Thanks and disclaimer:

 

Important Note: The author: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok . GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.

 


About FieldGemology. org

This website is home for "Shameless Travel Addicted Gemologist" Vincent Pardieu (B.Sc., GGA, G.G.). Vincent is "Supervisor, Field Gemology" at GIA Laboratory Bangkok. He is a gemologist specialized on "origin determination of gemstones".
This is also home for Vincent's regular traveling companions: David Bright, Jean Baptiste Senoble, Richard W. Hughes, Guillaume Soubiraa, Walter Balmer, Michael Rogers, Kham Vannaxay and many others like recently: Philippe Ressigeac, Oliver Segura , Flavie Isatelle and Lou Pierre Bryl.

We are gemologists (gemmologists) sharing a passion for gemstones, gemolology (gemmology), gem people and traveling.

You will find in this website gemological expedition reports and some studies of gemological interest.

Visiting many gem mining areas we saw that people in remote mining and trading areas have difficulties to access to gemological publications. As today the Internet can be accessed in most of these gem mining areas and trading centers, the author started to build this website to give gem people living there the opportunity to see the result of the gemological expeditions they were associated in. It is a way to thanks them for their time and collaboration and to help them to get access to more gemological information.

At the same time the author hope that these expedition reports will please the people from consuming countries interested in gemstones and fascinated by their mysterious origins. Our purpose here is to help people facing difficulties to get quality first hand information about gems and their origins to get the information they need through this website and its links.

With our field expeditions to gemstone mines and gem markets around the world, we intend also here to share our passion for photography, gems and our fascination for the work of the "Gem People" bringing gemstones from the ground to magnificent jewelry.

From the gems external beauty to the intimate beauty of gemstone inclusions, from gem lore to the mines, the people and the landscapes gems origin from, we expect to share with you our passion for gemstone beauty.

We also invite you to join us on some gemological forums we are active in as they are convenient tools to get rapid answers to your questions as they are regularly visited by many other passionate gemologists, jewelers, hobbyists and professionals willing to learn more and share their knowledge about gemstones.

 


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Popular Articles

"Tsavorite, an Untamed Gem" with R.W.Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Winter 2008)
"Working the blue seam" The Tanzanite mines of Merelani with R.W.Hughes first published on
www.ruby-sapphire.com
"Spinel, the resurection of a Classic" with R.W. Hughes, first published in ICA's InColor (Summer 2008)

Gemological studies

(Apr. 2009) "Sapphires reportedly from Batakundi / Basil area" a preliminary study about unusual sapphires we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
(Mar. 2009) "Rubies from Niassa province, Mozambique" a preliminary study about rubies we saw at GIA Laboratory Bangkok
"Lead glass filled rubies" :
First published on AIGS Lab Website (Feb 2005)


Expedition Reports

Autumn. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE09: Rubies from Mozambique. (pdf file)


May. 2009: GIA Field Expedition FE08: Melos and their pearls in Vietnam. (pdf file)


Dec. 2008 and Feb-Mar. 2009: GIA Field Expeditions FE01 and FE04: Rubies and sapphires from Pailin, Cambodia. (pdf file)


Aug. 2008: Sapphires and Tsavorite from the south of Madagascar with the AFG (Association francaise de Gemmologie) : Available soon...


Apr. 2008: Expedition to the new Winza ruby deposit in central Tanzania with Jean Baptiste Senoble and the support of the Gubelin Gem Lab



October 2007: Gemological expedition to East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) with Richard W. Hughes, Mike Rogers, Guillaume Soubiraa, Warne and Monty Chitty and Philippe Bruno:


Summer 2006: Expeditions to Central Asia gem wealth with Guillaume Soubiraa and the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:


Oct. 2005: Colombia by J.B. Senoble


Sep. 2005: Madagascar with Richard W. Hughes and Dana Schorr (Will be available one of these days...)


