Thanks and disclaimer:


Important Note: The author: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok . GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.


About FieldGemology. org

This website is home for "Shameless Travel Addicted Gemologist" Vincent Pardieu (B.Sc., GGA, G.G.). Vincent is "Supervisor, Field Gemology" at GIA Laboratory Bangkok. He is a gemologist specialized on "origin determination of gemstones".
This is also home for Vincent's regular traveling companions: David Bright, Jean Baptiste Senoble, Richard W. Hughes, Guillaume Soubiraa, Walter Balmer, Michael Rogers, Kham Vannaxay and many others like recently: Philippe Ressigeac, Oliver Segura , Flavie Isatelle and Lou Pierre Bryl.

We are gemologists (gemmologists) sharing a passion for gemstones, gemolology (gemmology), gem people and traveling.

You will find in this website gemological expedition reports and some studies of gemological interest.

Visiting many gem mining areas we saw that people in remote mining and trading areas have difficulties to access to gemological publications. As today the Internet can be accessed in most of these gem mining areas and trading centers, the author started to build this website to give gem people living there the opportunity to see the result of the gemological expeditions they were associated in. It is a way to thanks them for their time and collaboration and to help them to get access to more gemological information.

At the same time the author hope that these expedition reports will please the people from consuming countries interested in gemstones and fascinated by their mysterious origins. Our purpose here is to help people facing difficulties to get quality first hand information about gems and their origins to get the information they need through this website and its links.

With our field expeditions to gemstone mines and gem markets around the world, we intend also here to share our passion for photography, gems and our fascination for the work of the "Gem People" bringing gemstones from the ground to magnificent jewelry.

From the gems external beauty to the intimate beauty of gemstone inclusions, from gem lore to the mines, the people and the landscapes gems origin from, we expect to share with you our passion for gemstone beauty.

We also invite you to join us on some gemological forums we are active in as they are convenient tools to get rapid answers to your questions as they are regularly visited by many other passionate gemologists, jewelers, hobbyists and professionals willing to learn more and share their knowledge about gemstones.


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Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog

About the Author

About me : How did a countryside Frenchman became a "Shameless travel addicted gemologist"? ( Under construction)


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Popular Articles

"Tsavorite, an Untamed Gem" with R.W.Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Winter 2008)
"Working the blue seam" The Tanzanite mines of Merelani with R.W.Hughes first published on
"Spinel, the resurection of a Classic" with R.W. Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Summer 2008)

Gemological studies

(Apr. 2009) "Sapphires reportedly from Batakundi / Basil area" a preliminary study about unusual sapphires we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
(Mar. 2009) "Rubies from Niassa province, Mozambique" a preliminary study about rubies we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
"Lead glass filled rubies" :
First published on AIGS Lab Website (Feb 2005)

Expedition Reports

Autumn. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE09: Rubies from Mozambique. (pdf file)

May. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE08: Melos and their pearls in Vietnam. (pdf file)

Dec. 2008 and Feb-Mar. 2009: GIA Field Expeditions FE01 and FE04: Rubies and sapphires from Pailin, Cambodia. (pdf file)

Aug. 2008: Sapphires and Tsavorite from the south of Madagascar with the AFG (Association francaise de Gemmologie) : Available soon...

Apr. 2008: Expedition to the new Winza ruby deposit in central Tanzania with Jean Baptiste Senoble and the support of the Gubelin Gem Lab

October 2007: Gemological expedition to East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) with Richard W. Hughes, Mike Rogers, Guillaume Soubiraa, Warne and Monty Chitty and Philippe Bruno:

Summer 2006: Expeditions to Central Asia gem wealth with Guillaume Soubiraa and the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:

Oct. 2005: Colombia by J.B. Senoble

Sep. 2005: Madagascar with Richard W. Hughes and Dana Schorr (Will be available one of these days...)

Summer 2005: Gemological expeditions to South East Asia (Vietnam) South Asia (Sri Lanka) and East Africa (Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania) with J.B. Senoble and Tanguy Lagache with the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:

- Feb. 2005: A visit to Thailand, Cambodia with the AFG (Association Francaise de Gemmologie) (under construction)

- 2002-2007: Expeditions to Pailin (Cambodia), Chanthaburi Kanchanaburi (Thailand) Houay Xai (Laos) Mogok, Namya (Burma) (under construction)

- 2001: Expeditions to Namya, Hpakant and then Mogok with Ted and Angelo Themelis and Hemi Englisher (under construction)

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Discover fieldgemology newsletter:
(Currently under "hibernation status"...)

Number 01: Sept 2006
(I know: it was long time ago...)



THANKS for their support
for our field expeditions since 2005:


about gems, gemology, field expeditions, studying gemology, minerals, jade, pearls or jewelry?
We recommend these FORUMS
where the author is contributing:

Do you want to

Here are some recommended institutes where the author studied gemology in Thailand ... and was happy about his investment!

