Mingora Emerald Mines of Pakistan cover

Mingora Emerald Mines of Pakistan

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It seemed that the gorgeous emeralds from Mingora (Pakistan) were discovered fairly recently - in 1958. New information though, shows that these stones were mined some 2500 years ago and served as jewels for the rich and powerful in Ancient Rome, in the area of present day France. How could something so beautiful be lost for so long?





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Mingora Emerald Mines of Pakistan

Ancient Times

It seemed that the gorgeous emeralds from Mingora (Pakistan) were discovered fairly recently - in 1958.

New information though, shows that these stones were mined some 2500 years ago and served as jewels for the rich and powerful in Ancient Rome, in the area of present day France.

Back in the 2000, a group of French scientists analyzed oxygen isotopes in several pieces of old jewelry (1). This interesting method offers a way to find out where the emerald had been originally mined.

Emeralds from Mingor Mine

Emeralds from Mingor Mine

Crystal is some 10 mm large.

Image by PARENT GÉRY

CC BY-SA 3.0

From Far Away

The results were often unexpected. For example, some emeralds -several centuries old - from the treasury in India originated... in Columbia!

Emeralds in the French crown were (rather unsurprisingly) from Habachtal, Austria, where the best emeralds in Europe are found. The biggest surprise was a 2500-year-old earring from present day France. The emerald in this earring comes from the distant Swat Valley in Pakistan, most likely the Mingora mines.

This small but precious gem was transported all the way from the western part of the Himalayas to the western part of Ancient Rome!

So it seems emeralds from the Swat valley were known to people longer than most of other emerald mines, e.g. the famous Cleopatra mines in Egypt.

New Times

The outside world forgot about the Swat valley emeralds for millennia.

There were political reasons for this – around the 5th century AD the ancient states in this area of Asia collapsed and the "dark ages" started. In some respects this period continues up to this day.

But in 1958, the mines were rediscovered. At first, a local prince - who put strict limitations on visits to this area, owned the mines. In 1968, the mines became the property of the government and more people were involved in mining the stones. From 1979 until the late 1990’s, the “Gemstone Corporation of Pakistan” managed the mines, but since the 1995 they have belonged to local government.

Between1998 – 2010, the mines were almost inactive. In 2009, the valley was taken over by local Taliban. These people plundered the mines reaping huge profits. This was when the emeralds from Swat Valley got their menacing nickname - "Blood Emeralds".

Emeralds From Mingor Mine

Emeralds From Mingor Mine

MUHAMMAD ISMAIL (ISRUMA),

CC BY-SA 3.0

Current Activities

Mining of good quality emeralds is almost always a lucrative business, but mines in the Swat Valley are outdated, their workforce is unskilled and the works badly planned.

Currently, it is less profitable due to finds of larger emeralds in Zambia, and, of course, the superior emeralds from Columbia.

This is the result of weak governance in the province and Pakistan as a whole. As a result only one of three mines is active now in Swat Valley – the Mingora mine (Fizzagat mine). This mine has open pit maines as well as mining tunnels.

Locals have also been looking for the stones in the Swat River and other nearby streams - and sometimes with good success. There have been other mines found as well - but no one has started large scale extraction of emeralds there.

The Stones

The emerald mines of the beautiful Swat valley are the best in South Asia and are some of the best emeralds of the world.

It is estimated that the Swat mine has some 70 million carats of emeralds. Emeralds here are comparatively small - up to 5 - 6 grams heavy. Many crystals have a fine hexagonal shape. Emeralds here are transparent, in a deep sea green color. Swat emeralds have certain chemical differences from other emeralds – they have more chromium and less vanadium than other emeralds of the world.

Due to their small size these emeralds rarely serve as a centerpiece of jewelry - these deep green stones serve as smaller side stones. The rare larger stones look very dark.

Emeralds of Swat Valley are found in carbonate-bearing talc schists and quartz veins, in irregular clusters which have a diameter up to 15 cm. Two tectonic plates have met in this area: the Indo-Pakistan plate and the Kohistan arc. This pressure formed metamotphic rocks - schists.

Geology

The emerald mines of the beautiful Swat valley are the best in South Asia and are some of the best emeralds of the world.

It is estimated that the Swat mine has some 70 million carats of emeralds. Emeralds here are comparatively small - up to 5 - 6 grams heavy. Many crystals have a fine hexagonal shape. Emeralds here are transparent, in a deep sea green color. Swat emeralds have certain chemical differences from other emeralds – they have more chromium and less vanadium than other emeralds of the world.

Due to their small size these emeralds rarely serve as a centerpiece of jewelry - these deep green stones serve as smaller side stones. The rare larger stones look very dark.

Emeralds of Swat Valley are found in carbonate-bearing talc schists and quartz veins, in irregular clusters which have a diameter up to 15 cm. Two tectonic plates have met in this area: the Indo-Pakistan plate and the Kohistan arc. This pressure formed metamotphic rocks - schists.

Main Characteristics

Coordinates: 34.7856 N 72.3709 E

No: 484 (list of all attractions)

Category: Gemstone finds

Values: Geology, Visual

Rank: 6

Address: Asia, Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Swat District, around Mingora town and also near Gujar Kili

Alternate names: Fizzagat Mine, Fiza Ghat Mine

Gemstones: Emerald