Peridot Supply Saga

December 1998

Gemstones & Pearls:News

Peridot Supply Saga

Pakistan's rich green gems are caught in tribal politics and the mines are hard to reach. But the scarce supply contributes to their desirability

In the five years since peridot was discovered in Pakistan, the market has become accustomed to the stupendous sizes and extraordinary colors from this source. But dwindling supplies and a tribal war over control of the mines raises uncertainties about future availability.

The attraction of Pakistani peridot is without question. Facet-grade crystals often yield double-digit carat weights in cut stones – a few weigh more than 2,000 carats. Crystal clarity is excellent for cutting. And the deep green – accented by yellow or blue – stimulates demand.

But the region where the peridot is mined lies in extremely inhospitable, dangerous terrain 15,000 feet up in the Kashmir region of the Himalayas. The weather leaves the site accessible only for two or three months in summer, and the site is altogether off limits to foreigners.

Pakistan and India are nursing a dispute over Kashmir, but the mining area is so remote it's not affected directly, says Mark Herschede of Turmali & Herschede Inc. in Sanibel, FL, a Pakistani peridot supplier. However, a more regional conflict exists between two Muslim tribes that each own one of the two producing peridot mines: Botryoidal and Screwdriver.

"The Screwdriver mine is the only one producing facet-grade material," says Herschede. "A small war erupted at the mining site a year ago as the tribe from the Botryoidal mine pursued better material from the other tribe's site. Production was halted about two months." Herschede's peridot supplier arranged for a cease-fire by carting goats and sheep to the site. A feast was arranged, and tribal elders from the warring factions resolved the dispute.

At press time, however, a new dispute between the well-armed tribes erupted. Peace mediations are under way, but there's concern how the dispute will affect availability at the Tucson gem shows in February, where world gem supplies are scrutinized.

The long-term future is uncertain also. Clean gems of good color account for about only 2% of Pakistan's production, and high-quality material is being depleted, Herschede says.

Lower supply could mean you'll pay more next year. High-grade peridot from Pakistan already can fetch 20 times more than peridot from other localities. Fine-quality Pakistani peridot weighing under 5 carats is $60 per carat wholesale, for example. For gems larger than 20 carats, per-carat prices can rise as high as $300.


– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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