For those willing to go further after their gemological studies: Recommended Advanced Gemological Courses:

To finish here are some BOOKS about gemology
the author have read and appreciated and would like to recommend to people willing to learn more about gemstones, gemology and the places where gemstones are found:




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The photos and articles on are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Feel free to use the photos and articles with links and credits. No commercial use without permission.
All the best,


From Kashmir to Pamir,

Summer 2006: Gemological expedition report
to ruby, emerald and spinel mining areas in Central Asia.


Part 2: Afghanistan:
Land of beautiful gems and unique people.

By Vincent Pardieu
and Guillaume Soubiraa
(Published on Sept 2006, last modified Mar 2008)

Introduction: Presentation of the AIGS, Gubelin Gem Lab, ICA 2006 fieldtrip to central Asia: (visit here)

Part 1: Pakistan: The Central Asian capital of the gemstone trade. (visit here)

Part 2: Afghanistan: Land of beautiful gems and unique people. (current page)

Part 3: Tajikistan: Gems from the Pamirs. (visit here)

Part 4: China (Xin Jiang): Emeralds from the silk road(visit here)

Abstract: This web page presents the fieldtrip Vincent Pardieu then AIGS gemological laboratory director had with his former student Guillaume Soubiraa to Afghanistan. This fieldtrip was part of the expedition supported by AIGS and Gubelin gemological laboratories with the help of ICA to Central Asia during summer 2006. The present page has five parts:

1) Introduction: A rapid presentation of Afghanistan gem wealth, and of the potential given by the free software "Google Earth" to prepare or illustrate gemological expeditions

2 ) Travel by road from Peshawar (Pakistan) to Kabul through the Kaiber pass.

3 ) Visit to the Panjshir valley emerald mines (June 2006).
In the Panjshir they could witness some underground mining activity in the Bismal and Mukeni areas. The production in Panjshir seemed to be still strong especially in small sizes emeralds but the number of miners seems to have dropped compared to the 1980's. Currently around 1000 miners are possibly working the Panjshir mountain large deposit. The prospective for the future looks good as new mines open regularly and seems to produce fine stones.

4) Visit to the Jagdalek ruby mining area (July 2006)
In Jagdalek the official ruby production stopped 2 years ago. The Afghan governement is currently searching for investors to work the mines. Illegal mining looks to be present in the area keeping a week ruby production to find its way to the Peshawar gem market. Rubies are found in Jagdalek from marbles. Mines are not there underground, they are huge trenches. We visited some of these mining trenches in the Khalwat area as you can see on the numerous photos on this report.

5) Special Thanks, interesting links and bibliography.

We invite you to follow our summer 2006 fieldtrip to Afghanistan using the potential given by the free software Google Earth. Just download and install the software, then using our links you can get a better idea about the mining areas we visited or those for which information is available in the gemological litterature. We recommend you to select the "terrain" option (down left in the "layer" booklet) in order to enjoy a 3D visit.

1) Introduction:

Afghanistan is a well known gem producing country hosting some of the oldest mines in the world. Its lapis lazuli mines at Sar e Sang as an example are known to have produce gemstones for the Egyptians and are still producing today. Emeralds from the Panjshir valley were also probably known at the time of Alexander the Great as the "Bactrian emeralds" reported by Theophrastus around 320BC ( Forestier and Piat, "L'emeraude" p 139-145; and D.Schwarz, G. Giuliani "Emerald of the World" p 61 to 63). Neverhteless it is during the 1970's that Afghanistan has emerge as an important source for many gemstones. Russians geologists explored the mountains in search for strategic minerals for the Soviet Union then Mudjahedeen were mining to get income to fight the Soviets. During the last 30 years the country was a major source for lapis lazuli (Sar E Sang) and a noticeable supllier of rubies (Jagdalek), emeralds (Panjshir valley), tourmaline, kunzite, beryl and aquamarine (Nuristan).
Using Google Earth, you can now follow our expeditions and explore gem mining areas downloading the placemarks we prepared.
Just download them clicking on the icon on the left to discover Afghanistan gem wealth (summer 2006 fieldtrip) and information from litterature.
Here is a modified satelite map on which you can follow our Summer 2006 fieldtrip in Central Asia from Peshawar in Pakistan to the Afghanistan ruby and emerald mining areas respectively in Jagdalek and in the Panjshir valley. For more details please use Google Earth and our Afghanistan placemarks.

During summer 2006 if the country is still facing many problems with Talibans figthing the Afghan governement supported by NATO, the troubles are located mostly in the south and the gem mining areas we visited in Panjshir and Jagdalek were very quiet compared to some other parts of Afghanistan.

Nevertheless this expedition would not have been a success without the help and the presence of Rahim Azizi (wearing white clothes on the photo back from Mukeni).
His support was one of the key of the success of our Panjshir expedition. During our two visits to Afghanistan in June and July 2006 we have not experimented any insecurity problems thanks to our Afghan friends. All the time we have spend in Afghanistan was very pleasant. Of course sometimes the traveling conditions were tough but then the devotion of our Afghan friends was so great that even inconvenience was a delight.

