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.
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.
Index page: Vincent Pardieu's Blog
About the Author
About me : How did a countryside Frenchman became a "Shameless travel addicted gemologist"? ( Under construction)
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:
- Introduction to AIGS/ICA/Gubelin Gem lab 2005 Expeditions
Special 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 STUDY GEMOLOGY?
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:
Summer 2006: Gemmological expedition report to Ruby, Emerald and Spinel mining areas in Central Asia.
Part 1: Pakistan: A field trip to the Central Asian capital of the gemstone trade.
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. (current page)
Part 2: Afghanistan: Land of beautiful gems and unique people. (visit here)
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 done by AIGS gemological laboratory director Vincent Pardieu to Afghanistan. This fieldtrip was part of the expedition supported by AIGS and Gubelin gemological laboratories with the help of ICA to the Western Hymalaya range during summer 2006. Along with him during this expedition was Guillaume Soubiraa, a Madagascar based French gemologist, who studied gemology at AIGS Bangkok in 2006. During this expedition Pakistan was our main fieldtrip base. We arrived in Islamabad and after few days preparing visas and plane tickets, we left for Namak Mandi, Peshawar's gem market which visit is very informative about the area mining activity. At Namak Mandi we could see rubies from Jagdalek, Tajikistan and to a less extend from Kashmir, then regarding emeralds we could see many stones from Panjshir, Swat and from the new mining area in Davdar, China. From Peshawar we visited the Mingora emerald mine in Swat valley before leaving to Afghanistan and Tajikistan. After our return in Pakistan through Peshawar, we returned to Islamabad to fly to Kashgar in China. Then we took the Karakoram highway driving south to enter again Pakistan at Sost on the Kunjerab pass. After our return in Islamabad we went to Muzafarabad to explore the Neelam valley and reach the Kashmir ruby mine at Nangimali. We were able to visit these mines, witness the miners work and study the production.
Introduction: Pakistan is both a gemstone producer, the regional trading center for gemstones from Central Asia and also a jewelry cutting and manufactory center. Most of the good cut and the jewelry manufacturing was told us to be done in Karachi while most of the gemstone trading is performed in Namak Mandi gem market in Peshawar. If we did not visit Karachi we have spent one week in Peshawar to see what was available regarding rubies and emeralds. Pakistan was during this two months field trip our main base. After arriving from Bangkok to Islamabad, we went to visit Peshawar and the emerald Swat deposit. Then we left by road to Afghanistan and Tajikistan and came back one month after to Peshawar after a long drive through the Kaiber pass from the Jagdalek ruby mines. We took then a flight to Kashgar in Chinese Xin Jiang to visit the emerald mines and came back to Pakistan by bus driving over the Kunjerab pass to Gilgit and then continuing to Islamabad all along the Karakoram highway with a 30 hours drive. Then we left to Muzafarabad and the neelam valley to reach Kel and the famous Kashmir ruby mines at Nangimali. A difficult trip as the area was still suffering of the consequences of the terrible earthquake that killed over 90.000 people in the area in September 2005.
We invite you to follow our Summer 2006 fieldtrip to Pakistan and Central Asia using the potential given by the free software Google Earth. Just download and install it, then using our placemarks 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.
A) The Namak Mandi, Gem market, Peshawar: Few minutes after our arrival in Peshawar we were on the way to the Namak Mandi gemstone market. This small area composed around two tiny streets is Central Asia main gemstone trading center. It is a interesting and pictoral place in which streets and coffee shops are full of Afghan looking men. Namak Mandi is one of this place were people are quietly busy drinking tea, walking in the street, speaking to each other.
As in many trading center one of the best way to look at stones there is to use a local as broker, sit in his office and wait actively for the stones to come. During the week we stayed in Namak Mandi we focussed on rubies and emeralds and had sadly no real time to look at the other stones present in the market. But we saw rapidly some attractive tourmalines, topaz, aquamarine and also some interesting collector stones.
As expected rubies were plentiful. Most of the stones were the traditional pinkish to red rubies coming from Jagdalek in Afghanistan and very attractive pinkish to red stone from the new deposit in the Murgap area in Tajikistan. We saw also some few purplish and dark red stones which were told us to origin from the Batakundi area and very few bright red small stones from the Nangimali deposit in Kashmir. But these stones were very rare in the market. Despite our effort we were surprised not to be able to see any ruby from the Hunza valley. Globally cut stones were more easy to see than rough stones as the local dealers prefer usually to cut the stones before to show them. On the other hand fine crystals and mineral specimens were easily available from specialized dealers. Surprisingly we did not saw any synthetics in the market, possibly as our broker did a good work selecting the dealers and the parcels which were presented to us. The only place in Pakistan we were presented some synthetic was at a dealer office in Islamabad when a dealer presented us some interesting stones that were presented to him as rubies in matrix and which turned finally to be synthetic stones glued to some white matrix looking compound.
