In our newsletter this month:
In the last 10 years, the main source of colored gemstones has shifted from Southeast Asia, especially Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand, to Africa. About half of our inventory now consists of African gems, with nearly 60 different gem varieties represented. Most come from the rich geological formation in East Africa known as the Neoproterozoic Mozambique Belt, which runs south from Kenya through Tanzania and Mozambique to Madagascar.
These are still early days for African gems, so we expect many new discoveries to come. But gemstone traders are already looking to the next developing region for interesting new stones. A likely candidate is Central Asia, the vast expanse stretching from Iran in the west to the Chinese border in the east, and from the Ural Mountains of Russia in the north to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the south.
The Central Asian region has been known for its gemstones since antiquity. More than 4,000 years ago, traders brought lapis lazuli from the mines in Badakhshan in Afghanistan over the Silk Road to Egypt and India. Badakhshan was also the source of the reknowned balas rubies - actually red spinel - such as the Timur Ruby and the Black Prince's Ruby that are part of the British Crown Jewels. The famed Kashmir sapphires are more recent, dating back only to 1880.
Currently, there are relatively few gems from Central Asia on the market. Mining in the region is extremely challenging, due to the mountainous terrain, limited accessibility and the harsh climate. Many parts of the area are war-torn or politically unstable, and attempts by outsiders to impose stability have arguably made matters worse. But the mineral riches have been known for many years. Recently the American government announced that Afghanistan alone has nearly 1 trillion dollars worth of untapped mineral resources.
Here at GemSelect we have managed to build a small but diverse stock of Central Asian gemstones. We have found kunzite, morganite, turquoise, serpentine and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, with much of the material of very high quality. We have chrysoberyl and peridot from Pakistan, and the peridot in particular is exceptional. Russia and the former Soviet Republics are producing a number of rare gem varieties, including clinomhumite, charoite, chrome diopside, seraphinite, strawberry quartz, rhodonite and goshenite.
In the future we expect to see much more production from this region, especially from the river valleys of the Hindu Kush mountains at the junction of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China. Known deposits include emerald, ruby, tourmaline, aquamarine, spinel, topaz, and many different garnet and quartz varieties. Central Asia may well turn out to be as important for gemstones in the future as it was in antiquity.
We have had very large gemstones in our stock before, including some weighing over 400 carats. But we've never had anything quite as large as this outstanding specimen of malachite that weighs in at over 1,647 carats, with dimensions of 97 x 68 x 22 mm. But this is not just a huge stone, it is a very high quality piece as well, with vivid banding and a full color range from light-green to black. Despite its enormous size, the stone is free of defects and is very nicely polished.
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Happy gem hunting,Your friends at GemSelect
- First Published: October-01-2010
- Last Updated: November-05-2014
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