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
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
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
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
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.
Sphalerite Crystal in the museum.
Chrome Diopside Crystal from Russia.
An exceptional Aquamarine Crystal on Matrix from
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
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.