Summer 2005: Gemological expeditions to South East Asia (Vietnam) South Asia (Sri Lanka) and East Africa (Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania) with J.B. Senoble and Tanguy Lagache with the support of the AIGS, the ICA and the Gubelin Gem Lab:



- Feb. 2005: A visit to Thailand, Cambodia with the AFG (Association Francaise de Gemmologie) (under construction)

- 2002-2007: Expeditions to Pailin (Cambodia), Chanthaburi Kanchanaburi (Thailand) Houay Xai (Laos) Mogok, Namya (Burma) (under construction)

- 2001: Expeditions to Namya, Hpakant and then Mogok with Ted and Angelo Themelis and Hemi Englisher (under construction)

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Number 01: Sept 2006
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emeralds


 


 


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June 29th, 2010 | Keywords:sapphire , Pakistan , Batakundi , Kaghan Travel |
Blog Title: GIA_FE17_Pakistan


GIA FE17 (GIA Laboratory Bangkok Field Expedition 17): June 08th, 2010 - Julyl 15th, 2010:

 

Introduction to the FE17 June 2010 Field Expedition, First part: Pakistan: The GIA Laboratory Bangkok FE17 June 2010 field expedition to Pakistan was planned with the support of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Abbas from the Kashmir Gems CPVT Ltd, Pakistan.


The expedition to Pakistan main objective was to visit the Batakundi pink, purple and blue sapphire deposit, a deposit producing stones recently studied at GIA (see following box) that was nevertheless quite mysterious as its exact location was unknown. On that new expedition to Pakistan the author was planning to meet the owner of the mining operation Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Abbas, travel to the mining site to confirm its location, witness the mining and collect some samples on site for the GIA reference collection.


"Sapphires reportedly from the Batakundi / Basil area" by V. Pardieu, Dr. K. Thirangoon, P. Lomthong, S. Saeseaw, J. Thanachakapad and G. Du Toit for the GIA Laboratory Bangkok
"(April 30, 2009) A preliminary examination and comparison with rubies and pink sapphires from other deposits in Central Asia."


Important Note: The present On-Going research study" was published BEFORE the visit to that deposit, a short update about Batakundi sapphiores was published in "Gems and Gemology" (Winter 2010 issue) providing the exact loaction of the deposit.

That pdf will be updated in the future when the work on these unusual stones will be completed.


The case of that deposit is interesting as it is a good example of the difficulties for gemological laboratories providing services regarding the origin determination of gemstones to build and keep updated a reliable reference database. Gemstones like rubies, sapphires and emeralds are often mined from very remote areas, in countries facing sometimes many difficulties and furthermore in many cases the people mining or trading these gems can decide to keep a low profile in order to avoid problems. Commonly gems from unknown deposits are submitted to gemological laboratories before the people working in these laboratories to have heard about that deposit. One of the big challenges for gemological laboratories providing origin determination services for colored stones like the GIA is to get informed as soon as possible about new deposits and to get rapidly some reliable samples, representative of the production from that new deposit. In some cases, when a major deposit is discovered as it was the case in Montepuez (Mozambique) during spring 2009, things can go rapidly, but in the case of a small deposit worked only by a small group of miners, then it can take years before the deposit to be known. But these stones can be a real challenge when they arrive on the desk of a lab gemologist that has to give his opinion about its origin of the stone particularly if that lab as no samples from that deposit in its reference collection.


The difficulties about the Batakundi deposit are typical of the problems related to small exotic deposits with a limited production.  As the gemological laboratories are not suddenly flood by a new type of material, research on such deposit is usually not a priority.  In that specific case there was some confusion regarding its exact location and even 10 years after its discovery, very few was known about it and it was very difficult to verify such information.


The author started to get interested about rubies and sapphires from Batakundi while preparing in spring 2006 his first expedition to Pakistan. As usual before any field expedition the author started by some bibliographic research about Pakistan ruby and sapphire deposits.


Besides the well-known Hunza and Nangimali deposits he found several references to a new deposit:


First a very beautiful and quite up to date publication about Pakistan and its gem deposits is the excellent “Pakistan, Minerals, Mountains & Majesty” (2004), a publication by Lapis International that give a great idea about the stunning beauty of gemstones and minerals from Pakistan.


In page 86 the author found a reference about a corundum deposit producing ruby and pink sapphires reportedly located at “Batti Kunda near the border with Diamar in the Muzaffarabad district of Azad Kashmir.”

