A Brief Introduction to the Gems of Northern Pakistan

by Dr. Zahid Khan
(Professor of mineralogy at the University of Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan. )

Pakistan has gained a prominent position in the international market for supplying a wide variety of gemstones and mineral specimens. The northern area of Pakistan is enriched with the variety of mineral treasures that include peridot, emerald, aquamarine, tourmaline, topaz, ruby, sapphire, garnet, red spinel, pargasite, actinolite, diopside, epidote, vesuvianite, axinite, rodingite, sphene, fluorite, apatite, zircon, rutile, azurite, moonstone, amethyst, rose quartz and agate.

Northern Pakistan is composed of three lofty, snow-covered mountain ranges: Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Karakoram. These geomorphic features reflect the geological setting which, in many respects, is unique in the world. These ranges were formed as result of two collisions between India and Asia that occurred between 100 and 50 Ma (million years) ago. These collisions have induced crustal thickening in these mountains, which has resulted in metamorphism and multiple phases of deformation in these rocks. This was followed by the emplacement of leucogranites and associated pegmatites. Theses geological processes have produced a distinctive mineral kingdom within Northern Pakistan.

Most of the gemstones are pegmatite-related, such as aquamarine, tourmaline, topaz, garnet, and apatite. Some of the gemstones are hydrothermal and /or metamorphic in genesis such as emerald, ruby, sapphire, pargasite, rutile, azurite and pink topaz. The pegmatites are generally composed of feldspar (albite and microcline), quartz, biotite, muscovite and tourmaline. The important gemstones of Pakistan are listed below:

Emerald: Emerald is the green variety of beryl. In Pakistan, it is found in the talc-carbonate schist in Swat. The specimen range between low quality pale green to green hue marred by numerous inclusions. Fine quality of an exquisite bluish or yellowish green shade and is highly transparent. The best Swat emeralds were comparable to fine Scandawana emeralds.

Aquamarine: Aquamarine is the blue variety of beryl. Pakistani aquamarine has light green and blue coloration, and the crystals are well shaped. Dusso aquamarine crystals are very large in size ranging from 1 cm to 8 cm in width and up to 15 cm long. Large and matchless specimens of aquamarine (about 10 Kg in weight and 40 cm long) are usually associated with apatite or fluro-apatite, topaz, gem garnet, schorl, and sheaths of muscovite, is the specialty of Gilgit, Northern Pakistan.

Beryl var. aquamarine - Gilgit - pakistan - 4 x 2,9 x 2,8 cm

Peridot: Peridot is the gem variety of olivine. Gem quality peridot occurs in pockets and veins located in the shear zones of serpentinized dunitic rocks at Sapat, Naran, Kaghan Valley. The peridot crystals range in color from light yellow green to deep yellow green, with some that are light green in color. They are transparent to translucent and mostly uniform in color. The specimens locally contain tiny magnetite inclusions. Some of the rough stones are of high and cabochon quality.

Peridot - Suppet Naran - Kohistan - Pakistan - 4,4 x 2,1 x 2,6 cm

Ruby: Ruby mineralization in Pakistan occurs in the dolomitic marble in an extensive belt of more than 100 Km in the Hunza Valley. The well formed crystals are pink to a fine red in color. High quality and transparent rubies also occur in the upper Neelum Valley, Kashmir.

Tourmaline: Tourmaline includes elbaite, indicolite and the most valued bright red variety, rubellite. Some varieties of tourmaline shows more than one color, with at least three being reported in one particular specimen. Large, well-shaped, gem quality crystals up to 800 grams in weight are found in the Gilgit and Skardu areas. Gem quality tourmaline occurs in the gem-bearing pegmatite at Stak, Bulechi and Shingus, Gilgit District, Northern Pakistan.

Gilgit - Pakistan

Topaz: Topaz is a popular and durable gem. In Pakistan, topaz occurs as euhedral crystals in pegmatites in Gilgit and Skardu Districts. Topaz crystals may be found in yellowish brown, golden color, honey-yellow, and champagne. Deeper sherry-colored topaz crystals are very popular.

Topaz - Skardu - Pakistan - 4,3 x 2,7 x 3,1 cm

Pink topaz is another variety found in Katlang, Mardan District, Northern Pakistan. The Katlang topaz is transparent to sub-transparent, colorless, purple or pink and good crystals are free from impurities. The orange rose or cyclamen color is unique in the world. The largest crystal recovered so far is over 7.5 cm in length with deep pink color. The well-formed crystals have the usual faces of topaz. The topaz occurs in calcite and quartz vein within limestone.

Article from :