Afghanistan is an important historical source of both rubies and sapphires. Early traders, including Marco Polo, were impressed by corundum from Afghanistan, which was traded thousands of miles from its source. Rubies from this country were mentioned in Arabic writings of many of the early explorers, and it is clear that the Badakhshan mines was a leading supplier of ruby for almost 1,000 years from 1000-1900 A.D.
Prospects for future production in Afghanistan are considered favorable if the political climate stabilizes and governmental policies are relaxed. At present, many rubies are smuggled into Pakistani markets through the long and porous border shared by the two countries.
Natural rubies marketed in Thailand have also been traced to Afghan deposits. The Afghan government is also allowing local merchants to sell gemstones at military bases, which means goods are leaving the country with foreign military personnel.
The size of the Afghan ruby deposits is a source of speculation. Although Westerners “discovered” the deposits near Jagdalek at the end of the 19th century, the mines in this area were probably worked for many centuries. Because the altitude is relatively low, the mines can be worked year-round; however, only limited quantities of gem-quality rubies are found. Yields at the Jagdalek mine are estimated to be about 85 percent sapphire and 15 percent ruby.
Afghan rubies are typically pinkish or raspberry red. Many exhibit color zoning , including patches of blue. Afghan rubies are found in a marble matrix and they have a strong fluorescence. Beautiful stones, it is hard to keep track of them as much of the supply is heavily plundered by thieves and corrupt officials. As the region continues to stabilize, there is great opportunity for the ruby market to be managed and improved.