1) Travel by road from Peshawar (Pakistan) to Kabul through the Kaiber pass.

On June 26th 2006, we arrived in Afghanistan from Peshawar by road using local taxis. We travelled through the famous Kaiber pass. A special permit was needed to drive through this famous pass as foreigners are not allowed to enter the Pashtoun tribal areas in Pakistan without it. The drive was nice and without difficulties.
We took then a local Afghan taxi to drive to Kabul through Jalalabad and Sorobi. The road was fine until Sorobi as it was new and we were following the beautiful and lazy river bringing the water from Panjshir through Kabul and then to Peshawar. The river then join finally the Indus lower in Pakistan.
As the road between Sarobi and Kabul was getting repaired we had to take to Lataban mountain road.
Here is a short movie taken during our drive from Peshawar to Kabul. After the long and dusty Lataban mountain road we finaly arrived on the Bagrami plain on the east of Kabul... We were surprised to be still alive as our driver was enjoying passing big trucks without any visibility on the dusty road. Finaly this drive will finish at the end of the movie with a broken wheel: As Guillaume said with a bit of fatalism at the end of the movie when the car had to stop: "Normal..."

As a result instead of driving one hour conveniently to Kabul we had a rough, dusty and dangerous five hours drive through the mountains. Arriving at Bagrami a few kilometers from Kabul we had to stop to repair the car which suffered during this five hours of hard drive and finaly if we arrived safe in Kabul. I discovered later that my computer was destroyed during the trip due to the bad condition of the road, the manupilation at check mpoints and the multiple shocks it got. Anyway better it than us, but too bad nevertheless.
Currently as gem business is not really legal in Afghanistan, and due to the problems in the country Kabul is not a major gem trading center. Nevertheless two areas in Kabul are known to be active in Gem business.
The Dan E Bagh market was told us to be the place where most of the dealers from Panjshir and Jagdalek are located. Sadly we got this information too late to plan a visit there.
This market was told us to be the most active market in the country with rubies from both Jagdalek and Tajikistan, emeralds from Panjshir and Lapis from Sar E Sang.
On the other side, "Chicken street" famous from the Kabul hippie days before the Soviet invasion offer in its numerous shops mainly tourist stuff. There imitations and synthetics are plentiful besides an important number of local lapis lazuli jewelry and few low quality emeralds and rubies.

2) Visit to the Panjshir valley emerald mines (June 2006):

Using Google Earth, you can now follow our expeditions and explore gem mining areas downloading the placemarks we prepared.
Just download them clicking on the icon on the left to follow our Expedition to the Panjshir valley emerald mining area, Afghanistan.

On the following satelite map you can follow our June 2006 fieldtrip from Kabul the capital of Afghanistan to the Panjshir valley where the emerald mining areas are located:
On June 27th we spend our day with Rahim Azizi in order to prepare our expedition to the Panjshir valley and its famous emerald mines. We spend our morning and a part of the afternoon meeting some Panjshir valley elders and important persons. Thanks to Rahim support we were able to get their support and at 3pm we left Kabul to the Panjshir valley.
After a 6 hours drive, we finally arrived in Dach Te Rewat village. It was of course night and the last part of the drive was quite an experience due to the road condition, the incredible landscape with the numerous destroyed Soviet tanks and also the tape playing some traditional Pansheri music...
Here is a short movie taken during our drive to Dach te Rewat village after nightfall in Panjshir in order to remind this nice moment and the music from Panjshir.

On the way to Dach te Rewat a few minutes before the sunset we stopped at the Massoud mausoleum near the Bozarak village where the "Lion of Panjshir" was buried. Ahmad Shah Massoud was one of the most famous Afghan Moudjahddin commanders. He became famous for his success against the Soviets in the Panjshir valley and later against the Talibans. He was assassinated few days before September 11th 2001.
Emeralds are possibly mined in the Panjshir valley for several centuries as old texts are speaking of emeralds from Bactria... But the modern discovery of these stones was 30 years ago near Bismal. Currently we were told that emeralds are mined in Panjshir valley in 3 main areas: The Bismal-Riwat area, the Ringe and the Mukeni-Zara Kel areas.
The area is large and other mining location exist and probably other will be discovered in the future. During our visit to Panjshir valley from June 27th 2006 to June 30th, 2006, we visited the Bismal mine and the Mukeni area.
Here is a modified satelite map on which you can discover the Panjshir valley and the 2 mining areas (Bismal and Mukeni) we visited during our visit in June 2006. For more details we recommend you to use Google Earth our placemarks.
At the time of our visit we were told that possibly 800 to 1200 miners were involved in the production of emeralds in the whole valley which is much less compared to the estimated 5000 miners which were working during the war. We were given the following numbers regarding the activity in these different areas: One group was active at Bismal as we could witness during our visit to this area on June 28th 2006 and 6 or 7 other groups were mining over Bismal in an area known as "Yachnow".
Sixty groups were possibly working in the Khenj area while in the Mukeni and in its neighboring the Zara Kel areas around 40 other groups were operating. Globally one of the reason of the decrease of the number of miners is that the work is very hard and most of the successful miners after getting some money have settled in Kabul and are doing now another business less dangerous and less hard.
On June 28th we started our expedition from Dacht Te Rewat village (35° 28 93N, 69° 48 78E, 2258 meters altitude) and walked for 2 hours and half to the Bismal mine (35° 28 72N, 69° 49 98E, 2690 meters altitude). We were told that this mine was the place where in the early 1970's, the first Panjshir emeralds were found. The first successful Pansheri emerald miners were told us to be Pansheri with an experience of gem mining at the Sar E Sang lapis mines.
The Bismal mine is in fact composed of several tunnels following a quartz albite rich vein. The main tunnel we visited was around 100 meters deep which reflect that these mines are among the oldest in the Panshir valley. It was a strait tunnel penetrating horizontally inside the mountain and nearly high enough for people to be able to walk inside, some consolidation work consisting mainly in stone walls was visible. The mine was worked by a team of 10 miners wearing the standard clothes of the Pansheri.
Here is a short movie showing the emerald mining in the deep of the Bizmal mine. Here the miners using a diesel pneumatic drill is drilling a hole to place some explosives and blast the rock.

