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.