Nevertheless, Namak mandi market was not without tricks as we saw several parcels of suspicious pinkish low quality rubies which were presented to us several times by the same young dealers as Jagdalek stones. As the parcels were obviously coming from Andilamena in Madagascar and were a mixture of heated and lead glass filled stones we rapidly nicknamed the two young dealers: "Jagdamene" and "Madaganistan"...
Emeralds: Regarding emeralds, Namak Mandi market is also a fascinating place as the pockets of the dealers are there full of emeralds from Panjshir, Swat, Lakhman, Gilgit and also from the new mine located near the village of Davdar in Chinese Xin Jiang. Most of the Panjshir and all the Swat emeralds we saw were small stones and largest attractive emerald we saw was told us to be from Chinese origin. Most of the Swat material was the traditional small size stones with strong color zoning and high saturation which are known to come from the area. The Panjshir stones were commonly larger than the Swat emeralds, they had for the best quality an attractive luster in a wide range of green from yellowish green to bluish green. Finally the chinese material was usually more saturated and more evenly colored than the Panjshir stones with bluish green being the dominant color but globaly the Chinese emeralds had a lower luster and transparency compared to the gems from the Panjshir mines. For emeralds as for rubies it has to be understood that the local dealers have probably rapidly understood that we were not big buyers but gemologists searching some samples which were more looking than buying.
As a result it is likely that many stones were not shown to us. Our report of the Namak mandi market is as a result to be seen only as what it is: A far to be complete glimpse of what Namak Mandi produce.
GGIP: The Gem and Gemological Institute of Peshawar: Besides visiting the Namak Mandi market we went also to visit the GGIP, located near Peshawar tourism office. In this institute, supported by the government of Pakistan, local people can learn how to cut and carve gemstones for a very reasonable fee. The complete course is about 10 months as following: Gemstone cutting four months, gemstone carving four months and finally gemology: two months. The cutting classrooms were well equipped with Japanese made machines and their local imitations. At the time of our visit, the GGIP has just signed an agreement with AIGS gemological school in Bangkok, Thailand in order to offer in the future in Peshawar the complete gemological course currently available in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. With a 6 months complete gemological course (including three months stuying gemstone identification, one months working on diamonds, one on colored stones grading and finally one month learning about how to identify synthetics and treatments) and its eight months cutting course, Peshawar will probably become an interesting place to study, but sadly it was still not clear if foreigners would be allowed to study in the future at the GGIP.
Nevertheless studying both gemology and gem cutting in a traditional trading center like Peshawar is in my opinion one of the best choice for a young person willing to discover the fascinating universe of the gem trade.
B) A field trip to the MINGORA Emerald Mine, Swat Valley, Pakistan:
Here is a modified satelite map created from Google Earth on which you can follow our summer 2006 fieldtrip to the Mingora Emerald Mine (34°47'20"N 72°22'11"E) in the Swat valley. You can see on the following view that the mines are very close to the Mingora City.
On June 21st 2006, In order to complete our study of the emerald market in Pakistan, we had a one day field trip to the Swat province to visit the famous Mingora emerald mine and the Mingora Gemstone market. The Swat province is known to produce emeralds since the 1960's. At this time the mines were working under the rule of the Prince of Swat. In 1969 they passed under the gemstone corporation of Pakistan until its dissolution.
Since 1995 they are under the control of the Provincial Government of the NWFP and are operated by private operators under lease agreement that can be obtained from an auction system. We were told that there are several mining areas in the Swat valley with the main operation few hundreds meters over the Mingora city (34.46.43N 072.21.30E). This main operation operate using 2 mining methods: open pit and tunnel mining. We were able to visit both of them despite the fact that the mine was currently closed due to a legal case between the local government and the operator.
At the Mingora mine, the emeralds are found there as we could see in a "whitish silvery" or white talc schist matrix. We saw 3 mining tunnels located over the area where the open pit mining was formerly performed. We visited the lowest of these three tunnels. It was a 20 meters deep tunnel penetrating horizontally inside the mountain. This strait tunnel had one side gallery on the left around 7 meters after the entry. We did not visited the side gallery.
