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Rubies from Afghanistan

Afghan rubies are marble hosted, meaning they typically range from purplish red to red, and fluoresce brightly. They also frequently have blue color-zoning. The vast majority of rubies from this country are not facet grade, more often cabochon or frequently carving grade.


Untreated Afghanistan ruby left, heated ruby of comparable quality right – Photo by Ted Themelis

Ruby Mining in Afghanistan

While not well-known as a ruby source, Afghanistan is a historical producer of rubies going back hundreds of years. The main documented point is Jegdalek for rubies. If the political climate and government policies in the nation relaxed, Afghanistan could be a large ruby supplier. Presently many rubies are smuggled into Pakistan, with some even making their way to the markets in Thailand. Much of the material that does get mined is often taken by thieves and/or corrupt officials.

While Western surveying detected mines in the area around Jagdalek going back to the 19th century, the mines were in production long before. While mining can be done year-round, most of the corundum output is sapphires with much less ruby production. Gem-quality material is also rare.

Why the Low Production

The key to Afghanistan’s low gem production has less to do with its mining viability and more to do with its extensive conflicts and population displacement. While there is only one documented ruby mine, Jegdalek, there are most likely others hidden around the country in the midst of conflict in the region. For the senior researcher of the Ruby and Sapphire from Jegdalek Afghanistan article, they experienced nightly rocket attacks when visiting the mining area. The article may be over 20 years old, but it speaks to the long and ongoing history of conflicts in the area. Furthermore, these conflicts have destroyed a number of records pertaining to geological data amongst other topics.

Why No One Buys from Conflict Zones

Purchasing gems from politically tumultuous locations is not a good idea for any number of reasons.

  • Unstable supply.
  • Risk of having paid supply stolen, damaged, etc.
  • Further funding of conflict.

Aside from practical reasons not to buy from such sources, there are ethical components too. The money used to buy gems from such conflict sources will go towards items like vehicles, guns, and bombs. This is why many countries make it a point not to buy gems from sources in the middle of wars and conflicts.

Sources

Gary W. Bowersox, Eugene E. Foord, Brendan M. Laurs, James E. Shigley, and Christopher P. Smith. Ruby and Sapphire from Jegdalek, Afghanistan. “GEMS & GEMOLOGY.” 2000.

Source: Ted Themelis. The Heat Treatment of Ruby and Sapphire Second Edition. Self-Published. 2010.