Then another very useful information source about new gem deposits that the author consult before each field expedition are the “Gem News International” pages in Gems & Gemology magazine, a publication of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America).


In the Winter 2004 edition the author found two short articles of interest: One about "Pink sapphires from Batakundi, Pakistan” and another about “purple sapphires from an unknown source in Northern Pakistan”.

The author found a third reference in an interesting geological article “Ar–Ar and U–Pb ages of marble-hosted ruby deposits from central and southeast Asia” (2006) a pdf in English by V. Garnier, H. Maluski, G. Giuliani, D. Ohnenstetter, and D. Schwarz that had a French version: “Les Gisements de rubis associes aux marbres de l’Asie centrale et du Sud Est” published in “Le Regne Mineral” (2006) and signed this time by Virginie Garnier, Gaston Giuliani, Daniel Ohnenstetter, Dietmar Schwarz and Allah B. Kausar.  In that case there was a reference in the text about “Batakundi and Nangimali in Azad Kashmir” and a geological map with ruby deposits located very close by at Batakundi and Nangimali in Azad Kashmir.


So "Batti Kunda" in one publication, "Batakundi" in the two others. "North West Frontier Province" in one and "Azad Kashmir" in the two other publications. This can appear a little bit confusing but the author had the feeling that these references were probably about the same place but, and it is very common when local people report about a place to foreigners who were not able visit actually the mining area, the spelling of the name new deposit and even the location given for the deposit can be slightly different from one source to another.


With three independent publications disclosing the existence of that deposit there was obviously something of interest. Visiting the Namak Mandi gemstone market in Peshawar, Pakistan in June 2006, the author saw several interesting pink and purple sapphires and small dark red rubies that were presented as from Kashmir. Later when the author was asking to see some samples from Batakundi or Batti Kunda, the people around him told him that these were the unusual sapphire and nice small rubies he saw before reportedly coming from Kashmir… Hum, couldn’t they inform the author about such detail before? Not really...



 

"Kaghan Valley"
(A View over the Kaghan Valley near Shogran village
Photo: Vincent Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


In Central Asian gemstone markets like Peshawar’s Namak Mandi market or Kabul’s Chicken Street, trying to get precise information about the origin of some gems is commonly difficult. For many obvious reasons related to competition most dealers there are reluctant to disclose too much information about the origin of their gems. In fact it is already a very good thing to be provided some incomplete but correct information as in many cases gem merchants don’t understand why people like the author ask so many questions about the origin of their stones. If things are not handled carefully they might refuse to speak or even lie about the origin of their stones in an attempt to protect their business or just because they don’t like to be asked so many questions. Sometimes they just have no idea where their stones are truly coming from: Often the gems are brought to these dealers by local people who might have personal reasons to hide the origin of this or that stone. Or in many cases the dealer just doesn’t care where the stone is from, he just care to buy it at a price he will be able to sell it for profit and will not enquiry about the stone origin. In fact to the best most dealers in gem markets like Peshawar provide only a vague information about the origin of their gems according to their experience and their memories: Things like Kashmir, Badakhshan, Tajikistan, Hunza, Skardu, Jagdalek…



 

"Sunrise over the upper Kaghan Valley"
(Near Batakundi village we can find during summer time many mud houses surrounded by terraces where people are growing potatoes and peas.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu, GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


In 2006, while visiting the Namak Mandi gem market in Peshawar, the rubies reportedly from Batakundi were small, had a very nice and rich red color, and had a classic aspect as obviously they were mined from a marble type deposit. The sapphires on the other hand were very unusual as they were presenting features that the author had never seen in any other sapphires: The color was purplish on the overall but with the loupe the inclusion scene was a combination of extremely sharp red and colorless color zoning, associated with a an overall milky aspect and some black metallic like inclusions. Very unusual… The author tried to get some samples but as it commonly happen the dealer wanted only to sell the whole parcel and not for the price of a good lunch…



 

"Gujars on their way to grazing areas with their goats"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


Nevertheless the author got also in Peshawar the information that one British gem merchant: Guy Clutterbuck, famous to be one of the few foreigners who had ever visited the Lapis Lazuli mines in Sae-E Sang (Afghanistan), was able to visit the Batakundi ruby deposit. The author managed to contact him after his return from Pakistan and got the confirmation that the Batakundi ruby deposit was indeed producing small dark red rubies of very fine quality from a marble type deposit located nearly at 5,000m (16,500 feet) he added that he heard that some pink purple sapphire were also produced in the area but he was not sure of the exact location as he only visited the Batakundi ruby mining area in 2004.