During our visit the miners were drilling holes with a diesel powered hand drill in order to place some explosives and blast the rocks in the deep of the mine. The amount of explosive used and the management of the time before the blast was very approximate compared to what I experienced during my time in the French military as the charge blasted while we were still around half way from the exit in the mine tunnel.
Here is a short movie showing a miner filling the hole drilled before with explosives in order to blast the rocks.

It was quite an experience to live a mine blast when you are still inside the mine tunnel, when you feel the shock wave and you find suddenly yourself in a dusty cloud...Hopefully the charge was not very powerful, but it was quite scary as the tunnel was just strengthened with some piles of rocks.
During the next thirty minutes we enjoyed some tea with the miners.
We returned then inside the mine to see the result of the blast. Using some iron sticks, the miners were working the blasted area.
The stones were then rapidly studied outside the mine and just dumped if no green was visible.
Here is a short movie showing the miners after the blast in the deep of the Bizmal mine searching for emeralds.

During this visit we could collect some small emerald in matrix samples. It was clear to us that emeralds occurs in quart-albite veins.

Note on Panjshir Emerald Geology from D. Schwarz and G.Giuliani in Extra Lapis "Emeralds of the World" p.62:
"Emeralds is Panjshir are known to originate from regional metamorphic/metasomatic geological process along the Herat Panjshir fault in shear zones cutting paleozoic metasediments, mainly muscovite schists, and a series of diorite gabbros, quartz porphyry intrusions.
Panjshir emeralds are found in quartz-ankerite-pyrite veins.
Hydrothermal alteration induced albatization and pyritization of of surrounding host rocks."

The Panjshir deposit seems then to belong to the "schist without Pegmatite" type deposit as emeralds from Habatchal (Austria) Swat (Pakistan), Santa Terezinha (Brazil) and possibly Taxkurgan-Davdar (China).

After this visit to the Bismal mine we came back to Dacht Te Riwat village and took our car to go to Mukeni village a little bit lower in the valley. We then started again to walk for 2 hours in order to reach a small village (35° 25 33N 69° 48 55E, 2563 meters altitude) to spend the night. On the way we passed near the moudjahiddin jails were Massoud fighters were keeping their Russian prisoners.
The walk was very pleasant as the day was slowly going down and we were gifted with some beautiful mountain landscape until our arrival to the village.
At the village we stayed in the house of a local commandan and we were joined there by Commandan Ayub a senior Moudjahiddin commander who fought against the Soviets and witnessed the Panjshir emerald mining from the very beginning. This evening turned to be one of the best time we spend in Panjshir, while surrounded by former Moudjahiddins, we enjoyed some great food, great stories of emeralds and epic battles while playing with birds...

On june 29th we started our walk to the mines at 5.30 am.


After a long and difficult walk on goat tracks we reached the Kalat mining area ( 35° 25 27N, 69° 47 07E, 3270 meters altitude) at 8.45am. The Kalat mining camp was composed of a stone built house and few tents.

Several other small camps were located higher and lower in the mountain. We were welcome by the miners which where surprised to see two foreigners coming to visit them. They were nevertheless looking very happy to see us and after this difficult walk we had no problem to make them understand how happy we were to be able to share with them some rest and some food.


After a rapid visit of the camp we could enjoy before to enter the main camp house to take a solid breakfast the beautiful sight over the valley and the surrounding mountains.


The house was composed of 2 rooms. The first one se to store some mining equipment including a diesel powered hand drill while the second one was used to cook, eat, rest and sleep. After our arrival the miners invited us to share a solid breakfast composed of tea, bread, cream and honey. After this 3 hours hard walk it was most welcome and appreciated...

Here is a short movie taken while taking a rest with the Mukeni miners waiting our meal to be ready.

