Dushanbe, Tajikistan December 2005 Geology Museum Visit!

This is Bakhtiar Yorov. Bakhtiar was the one responsible for approving our visas to Tajikistan at the Washington DC Tajik consulate and helped greatly in putting us in touch with the right people for information on Tajikistan's Gemstone deposits. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet Bakhtiar in Tajikistan as he had returned from his post at DC.

This is Bakhtiar's Father, Zuhur Yo Yorov, the Head of the "Honored Geology of USSR Academician of Engineering Academy." Zuhur gave us a rundown of the history of some of the Pamir Gemstone deposits as he has spent the better portion of his life in the field holding various administrative titles for the Government of Tajikistan. He explained how the Ruby and Spinel deposits in the Pamirs are Government owned and the miners are Government employees. All the material unearthed at the deposits is suppose to be sent to the Ministry of Treasury/Finance located in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. From here the government sells the stones to the Public.

Zuhur gave us a general production rundown of Spinel (referred to as "Lal" in Tajikistan - Lal is generally the reference for Ruby in most of the neighboring countries and literally translates to Red so it was unusual to hear of Spinel being referred to as Lal in Tajikistan and Ruby as Ruby or Rubyn). Zuhur informed us that general production for Facet Grade Spinel since 1997 averaged around 10 Kilos annually according to Government data (Most likely far less than actual production from what we saw first hand). He did not give us a breakdown of sizes unfortunately; however, he did say that the largest Spinel found to date was 5,300 Grams and had clean areas that that surpassed 100 Grams. In addition, he said the cleanest Spinel he was aware of weighed in at 200 or so Grams and was eye-clean. The Spinel Mines are located near Khorog, the capital of Gorno Badakshan - the Pamir region near the border with Afghanistan, at an altitude of 3,000 Meters. This is roughly the same altitude as the Peridot mines in Supatt, Pakistan though much more easily accessible. The area has direct ethnic ties to the Badakshan area of Northern Afghanistan which is also ethnically Tajik.

This is Bakhtiar's brother Iftikhar Yorov. He helped put us in touch with contacts in Khorog which probably is the center for the Gemstone "trade." It is important to note that it is still illegal to purchase, sell or carry rough or cut gemstones in Tajikistan unless purchased through the Government and we would NOT advise anyone to venture into the country to purchase rough outside of Government sources without thorough research and good contacts. The sad reality is that the bulk of the gemstone trade in Tajikistan is technically illegal and most of the rough finds its way out of the country illegally. Many government employees are directly involved in the trade including the Miners that work at the deposits.

Bakhtiar and Iftikhar giving us the guided tour of the Geological Museum with the "curator." It seems like the Museum is kept under lock and key until a visitor arrives.

My Cyrillic is unfortunately not that great and some of you may actually be able to translate this (This is probably Russian and not Tajik though both use the Cyrillic alphabet). This was a map that was located just inside the entrance of the Museum.

This is a fairly detailed map showing various gemstone deposits located throughout Tajikistan.

This is a close-up of the Eastern Pamir region from the above map.

A beautiful display of mostly synthetic rough and crystals probably synthesized in Russia.

Who says that Afghanistan is the only producer of Lapis? This is some of the Lapis that is mined in Tajikistan towards the left and the right is a sculpture of the material.

This is a Spinel crystal on Matrix from Kuh-i-lal, Tajikistan. It is interesting to see the Crystal on a hard matrix as most of the material we receive never looks like it has been removed from a hard matrix. Most of the Spinel we have purchased in the past with rare exception seems to be of floater crystals leading us to presume that most pockets unearthed are probably filled with clay and the Spinel typically does not adhere to a matrix. The above sample is actually very similar to a Spinel deposit located in Northern Afghanistan.

This is an exhibit of Ruby from the Murgab deposit on the Eastern end of Tajikistan near the Chinese border. We were informed that some of this material was confiscated from an individual that was trying to export it out of the country illegally. The Ruby deposit is located at an altitude of roughly 4,500 meters and Tajikistan has produced stones that run over 10 Grams that are Eye-clean to Very Slightly Included! Most Tajik material is more towards the Pinkish Red in color and not the Pigeon's Blood Red Burma is known for; however, Tajik material is generally available in very clean pieces in fairly large sizes comparatively speaking.

This is a close-up of the above exhibit. Don't let the quality of the material pictured on this page fool you as I wouldn't be surprised if this was the quality that typically found its way to the Government vaults while the better material headed south into Afghanistan.

This is Clinohumite on matrix. The above specimen appeared to be doctored upon close examination and the brighter Clinohumite crystals look as though they were placed on top of the matrix and probably were never initially part of the piece. We have seen large gemmy crystal sections of this material that went up to roughly 50 grams in size in Pakistan but there was not much material available in Tajikistan. Tajikistan has traditionally been the only significant source of Gem Quality Clinohumite until the recent discovery of the material in Mahenge, Morogoro in Tanzania. The material from Tajikistan tends to be much more orange than the redder material typically found in Tanzania.

This is an Emerald Specimen that was in the Museum. We unfortunately didn't encounter any rough "Tajik" Emerald on our trip to Tajikistan; however, we did see plenty of Panjsher material from Afghanistan that was smuggled into the country. We were initially confused as to why one would import rough into a country where selling or purchasing it is illegal and buyers are few; however, our confusion was cleared up when some colleagues in Tajikistan pointed out that most of the material brought in from Afghanistan is either stolen from the mines or dealers and smuggled into Tajikistan because of the close proximity and unfamiliar faces present whereas, by contrast, most sellers in the Peshawar market in Pakistan are acquainted with sellers. It wouldn't take too much time before material was pointed out as stolen once it arrived in Pakistan and the thief caught.

Amethyst Specimens.

Sphalerite Crystal in the museum.

Chrome Diopside Crystal from Russia.

An exceptional Aquamarine Crystal on Matrix from China.

This is the a section of a Rose Quartz Vein. The material is much better than the above picture indicates and it was unusually clear lacking the silky or hazy appearance commonly seen in the material.

Uvarovite Garnet Crystals on matrix.

Tourmaline crystals on Matrix. The crystal on the left actually looks like material produced in Paprok, Afghanistan or the Northern areas of Pakistan whereas the crystal on the right looks similar to some of the better Bicolored material we have seen produced in Laghman and Kunar, Afghanistan.

Corderite on matrix.

Beryl crystal sections.

A massive Quartz specimen.

That about rounds things up folks. I do hope you enjoyed the virtual tour. The Dushanbe Museum is unfortunately not that large; however, it did contain some exhibits we never thought we would see.


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