 

"On the road to Batakundi..."
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


Now the question for the gemologist willing to work seriously on origin determination of gemstones is to be sure that these stones are indeed coming from a place called Batakundi located in Kashmir… The best solution is of course to be able to travel to the mines, and see what is produced there. But in countries like Pakistan and particularly in the case of Kashmir, a disputed territory between India, Pakistan and China, traveling to the region near the 1972 Cease Fire line in Pakistan is challenging.


The first problem is to find a local guide: Somebody trustable, knowing the location of the mine and willing to take you there. The author spoke to the Pathan gem merchant who travelled with Guy Clutterbuck there, but he was not really willing to return there as he said that visit to Batakundi was the hardest walk he ever had in all his life: Several times he was feeling that he was going to die and he was not willing to return there. 5,000 m altitude: It was just too hard...



 

"Soch, the gateway to the Sapat Valley Peridot mines"
(About one day travelling on the west of the village are located the famous Pakistan peridot mines.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


For that specific case the second problem is that Kashmir is a restricted area and as such some permits have to be obtained from the Pakistan authorities. Getting the right paper work to be able to pass the numerous military checkpoints in Azad Kashmir province may take several months as the author writes these words. Few years ago, after the terrible earthquake that hit Kashmir on October 8th 2005 and killed more than 75,000 people, the paperwork process became easier in order to enable aid and reconstruction in the remote areas affected by the earthquake.


In August 2006, thanks to the support of Dr. Gaston Giuliani a French geologist from Nancy University who did some work in relation with the Nangimali ruby deposit, the author was introduced to Dr. Kausar, a Pakistani geologist working then at the Geological Survey of Pakistan and one of the authors of one of the papers reporting the existence of Batakundi. Thanks to their support the author could get all the paperwork done and could visit the Nangimali ruby mining area located near Kel, in the Neelam Valley. On the other hand he was not able to visit Batakundi as the expedition to Nangimali turned to be very time consuming and more difficult than expected.



 

"Besal nomad settlement"
(Besar, also called "Basil", "Besil", "Besar" or even "Basel" some publication and maps is a nomadic settlement only occupied during summer time mainly by Afghan refugees and their sheep. Most Afghans here are members of the Pashtuns tribes.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


The problem was that during summer 2006, the region had not yet recovered from the earthquake: Numerous landslides were blocking the roads in the Neelam Valley between Muzaffarabad and Kel. It took several days for the author and his group to reach Kel: We had first to wait for the first part of the road to be open, then we had to abandon several times our vehicle, walk through the landslides and then search for another vehicle to be abandon it again at the next landslide (Pardieu, 2006). At the end we were then too short in time to try to visit the Batakundi area that was facing the same problems. Nevertheless we could collect some additional information about that deposit from the people we met at Nangimali: According to them, unlike at Nangimali, mining at Batakundi was not performed by the government but more by local people and private investors and it was mostly illegal, furthermore it was reported to have mostly stopped after the earthquake. Asking about how go to Batakundi they told us that we had to travel back to Sharda, a beautiful village we passed on our way between Muzaffarabad and Kel, and from there take the road to the north in the valley taking to the Noori pass but the road was reportedly difficult and they also advised us to have to friendly local people with us…



 

"On the way to the Batakundi/Besar Sapphire mines..."
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


As we were short in time we never took the road to Batakundi. Furthermore after that visit the author lost contact for a while with Dr. Kausar as he retired from his position at the Geologic Survey of Pakistan. Batakundi was not a prime concern as it was only a small deposit and the author had some other priorities few months later leaving Thailand to go to work at the Gubelin Gem Lab in Switzerland. In 2008 the author got some fresh news about Batakundi as a dealer from Peshawar told him that Batakundi was producing recently some interesting blue sapphires. But working in Switzerland, far away from Pakistan he was not then able to get some samples. So things remained as they were.



