Because Pakistan and Afghanistan share a long and porous border, rubies are often smuggled out of Afghanistan and sold in Pakistani markets. As a result, many are not aware that Pakistan has its own wealth of gemstone deposits simply because they remain underexploited.
Known ruby deposits in Pakistan are located in the North-West Frontier Province, the Northern Areas, and in Azad Kashmir. The Pakistani government is currently leasing parcels of five acres in seven ruby mines in the Besal District, Mansehra, in an effort to promote interest in mining.
A massive earthquake in 2005 made transportation to and from the Nangimali mines nearly impossible, although limited production has continued. The lack of investment in continued infrastructure rebuilding and the prominence of archaic tools makes it very difficult to establish a consistent supply.
Although the Pakistani government is promoting foreign investment and development, the mining industry in the country is still in its infancy. The situation is complicated by the fact that many potentially productive mines are located in remote and inhospitable regions, at or above 15,000 feet. The weather is extremely harsh and mining year round is not feasible. Nevertheless, experts are optimistic about the future of ruby production in the country.
The rubies of Pakistan are found in primary deposits of marble. They have a red to purplish red color and a strong fluorescence . The southern port city of Karachi also once stood as the biggest market for gemstones in Pakistan. But after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1970s, the city of Peshawar in that neighboring country quickly overshadowed Karachi.
Pakistan continues to have an uphill battle to expand and enhance its ruby mining, the greatest of which being the political and economic upheavals that plague the region. Hopefully the 21st century will see great improvements in this area and open up the gem market to Pakistan.
Rounding out our discussion of ruby regions of the world, now let’s jump into the fantastic history of this bewitching gemstone with Rubies in Antiquity.