It is fair to say that Kashmir sapphires set the standard by which all other blue sapphires are are judged. Kashmir sapphires are expensive and very rare because of the lack of new finds in the area, they are known for their highly saturated violet-blue color and “velvety” transparency, which is caused by the presence of silk. Kashmir is an antiquated term for what is now the Pakistan region.
Kashmir’s sapphires were initially discovered when a landslide revealed the presence of large blue crystals, which were collected and traded by locals. From 1882–1887 the site was mined extensively, and according to admirers, it produced crystals “as large as an eggplant” and “bigger than a polo or croquet ball.” By 1887 or 1888, the mine was depleted.
This remote and inhospitable site has been worked intermittently over the last century, but few new discoveries have resulted. The region is also politically unstable. The majority of the Kashmiri sapphire traded today are found in antique jewelry. However, one can hope that other deposits will be found, yielding a fantastic treasure of velvety blue.
Because the countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan share a border, sapphires are often smuggled out of Afghanistan and sold in Pakistani markets. Many are not aware that Pakistan has its own wealth of gemstone deposits because they remain unexploited. Although the Pakistani government is promoting foreign investment and development, the mining industry in the country is still in its infancy.
The Pakistani government has begun leasing parcels of five acres at two sapphire mines in Mansehra in the northern part of the country. The mines in this region are situated in remote and inhospitable areas at or above 15,000 feet. The weather is extremely harsh and year round mining is not feasible. Despite these obstacles, experts are optimistic about the future of sapphire production in Pakistan.
Afghanistan is an important historical source of both ruby and sapphires. Early traders, including Marco Polo, were impressed by corundum from Afghanistan, which was traded thousands of miles from its source.
Prospects for future production in Afghanistan are considered favorable if the political climate stabilizes and governmental policies are relaxed. At present, many sapphires are smuggled into Pakistani markets through the border shared by the two countries. The Afghani government is also allowing local merchants to sell gemstones at military bases, which means some goods are leaving the country with foreign military personnel.
The extent of the Afghan sapphire deposits is unknown. Although the country’s rugged terrain hinders production, yields at the Jagdalek mines are estimated to be about 85 percent sapphire and 15 percent ruby.
For more sapphire mines check out, Sapphire Mines In Australia.