 

"The Batakundi Sapphire Valley"
(The sapphire mining area is located on the northern side of the narrow glacial valley, in June most of the area was still covered with snow
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


Things changed during spring 2009, for few months the author was working at the GIA Laboratory in Bangkok and one day he was given for examination some unusual purple sapphires a customer had submitted to the lab. The stones were presenting the same unusual combination of inclusions he saw in Peshawar in 2006 in the stones reportedly from Batakundi: A combination of very sharp red and colorless color zoning, with a milky aspect and some black metallic like inclusions that turned to be graphite. Furthermore the author boss: Ken Scarrat had acquired few years ago some similar stone samples reportedly from Pakistan that had also such exotic internal features. Asking to the customer about the origin of his stones, we were told about “Basil”, a location very close to “Batakundi” in Pakistan. Asking him to place the deposit on a map we got a plot north of Sharda village. At this time we had good reasons to believe that the Batakundi ruby and sapphire deposit was somewhere near Sharda village in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, but searching on the different maps of Azad Kashmir we had we could find any location called “Basil”.



 

"Resting at the miners camp"
(After 45mn to reach the main mining camp we the miners welcomned us with some fruits, vegetables and some tea...
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


A study on that unusual material was then done based on the stones submitted to the lab and the stones acquired in the past by Ken Scarratt. The study was published on the GIA Laboratory websites as an ongoing research study (see here and here) even if the exact location of the deposit was not confirmed.


The idea about publishing such ongoing research study was to interest people and then may be get their support and complete the work as a joint project or teamwork. It was successful as about a year after the publication of the pdf on the GIA websites, in April 2010 the author received an email from Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Abbas who explained first that he was the person who submitted the stones in 2009 at the GIA laboratory in Bangkok, but also that he is the owner of the sapphire mine. He was very happy about the ongoing research we did on his stones and was inviting us to visit his mining operation in order to complete our work.


The expedition to Pakistan was planned first for July 2010 in order to get sure that the deposit, located according to Mr. Abbas at about 4000m altitude (13,000 feet), would not be covered with snow, but due to the difficulty to get a multiple entry visa for Pakistan, the author had to change his plans and decided to visit first Pakistan in June 2010 in order to visit Batakundi get then get a visa for Afghanistan and travel there for the second part of the FE17 expedition.



 

"Batakundi Sapphire mine"
(Miners at the entrance of the Batakundi sapphire mine, the sapphire rich vein is here vertical.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


At the end of June the author was traveling to Pakistan where we could visit the Geological Survey of Pakistan, get some maps and have the pleasure to meet again Dr. Kausar and reconnect with him.


On June 23rd he was traveling from Islamabad to Abbotabad where he met Zulfiqar Ali Abbas and then together the following day they left to Mansehra and the Kaghan Valley in order to reach the village of Naran, a very famous Pakistani touristic spot.


Traveling on the Kaghan valley was a real pleasure as the valley is truly beautiful: It is one of the prime tourist attractions of Pakistan famous for its scenic lakes, snow-covered mountains, flowery meadows and dense forests. The valley is about 160 km long from the Babusar pass culminating at 13,690 feet (4,170 m) to the region of Muzaffarabad where the Kunhar River joins the Jheelum River descending from the Valley of Kashmir. The Kaghan and the Kashmir Valleys are only separated by the Neelum River Valley, another beautiful green valley the author visited in 2006 on his way to the Nangimali ruby deposit.



 

"Placing explosives at the Batakundi sapphire mine"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


During that travel Zulfiqar Ali Abbas, provided the author some additional information about the discovery of the Batakundi ruby and sapphire deposit and the work he did over the past 14 years near Basil. These information will be disclosed in the publication about the rubies and sapphires from the Kaghan Valley, the author is working on at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok.


