thought aventurine was actually sunstone. Can you explain?
The name "aventurine" has been used in the gems world for both aventurine feldspar and aventurine quartz. The aventurine feldspar is now usually called sunstone, so the term aventurine has been reserved for the aventurine quartz with a metallic glitter caused by inclusions of either green mica or hematite.
This metallic glitter, exhibited by both sunstone and aventurine quartz, is referred to as aventurescence. The name is derived from a type of 17th century Italian glass known as 'aventurine' or 'goldstone'. So this is an unusual case where the name of a natural material has been derived from a man-made one.
Does a gem need to be the exact size to fit a calibrated setting? Or is some variation allowed? I have an 8 x 6 mm setting for an oval stone and I want to make sure the gem I buy will fit. Thanks for your advice.
It is rare to find a gem that is exactly 8.00 x 6.00 mm. When we classify a gem as conforming to a particular calibrated size, as a rule of thumb, we allow a 4% variance. So a gem with measurements in the range of 7.68 - 8.32 mm by 5.76 - 6.24 mm will work in an 8 x 6 mm setting. Some settings may be more or less flexible, depending, for example, on the length of the prongs. Round settings often offer the most flexibility.

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Happy Gem Hunting!
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