After the breakfast we started our visit of the mining tunnels surrounding the house.
We visited there 5 tunnels scatered around the house and we could see that around 20 miners were working around the place. Other mining camps were visible lower at a place called Badamustan and on the other side of the valley at Zara Kel. The Zara Kel area was told us to produce excellent stones, some of the best in the Panjshir but we sadly could not verify this information.
The deepest tunnel at Kalat was around 30 meters deep and the area was told us to be worked for 3 years. The Kalat miners told us that they are mining during summer and winter time, they avoid spring and autumn.
Here is a short movie showing Commandan Ayub presenting us how to recover emeralds using a simple steel stick in a mining tunnel in Mukeni mining area (Panjshir valley, Afghanistan). He is mining emerald since their discovery in Panjshir at the end of the 1970's .

In the Panjshir valley we were told that it was due to the fact that walking in the mountains was dangerous due to the weather conditions. In winter when the snow is covering the mountains, mining can be performed more safely as the snow is more stable than in spring and autumn.

After spending the morning with the miners we shared with them a great lunch eating some delicious rice with some mutton and continued our visit in the afternoon looking at stones and visiting other mining galleries. We could see at the mine some interesting specimens in matrix but also some loose stones.
While negotiating the prices with the miners it was interesting to see that the negotiation was performed "the old Burmese way" by touching each other hand under a scarf...
Then we started our return to the Mukeni village. At the entrance of the village we had a stop to eat as much "toot" as we could. It was great time as the tree were covered by these delicious fruits.
The Panjshir valley was then a real orchard... A truly beautiful and peaceful place.
We took a good rest near the river and went to Mukeni where we stayed again in a local house.
After several meeting with people curious to see foreigners in their village we had another great diner and spent the night.

I would like to add that this trip to Afghanistan was a great adventure for us as Guillaume and myself were willing to visit this country so much for many years. I was not disapointed... We have spend in Kabul, Jagdalek or in the Panjshir valley some exceptional moments with wonderful people. At a time during summer 2006, when the news from Afghanistan were not very motivating for people to go there, after thinking again to all what we went through, I was very happy not to have listen my friends and colleagues who told me that I should not visit Afghanistan at the moment. It has been a great trip and I want to say that we were particularly touched by the Afghan people we met and we hope that we will be able to meet them again soon hopefully under better times.

A short study about Emeralds from Afghanistan:

The material for this study were obtained in Mukeni and Bizmal mining areas (directly from the miners ourside the mines) in June 2006 and at Peshawar (Pakistan) gem market also during summer 2006.

Rough Panjshir emeralds in Peshawar (Pakistan) gem market... At the time of our visit Panjshir emeralds were available mostly in small sizes as emeralds from this origin over 10 carats are rare. Nevertheless we heard about cut stones up to 20 carats but were not able to see them during our visit.
In Peshawar gem market when asking about Afghan emeralds you may also encounter green beryl from the Laghman province, which is also an Afghan province. Laghman is located between Kabul and the Pakistani border. Typically green beryl from Laghman are not green enough to be called emerald. But attractive large size and clean light green stones are produced in that area.
Details on a large parcel of emeralds crystals from Panjshir valley. We can notice the high transparency of these crystals.

Brief summary of the gemological properties of 7 Emeralds from the Panjshir valley, Afghanistan:

Color: Green to Bluish Green and to yellowish green. Zoning common, color from light to medium dark.
Refractive Index:
1,575 to 1,584 and 1,583 to 1,591
Birefringence: 0,006
Specific Gravity: 2,68 to 2,74 (measured on small samples hosting some large inclusions...)
Dichroism: Moderate: Yellowish Green and Bluish Green.
Optic Sign: Uniaxial Negative
Chealsea Filter: three stones on seven had a brownish reaction, others were rather inert.
SWUV: brownish to red.
LWUV: Inert to brownish.
Origin of Color: Chromium and vanadium.
Inclusions: As it can be seen in the following microphotographs, multiphase phases inclusions with sometimes up to six or seven different solids (usualy halite, sylvite and possibly some carbonates), two liquids and a gas can be present in Panjshir emeralds. This indicate the high salinity and evaporative origin of the parent fluids. It is interesting to note that the fuilds in these emeralds may contain a greater variety of minerals compared to what is commonly seen in emeralds from Colombia, which usualy contain only halite, while fluids in emeralds from Pakistan usualy do not contain any solids. Another interesting difference is the shape of the fluid inclusions: The common "jagged" design seen in many emeralds from Colombia is not commonly seen in emeralds from Panjshir but it may nevertheless be found (as we can see in photo number 4).
References, interesting links, articles and books: See here.

3) Visit to the Jagdalek ruby mining area (July 2006):

On June 30th 2006 we came back to Kabul in order to take our plane to Dushambe in Tajikistan.
After our expedition to the spinel and ruby mines in Tajikistan we came back to Kabul by plane on July 22, 2006 in order to continue our program in Afghanistan and then continue our trip to Pakistan and China. We scheduled then a visit to the Jagdalek ruby mining area in the south of Sorobi. You can follow our expedition using the following map, photos and comments.