But what the author can say here of interest about the discovery of these deposit in the Kaghan Valley is that according to him during the 1990’s several groups of geologists had some interest for the upper Kaghan valley and visited the area (find several interesting geological studies about the upper Kaghan Valley at the following links: Here, here, here. Note: there are many others...). Local people started then to get some interest about the stones found there. He explained then that during summer 1996 one of the shepherds living during summer time in the valley West of Basil summer nomadic settlement bring to him some purple stones he found there. The stones got his interest and turned to be sapphires.


Few years after during summer 2001 as knowledge of corundum was becoming better among the local population, a second deposit producing rubies was discovered about 20 km from the site of the first discovery in the valley east of Batakundi village. Unlike at Basil, where large pink to purple stones can be found, most of the production at the Batakundi ruby deposit was consisting of small dark red stones. Furthermore the deposit is also reportedly much higher and more difficult to access. Finally he said after few years of mining, the work at the ruby mines stopped as working there was so hard due to the altitude. Then the terrible earthquake hit Kashmir and the Kaghan valley on October 8th 2005 and to his knowledge at the time of our visit of the Kaghan valley nobody was working there anymore.



 

"Collecting samples after blasting at the Batakundi sapphire mines"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


On June 25th 2010, the author was finally able to visit one of the three mining sites of the Batakundi pink-purple-blue sapphire deposit. Despite the fact that Zulfiqar Ali Abbas and his miners built a dirt road to the mines, traveling to the mining site was not itself very easy as the area was still partially covered with snow and the track was cut by numerous avalanches. Actually we had to stop our car about two kilometers from the first mining site and walk about 45mn to access it.  The combination of the altitude (3800m for the lowest mining site), the temperature and the weather (it was cold, windy and raining from time to time) were not making things easy for people like the author living near sea level in Bangkok particularly as he had not yet really the time to adapt to the altitude.



 

"Sapphires on matrix from Batakundi"
(Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


The miners had just started again working on the lowest mining site a week before the author visit. After spending about 4 hours at the mines, witness a mining blast and study the stones produced after that blast, the author could see that this mining site was indeed producing pink purple sapphires covered with graphite similar to those he saw in the GIA lab in 2009 and in Peshawar in 2006, he could then collect some samples on site for the GIA reference collection and confirm the exact location of the Batakundi purple sapphire deposit at (35°02'59"N 73°53'18"E) near the Besal nomadic settlement, few kilometers after the Batakundi village, on the way to the Babusar Pass in the upper Kaghan Valley of the Mansehra District in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.



 

"Detail on a Batakundi sapphire in matrix"
(Typically in Batakundi sapphires are found in graphite rich rocks
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


Due to that snow covering the area and the difficult weather, the author was nevertheless not able to visit the 2 other mining sites located upper in the mountain.


A new expedition was first scheduled early September 2010, after the author expedition to Madagascar, but due to the terrible floods that hit Pakistan during summer 2010, killing more than 2000 people and devastated the Indus Basin, the September expedition was cancelled. Finally a brief article was finally published after that June 2010 visit in the GNI (Gem News International) section of GIA’s Gems & Gemology magazine Winter 2010:


Finally it was interesting to clarify that as if geologically the northern Kaghan valley is very similar to what is found around Nangimali in the Neelum Valley and in many parts of Kashmir, on the other hand on the geopolitical (geographic and historical) point of view things are quite different:


Unlike the Neelum Valley that was from 1846 to 1947 ruled by the Maharajas of Kashmir, the Kaghan valley itself was placed under the rule of the Maharaja of Kashmir only for about a year between 1846 and 1847. In fact after the first Sikh war, the region of Kashmir and Hazara were sold to Raja Gulab Singh, the former Raja of Jammu but the resistance of the Hazara region to the rule of their new ruler ended by the agreement between the Maharaja of Kashmir and the British to exchange Hazara for Jammu, enabling the creation of the "Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu" in 1847. As a result unlike the valley of the Neelum River, the Valley of Kashmir and the province of Jammu that were ruled by a Maharaja, the Hazara province (and thus the Kaghan Valley) was directly administrated by the British from 1847 to the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.