If the production at Mingora has officially stopped we were told that some mining is currently present in some other less important areas at Shamoozi on the north west of Mingora, Gudjurkali near Malanjaba in the east of Mingora and in the Shangla district further in the east of Mingora but we were not able to visit these areas.
We could see some small quantities of rough or cut Swat material both at the Mingora and Peshawar markets, local dealers were globally agree that the biggest fine quality Swat emerald they have seen was around 5 carats size after cut while most of the material under 1 carat size. The Mingora market was interesting as we could see there some interesting emeralds from the new Davdar mining area in China and a parcel of big crystals of an average low quality told to origin from the Gilgit area.
C) A field trip to the NANGIMALI ruby Mining area, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan:
We left Islamabad to Muzafarabad on August 5th 2006 after our return from China with a car and a Mr Sardar Saeed Akhtar, geologist and assistant director at the Geological Survey of Pakistan. We drove through beautiful mountains covered with forests which was a pleasure after these 2 months spend on arid areas. On August 6th, we tried to take the road to Kel following the Neelam river but the heavy monsoon rains during the previous days created many landslides.
These landslide were more numerous than usually as the land was damaged by a major earthquake in October 2005 killing more than 90.000 people. Finally we returned to Muzafarabad. On August 7th as the roads were still blocked we decided to abandon our car, we took our bags and crossed the landslides walking. It was quite dangerous as the ground was not stabilized and rocks were regularly falling from the top of the mountain but nobody was wounded. We then continued walking until we found a vehicle willing to take us to the next landslide. We took like that five different vehicles this day and arrived late at night in a remote village still 5 hours from Kel.
Here is a short movie I took on the way to the Nangimali Ruby mines. This video shows the difficulties we encountered in the Neelam valley passing the numerous landslides. The landslide presented here was less than 10 km from Muzaffarabad and it is the place we had to abandon our vehicule. Few minutes after the people you can see on the video we also passed the landslide walking. Of course walking through landslides is not at all recommended. It is very dangerous and we advise people not to follow our bad example...
On August 8th we left again early to continue our trip and arrived in Kel a little bit before lunch time to take directly a drive to Utili Domel (34° 57 67N, 74° 28 51E, 2900m altitude) the closest village to the mines. There we met Mr Mumtaz Hussain Rathore from AKMIDC (Azad Kashmir Mineral Industrial Development Corporation) which offices are in Muzafarabad. AKMIDC is the state owned company in charge of the mining.
After our arrival in Utili Domel we went on a walk to a marble cliff called Chitakata (34° 56 94N, 74° 28 39E, 2941m altitude) where one month ago they started to mine ruby. Mr Mumtaz Hussain Rathore told us that 19 kilos of ruby was mined during the last 25 working days. The miners are working in Chitakata with a pneumatic drill and around 10 people are working this new cliff. Currently the main mining operation is an horizontal tunnel wich is around 6 meters deep as it was started only around one month ago.
It was interesting to see that at the entrance of the tunnel several rubies were visible on the surface of the marble. Around 300 meters from this starting mine some older galleries are present which were mined as a test for more than 3 years and produced only very few low quality stones.
We saw the mine production composed of attractive pinkish red stones lacking of transparency to be top quality but could be possibly a suitable material for heat treatment. Rubies there are found in marble and associated with numerous pyrite and green mica (probably fushchite).
Mr Mumtaz Hussain Rathore from AKMIDC presenting to us a well crystallized ruby in its marble matrix mined at the Chitakata mine, Kashmir on August 8th 2006.
On august 9th we first went few hundred meters back in the direction of Kel to reach a mining camp named "Khora" where around 15 miners were working a placer located just under the Nangimali cliff (34° 57 14N, 74° 27 95E, 2990m altitude) The mining techniques here is mainly to search for rubies still in matrix that had fallen from the Nangimali marble cliff where are located the main mines. Besides specimens in matrix the miners told us to have found some loose eluvial rubies in the placer but the equipment used was not really suitable to wash the ground...
After this short visit to this eluvial mine, we took some horses for a 3 hours ride to the main mining camp on the Nangimali cliff.
The ride was wonderful as we were gifted with a fine weather and were able to fully appreciate the beauty of the Kashmir mountains.