Using Google Earth, you can now follow our expeditions and explore gem mining areas downloading the placemarks we prepared.
Just download them clicking on the icon on the left to follow our Expedition to the Jagdalek ruby mining area, Afghanistan.


On July 23rd 2006 we took several arrangements for our visit to the Jagdalek mining area and spent also some time visiting the shops at "chicken street". On July 24th we left Kabul in a Sorobi police car with "Comandan" Khan, Sorobi police chief, a native of Jagdalek.
Along with "Comandan" Khan, was his relative Ashoor and several armed policemen. Ashoor, an English speaking Jagdalek ruby dealer was our translator as "Comandan Khan" was not English or French speaking.
On the way to Jagdalek, we took this time the direct road linking Kabul to Sarobi, it was the road we could not take while we first came to Kabul in June as we were traveling using a simple local taxi and not a Sorobi police car. The drive was very nice it took us just a little more than one hour to reach Sorobi which was a pleasure compared to the five hours it took us on Lataban dusty mountain road.
The drive was nice and the road works were not a difficulty. I was several time some thinks for my notebook which was destroyed in the back of our taxi during our crazy drive to Kabul on the Lataban road...
This drive was a real pleasure as we could also enjoy the presence of Comandan Khan and the comments of our translator Ashoor.
Around 20 km from Kabul we saw on the other side of the stream some obvious sign of mining. Ashoor explained us that this place was known as "Shar Marsood", it is a very old mine producing some yellow jade. We could sadly not verify this information. If we saw no miners, three tunnels entrance were very visible on the cliff.
After a lunch at Sorobi police station we took the road to Jagdalek.
On the following modified satelite map created from Google Earth on which you can discover a view over Jagdalek village and the ruby mining area in the east of the village. You can see the long white bands which are in fact the trenches in the white marble reaching the surface on these arid mountain area.
After driving one hour and half on a dusty rocky road we arrived in a greener valley in which the Jagdalek village (3426'4.66"N 6945'44.31"E) is located. Ashoor told us that currently around 150 people were living in Jagdalek but many Jagdalek people are also living mainly in Kabul, Peshawar or Karachi while other as "Comandan" Khan are serving in the Sorobi police force.
The Jagdalek rubies are found on the mountains on the East of the Jagdalek village. The first thing we saw arriving there besides the white marble on the mountains, near the mining trenches, was a police camp placed here in order to secure the area and control illegal mining.
The fact is that it is two years now that mining in Jagdalek is illegal. The Afghan government is currently keeping the area for potential investors as the Jagdalek people were not very eager to pay the 10% Tax they were supposed to pay. Another reason explaining why the mines are closed is possible mining right problem between the people from the Jagdalek village and the people from the Sapara village for the control of the mines.
As a result we visited a deserted Jagdalek mining area. More precisely we visited the Khalwat area (3426'55.95"N 6948'41.47"E).
If during our visit of the mining area we could not see any miner. We saw in different places obvious sign of recent mining meaning that some illegal mining is taking place in the area. Later in Peshawar we were told that some local people are mining the area at night. It is low scale mining of course as illegal miners dont use any machinery in order to keep their activities more secret.
The jagdalek mining area we visited is globally composed of 5 areas located globally on a west to east line starting with Tchak, Pairadera, Injuno Gaspei, Karun Sapara (where the Sorobi police camp in located), Lalpara and Khalwat. The oldest mining area was located a little bit on the north on 2 areas known as Shakar Kalrana and Loilkakhan. Some mining are also possibly occurring in some other areas we did not see or visited.

During of visit on July 24th, we visited trenches only in the Khalwat and Lalpara areas but as here from the height of Lalpara we could distinct other mining trenches like here the Karun Sapara mining trenches.

Here is a panoramic video from the Lalpura with view over the Khalwat, Lapura and then Karun Sapara mining trenches in Jagdalek ruby mining area.

In Jagdalek, rubies are located in marbles. As the Jagdalek marbles are occuring as vertical bands, the mines are in fact deep trenches which can go as deep as 50 to 60 meters.
It is very interesting and surprising to see that te Jagdalek mountains are mostly cut by 2 deep trenches following the marble layers.
In Khalwat mining area, dominating the Salnow village, we could visit some of these impressive trenches.

In the video on the right you can have an idea about the mining trenches in Khalwat area of the Jagdalek ruby mining area, Afghanistan

All the marble there had been removed except some "bridges" creating attractive arch like architecture covering the deep ponds of the flooded mines.
Currently the Jagdalek mines we visited are flooded as no official mining is performed there and as a result nobody is spending any money to pump the water that flood the deep trenches.
Visiting the Khalwat mining area in Jagdalek and witnessing the flooded areas I was of course thinking of the visit I did in the Bawpadan and Kadot Tad ruby mining areas in Mogok where the Burmese are digging sometime up to 200 meters deep in the mountain to find rubies. There flooding is a major problem and each mining campaign start there with one month of intensive pumping of underground waters which is not without cost especially when the petrol prices are raising. With the raising petrol prices, probably the Jagdalek miners are facing the same type of financial problems as the Mogok miners are facing in Burma.
If the visit to this impressive landscape was a pleasure to us it was quite sad for us not to be able to see in Jagdalek any active mining group. Our friends told us that few years ago around 200 to 300 miners were working the different areas. At this time a mining team was globally composed of around 8 to 10 men sharing equally the production among them as 8 to 10 shares. Besides these miner share there was one more share for to the person providing the food to the team, and 2 others to the persons providing the explosives and the drilling machine. As a result typically the production was typically divided in 13 if the team was composed of 10 miners. We were told that in case of high petrol prices one more share could be given to the person providing the fuel to drill and to pump...