During that period the British built and completed in 1892 the road along the valley and over the Babusar pass that became until the completion of the Karakoram highway in the 1980’s the only road linking the south of Pakistan to Gilgit, the Northern territories and Western China.



 

"Batakundi sapphires"
(Details on some rough and cut unheated Batakundi sapphires.
Photo: Vincent Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2010)


In 1947, the Kaghan Valley became part of Pakistan. It is not part of the Kashmir disputed territories between India and Pakistan as it was not part of the "Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu". So even if the valley was placed during a year under the rule of the Maharaja of Kashmir and if geologically the rubies and sapphires found near Batakundi share many things in common with their cousins of Nangimali in Azad Kashmir and also the stones from the India controlled Kashmir and Jammu province, to be honest, it seems difficult to claim that these stones are coming from Kashmir.


Instead it seems to the author that the Kaghan Valley, already famous for its beauty, should be promoted and one day recognized also for the beauty of its gems: The rubies and sapphires from Batakundi but also the famous peridots from the Sapat area located in the Kaghan Valley. 


But well in gem markets like Namak Mandi in Peshawar probably sapphires are selling much better when presented as from "Kashmir" than from "Kaghan" due to the unique romance around the word “Kashmir” and particularly the romance associated with the blue sapphires mined near the village of Sumcham in the Indian controlled Province of Jammu and Kashmir.  But as some people told the author in Islamabad:


"Well the so called “Kashmir sapphire” deposit is itself not located in the Valley of Kashmir and in fact Batakundi and Nangimali are closer to the Valley of Kashmir than Sumcham…"


Well, that’s true...


But on the other hand even if it is difficult to quantify such things, it is probably not that much the valley of Kashmir that made these sapphires famous, it is more the beauty of the best stones mined from Sumcham that made Kashmir famous in the gemological community.


 

"Zulfikar Ali Abbas and the author near the Batakundi sapphire mines in the Kaghan Valley"
(Photo: Javed Shah, 2010)


For those willing to get some information about the gemological characteristics of the sapphires from Batakundi, please consult the study published by the GIA on their websites (see here and here for the News from the Research pages at GIA):


Sapphires reportedly from the Batakundi / Basil area by V. Pardieu, Dr. K. Thirangoon, P. Lomthong, S. Saeseaw, J. Thanachakapad and G. Du Toit :
"(April 30, 2009) A preliminary examination and comparison with rubies and pink sapphires from other deposits in Central Asia."

 

Important Note: The present study will be updated (probably in winter 2011) when the ongoing research on these unusual sapphires will be completed...

At the time of the publication of the previous study, the exact location of the deposit was still unknown as the author had not yet visited the mining site. Nevertheless the confirmation of the location of the deposit in the Kaghan Valley was published in the update about ruby and sapphire mining in Pakistan and Afghanistan that was published at the end of 2010 in GNI (Gem News International) Winter 2010 of Gems & Gemology.


Anyway the author hopes that this timeline of his research on that exotic deposit located in Pakistan was interesting to read. It is a typical example of the challenge faced by gemologists working in gemological laboratories interested in the origin determination of gemstones today to confirm the location of new gem deposits.


As you can see this is still an on-going research topic as the author was only able to visit one of the three mining sites there, the two others producing a different type of sapphires were not yet visited and studied. Furthermore the Batakundi ruby mining area located according to gem merchant Guy Clutterbuck very high in the mountains East of the Batakundi village is still very mysterious...


But hopefully within the next few months the GIA should be able to publish a more complete study on rubies and sapphire from the Kaghan Valley.

Finally the author would like to thanks all the people who helped him on that issue since 2006 and particularly Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Abbas, the miners and people he met in the Kaghan Valley and particularly Javed Shah, Mr. Guy Clutterbuck and his friends from Peshawar and of course all his colleagues at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok.