We arrived at the mining camp around noon. The camps is located at (34° 57 23N, 74° 27 06E, at 3784m altitude) The camp was very well organized with several tents and stone building and walls. Located at around 30 minutes walking distance from the first mining operation, it is a nice spot which is regularly supplied by mule convoys from Utili Domel in order with mining equipment, fuel and food.
After our arrival at the camp, we met Mr. Raja M. Naseem Khan, the current mine director. He is also the geologist who was told us to have discovered the Chitakata ruby deposit few years ago.
Currently only one mining tunnel is currently producing at "Lower Khora" (34° 57 43N, 74° 27 29E, at 3851m altitude) a mining spot located on the marble cliff and dominating the Utili Domel valley from around 1000 meters. The view from the mine is really impressive as the area in which the miners work on the cliff is less than 4 meters wide and around 20 meters long between the cliff and the rock.
The mining area highest mining spot called "Nangimali Top" is located higher on the marble cliff at nearly 4500 meters altitude. This area was not in production while we visited the area. Few years ago up to 50 miners were nevertheless working at Nangimali Top but the best stones were told us to have been produced at "Lower Khora". This mine has the same name as the elluvial mine located several hundreds meters under. After a stop at the camp to meet the miners, rest and drink some tea, we walked to the "Lower Khora" mines on the Nangimali cliff.
During our visit a group of new miners were getting trained. All the mining training was performed at "Lower Khora" which was more suitable for such task than "Nangimali Top". At Lower Khora two galleries are visible, the older one is 150 meters long and took 15 years to dig, very few stones were found from this research tunnel as only 10 to 15 ruby crystals were told to have been found there.
The gallery was dig in order to evaluate the extend of the deposit. The gallery confirmed that the ruby bearing layer was extending at least 150 meters inside the cliff as it was expected. At lower Khora we were told that the work started as an open pit mine in 1994 and turned slowly to what it is now: A 60 meters long mine gallery with several lateral tunnels going up into the cliff with an inclination around 30%.
Inside the mine we could witness the mining work with a pneumatic drill. Then the miners blast the marble and the ore is take out manually outside the mine gallery on the cliff where other miners are breaking the marble taking out the rubies and rejecting the waste from the top of the cliff.
All the waste accumulate then few hundred meters lower. The mine was globally looking well organized and staffed. We had the possibility to see the day production which was small as the miners were mostly involved in training new staff.
Nevertheless we saw some small but very beautiful crystals. The mine director told us that, as an average, the mine was producing 3 to 5 clean top quality crystals over one carat per week. The mine is worked around 3 months and half per year as an average but in 2004 due to extremely good condition during the summer they were able to work up to 4 months and half which was exceptional.
After our visit to the mines we came back to the mining camp for the night and the day after went down to Utili Domel and then to Kel where we spent the night.
On August 11th 2006 we took the road back to Muzafarabad and then Islamabad as, while we visited the mines, the machines completed their work to clear the road from the numerous landslides. We were able to drive in one day from Kel to Islamabad and arrived safely after a great trip.
Nangimali, Kashmir, 09/08/2006: Group photograph at the end of the trip: Standing at the Back: The Nangimali miners, First rank seat from left to right: AIGS student Guillaume Soubiraa, AIGS Lab director Vincent Pardieu, Nangimali Mine director Raja M. Naseem Khan
Special Thanks: - To the Geological survey of Pakistan and especially Dr Kausar and Mr Sardar Saeed Akhtar, for their support and help to prepair and conduct the expedition to Nangimali. - Mr Mumtaz Hussain Rathore and Mr Raja M. Naseem Khan from AKMIDC (Azad Kashmir Mineral Industrial Development Corporation) for their welcome at the Nangimali and Chitakata ruby mines. - ICA Ambassador Ambarine Bukharey for her friendship and support during all our expeditions in Pakistan. - Kadir, Parvez, Ebrahim and all the friendly people we met in Peshawar, your help and warm welcome was really appreciated. - Guy Clutterbuck and Richard Hughes for support and friendship. - ICA president Joe Menzie, ICA Vice president Jean Claude Michelou, ICA director Barbara Litapanlop, and of course Henry Ho, the AIGS Gemological Laboratory in Bangkok, Thailand and the Gubelin Gem Lab in Luzern, Switzerland for their constant support.
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. (current page)
Part 2: Afghanistan: Land of beautiful gems and unique people. (visit here)
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)
To translate this page into your language: click on your language flag on the Babel fish icon Nevertheless please understand that the translation might be incorrect as this translation tool is far to be perfect:
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.