After our visit to the mines we came back to the Jagdalek village were we had a great dinner and a good night. In the morning several Jagdalek people came to see us while we were taking our coffee under a tree near the house.

We were then presented some interesting and beautiful specimens in matrix and also some loose stones.

Typically the Jagdalek rubies are found in white marble associated with mica, graphite and pyrite.


After this great morning and great trip, we said goodbye to the Jagdalek people and took again the road back to Sorobi where we left our Sorobi police escort. Then we took a local taxi to drive again to Jalalabad and the Afghan-Pakistani border at Torkham on the Kaiber pass.

We left then definitively Afghanistan and traveled one more time through the Kaiber pass to reach Peshawar and then Islamabad where we prepared our trip to the Chinese emerald mines.


5) Special thanks and interesting links:

I would like to add that this trip to Afghanistan was a great adventure for us as Guillaume and myself were willing to visit this country so much for many years. I was not disapointed... We have spend in Kabul, Jagdalek or in the Panjshir valley some exceptional moments with wonderful people. At a time during summer 2006, when the news from Afghanistan were not very motivating for people to go there, after thinking again to all what we went through, I was very happy not to have listen my friends and colleagues who told me that I should not visit Afghanistan at the moment. It has been a great trip and I want to say that we were particularly touched by the Afghan people we met and we hope that we will be able to meet them again soon hopefully under better times.

I would like to particularly thanks for their precious help the Azizi family and especially Rahim and Nureddin, our friends from the French NGO "Solidarite" for their welcome and support in Kabul, and also Kadir and Parvez from Peshawar as without them this trip would have been simply impossible.
We also dont want to forget to thanks:
- Guy Clutterbuck and Richard Hughes for their support to build this trip and their friendship.
- ICA Vice president Jean Claude Michelou, ICA Director Barbara Litapanlop for their precious help and of course Henry Ho, the AIGS Gemological Laboratory in Bangkok, Thailand and the Gubelin Gem Lab in Luzern, Switzerland for their financial support.
Finaly I want to associate to these thanks: Gary Bowersox as his books: "Gemstones from Afghanistan", "The gem Hunter" and his website: were very precious to prepare our summer 2006 expedition.

Interesting Links and Bibliography about Gemstones from Afghanistan:
"The rubies and spinels from Afghanistan, a brief story" by Richard Hughes, author of "Ruby and sapphire".
"Ruby and Sapphire from Jagdalek, Afghanistan" by Gary W. Bowersox, Eugene E. Foord, Brendan M. Laurs, James E. Shigley, and Christopher P. Smith an article first published in Gems & Gemology, Summer, 2000
"Emeralds of the Panjsher Valley, Afghanistan" by Gary W. Bowersox, Lawrence W.Snee, Eugene E. Ford and Robert R.Seal II, first published in Gems & Gemology, Spring, 1991
"Fluid inclusions in Panjshir emeralds (Afghanistan)" by Ye. Vapnik and I. Moroz
"A Status Report On Gemstones from Afghanistan" By Gary W. Bowersox, first published in Gems & Gemology, Winter, 1985
"Emerald miners in the Panjshir valley" a beautiful audio slideshow about mining emerald in Khenj valley in winter.
"Gems of Afghanistan": A good summary of Afghan gem wealth by
"Afghanistan Mining journal": An interesting pdf document about Afghanistan mining potential.
"Afghanistan Geological Survey": The official website of Afghanistan Geological survey.
"Minerals in Afghanistan": Another interesting pdf document.
"The Pegmatites of Laghman, Nuristan, Afghanistan" by J.F. Poullen
"Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan" by Peter Bancroft
"Afghanistan gems in jeopardy" an interesting article by Robert Weldon, for Profesional jeweler.
"Buying Gemstones in Afghanistan?" An interesting page by Jeff Graham for those traveling in Afghanistan and willing to buy gems.
"Investment news": An interesting article from the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington DC website.
"Afghanistan's Emerald Heights: The gem-studded mountains are a pot of gold for anti-Taliban forces." by Lucian Kim printed in the Gemstone Forecaster Vol 18, No 3
"Northern alliance veteran hopes emeralds are key part of Afghanistan's economic recovery", by Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
"On Kunz and kunzite" by Lawrence H. Conklin
"Emeraudes de Bactriane: mythe ou Realite, La valle du Panjshir (Afghanistan)" by F.H. Forestier & D.H. Piat, published in "L'Emeraude" by the "Association Francaise de Gemmologie"
"Le Bouzkachi des Emeraudes, Les Emeraudes de la Vallee du Panjshir" by D. Giard published in "L'Emeraude" by the "Association Francaise de Gemmologie"
"Emeralds from the Panjshir Valley (Afghanistan)" by J.Filal,W.Heflik, L. Natkaniec-Nowak and A.Szczepaniak, in Z.Dt.Gemmol.Ges. 53/4, 2004
"New data on Emeralds from the Panjshir Valley (Afghanistan)" by Michal Sachanbinskl, Anita Weber-Weller, Tomasz Sobczak, 2003
"Lapis Lazuli from Sar-E-Sang, Badakhshan, Afghanistan" by W.Heflik and L.Natkaniec-Nowak, in Z.Dt.Gemmol.Ges. 52/1, 2003
"Fieldtrip to Western Himalayan Ruby and Emerald Mines" On Gubelin Gem Lab website.
Interesting General Links about rubies, sapphires and emeralds:
"Ruby and Sapphire" Richard Hughes website
"Ruby buying guide" by Richard Hughes on Palagems website
"Corunduminium" An excellent website by corundum passionate William Wheirman with many photos of ruby and sapphire specimens from all around the world.
"Ruby, Corundum variety" for Geoheavens website by Aloysius Han
"Mineralogical and geochemical study of the Regal Ridge Emerald showing, Southeastern Yukon" an interesting geological study about emeralds from Yukon with some comparison about emerald from other deposits inclusing Afghanistan.
"Historique des gisements d'émeraude et identification des émeraudes anciennes", Gaston Giuliani, Marc Chaussidon, Henri-Jean Schubnel, Daniel H. Piat, Claire Rollion-Bard, Christian France-Lanord, Didier Giard, Daniel de Narvaez, Benjamin Rondeau.