All the best,


 



April 30th, 2009 | Keywords:Gemological study , sapphire , Batakundi , Pakistan , Kashmir Travel |
Blog Title: Sapphires reportedly from Batakundi / Basil area


GIA "On-Going Research" publication: Apr. 30, 2009: "Sapphires reportedly from Batakundi/ Basil":
Visiting Peshawar in Pakistan during summer 2006, I saw some unusual milky purple sapphires with strong red color zoning. Recently, similar stones came for examination at the GIA Laboratory Bangkok where I work and we started a preliminary study on this unusual material reportedly from the Batakundi area a remote valley in Pakistan controlled Kashmir not very far from the Nangimali ruby deposit I visited in 2006 with Guillaume Soubiraa. Sadly at that time we had lost several days because of the numerous landslides in the Neelam valley and we had then no time to try to visit Batakundi.
The present preliminary study is the result of the work of all the gemologists of the GIA Laboratory Bangkok on the samples we got from the Bangkok market. As the material is very unusual, we feel that it was a good first step to document these stones and share our results with the rest of the gemological community.
You can download the study on the GIA Laboratory Bangkok "On-Going Research" (follow the link) where you will find also many other interesting gemological studies from my friends and colleagues at GIA Laboratory Bangkok.

(A group of rough and cut sapphires we studied at GIA Lab Bangkok and reportedly from Batakundi placed on a map presenting the area they were probably mined from.
Photo: V. Pardieu / GIA Laboratory Bangkok, 2009)


The next ideal step would be probably a visit of the mining area in Pakistan control Kashmir. Located just few kilometers away from the 1972 cease fire line between Pakistan and India, the region is beautiful but very remote: This is where the Hymalaya is joining the Karakoram. But visiting the Batakundi/ Basil area is not possible now as we were reported that the mining is only possible there in July and August...
I will keep you informed but if you want to help, please contact me at the GIA Lab Bangkok indicating of course my name.
All the best,



September 23th, 2006 | Keywords:Pakistan , ruby , emerald , Nangimali , Swat , Peshawar Travel |
Blog Title: Pakistan 2006


A visit to Pakistan gem markets and gem mining areas (Summer 2006):

Abstract of the Pakistan page (Avaliable at that link): This web page presents the field expedition lead by Vincent Pardieu (then Director of the AIGS Gemological Laboratory, Bangkok, Thailand) to Pakistan. This fieldtrip was part of the expedition supported by AIGS and Gubelin gemological laboratories with the help of ICA to the Western Hymalayan range (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China) during summer 2006. Along with him during this expedition was Guillaume Soubiraa, who studied gemology at AIGS Bangkok in 2006 and got his FGA in 2011.



During that expedition, Pakistan was our main base as we visited three times the country:

We arrived in Islamabad and after few days preparing visas and plane tickets, we left for Namak Mandi, Peshawar's gem market to get some information aboutn what was currently going on in the market. At Namak Mandi we could see rubies from Jagdalek, Tajikistan and to a less extend from Kashmir, then regarding emeralds we could see many stones from Panjshir, Swat and from the new mining area in Davdar, China.



From Peshawar we visited the Mingora emerald mine in Swat valley. Then we left to Afghanistan and Tajikistan by road through the famous Khaiber Pass. After our return in Pakistan (again by road by the Khaiber Pass) we returned to Peshawar and then Islamabad to get our visa for China and fly to Kashgar in Chinese Xin Jiang.



Returning from China we took the Karakoram Highway (KKH) driving south to enter again Pakistan at Sost on the Kunjerab pass. After our return in Islamabad we went to Muzafarabad to explore the Neelam valley and reach the Kashmir ruby mines at Nangimali. We were able to visit these mines, witness the miners work and study the production.



"Nangimali ruby mine"
Loacated on a daring cliff at an altitude of 3800 meters, the "Lower Khora" ruby mine was the main mining operation we visited in Azad Kashmir during the author visit during summer 2006
Photo: V. Pardieu/AIGS/Gubelin Gem Lab/ICA, 2006

 

 



All the best,



Important Note: Vincent Pardieu is an employee of GIA (Gemological Institute of America) Laboratory Bangkok since Dec 2008. Any views expressed on this website - and in particular any views expressed by Vincent Pardieu - are the authors' opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GIA or GIA Laboratory Bangkok. GIA takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any content on this website nor is GIA liable for any mistakes or omissions you may encounter. GIA is in particular not screening, editing or monitoring the content on this website and has no possibility to remove, screen or edit any content.