In our newsletter this month:
Emerald from Afghanistan
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.
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.
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Happy gem hunting,Your friends at GemSelect
- First Published: March-01-2011
- Last Updated: October-30-2014
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