Recommended Books about Gems and Afghanistan:
"The Gem Hunter", True adventures of an American in Afghanistan by Gary W.Bowersox. in this book G.W.Bowersox tells his own personal story of over 30 years spent searching for precious gems in the mountains and valleys of rugged Afghanistan. This book was very helpful to me for the preparation of my expedition in summer 2006. Thanks Gary to have taken the time to write it!
"Gemstones of Afghanistan" by Gary W. Bowersox and Bonita E. Chamberlain. It is the first book ever written on the geology, history and lore of the gems and minerals of this war ravaged crossraods between the Near East and the Far East. Very detailed, it was a very useful ressource to prepare my expedition: Highly recommended.
"Les Cavaliers" by Joseph Kessel. If this book has nothing to do with gemstones, it is one of the first book I've read about Afghanistan. I've loved it and I want here to recommend it to people willing to discover another world from home... The book is about the "Buzkachi" and its famous "Tchopendoz"... An old horse game still visible during great occasion in the Panjshir valley and other parts of Afghanistan.
Recommended Books about emeralds:
"L'emeraude" by the "Association Francaise de Gemmologie" in association with the the CNRS and ORSTOM (In French) from infrared spectroscopy to geology, history, mining and treatment, it is probably the most complete work available in the market. Written as a series of papers by leading experts in the domain. Highly recommended.
"Emeralds of the world" Extra Lapis No 2: The legendary green Beryl: With beautiful photos, it is a very complete work very up to date with much details about each known deposits and great chapters also about gemology, treatments and famous gems. A must for everybody willing to learn more about emeralds.
"Emeralds and other beryls" by John Sinkankas. Written at the start of the 1980's it does not tell about emerald from Panjshir. This old book is nevertheless very interesting for people appreciating old style books. This book is a great complement to newer books on the subject. Difficult to find but still one of my favorites...
Recommended Books about rubies and sapphires:
"Ruby and Sapphire" by Richard W.Hughes. Well no real need to present the current "bible" about rubies and sapphires. My favorite book on the subject and the book responsible for my desire to become a gemologist. A great chapter in this book covers Afghanistan and Jagdalek rubies...

Introduction: Presentation of the AIGS, Gubelin Gem Lab, ICA 2006 fieldtrip to central Asia: (visit here)

Part 1: Pakistan: The Central Asian capital of the gemstone trade. (visit here)

Part 2: Afghanistan: Land of beautiful gems and unique people. (current page)

Part 3: Tajikistan 2006: Gems from the Pamirs. (visit here)

Part 4: China (Xin Jiang) 2006: Emeralds from the silk road (visit here)

You can also visit our 2005 fieldtrip reports:

Part 1: Introduction: Fieldtrips to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma (visit here)

Part 2: Report about Vietnam (April - May 2005) (visit here)

Part 3: Report about Sri Lanka (May 2005) (visit here)

Part 4: Report about Madagascar (June- July 2005) (visit here)

Part 5: Report about Kenya (July 2005) (visit here)

Part 6: Report about Tanzania (August 2005) (visit here)


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Important Note: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok. GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.