ISLAMABAD: Potential international buyers are required to be attracted in a more focused way to promote gemstone industry in Pakistan as the country is not only blessed with the large reserves of mineral ores but also known for the world’s most-glittering gemstones.
The wide-range of gemstones including sapphires from Kashmir, emeralds from Swat, rubies from the northern areas and pink topazes from Katlang, Mardan, and good quality zircon, different varieties of quartz, aquamarine, tourmaline, sphene, spinel, zoisite apatite, epidote, morganite, garnet, scapolite, clino zoisite, xenotime, bastnaesite, peridot, nephrite, serpentine, agate, diopside, pargasite, amethyst, scheelite, pollucite, chrome diopside and kunzite are found in mountainous belt from South Waziristan to Chitral, makes the country significant in the mineral world.
Unfortunately, Pakistan Gems and Mineral exhibition held annually in Islamabad, however, has not attracted much attention from the international buyers. The government needs to make significant investment especially in provision of advanced equipments to enhance the quality of gem products, which will not only create job opportunities but would also increase foreign exchange earnings of the country.
Peshawar-based gemologist, Asmat Shah said, “The reserves of precious and semi-precious stones in Pakistan are worth billions of dollars, but, sincere efforts of the state and local government are needed for their exploration, security to the field workers, and boosting up of its trade.” Swat once considered a symbol of qualitative emerald has declined in its production, he added.
It is said that for about 400 years the craftsmen and traders of Peshawar’s jewellery bazaar have cut, polished, set and haggled over precious gems dug from the rugged mountains of northwest Pakistan. Now, after restoring peace to a larger extent to the city of flowers, Peshawar, the stalls and narrow lanes of ‘Namakmandi bazaar’ in the heart of the city once again bustle with activity of gemstone business.
Traders are often found busy either checking the quality of emeralds, rubies and lapis lazuli, or negotiating with customers along with green tea while food sellers roam about amid the aroma of spices scenting the air.
As a result, the only option that the businessmen are left with is to interact with potential customers through Internet, he added. Gone are the days, when the market used to be frequently visited by traders from Europe, the United States, Japan, Thailand, France, Germany etc., now only sees traders from China, Khan said.
Lal Zada, a Rawalpind-based gemologist said that the only way to attract maximum customers is to hold more trade shows and exhibitions of gemstones in different cities of the country as the foreign investors are showing a great deal of interest in stones like emerald, ruby and sapphire.
However, much of the potential remains untapped as the stones lie buried in the seven restive tribal areas along the Afghan border.
The country could multiply its current gemstone export if the reserves were properly tapped as the country’s gemstone is of high-quality. However, unplanned, improper, and obsolete methods of extraction, and primitive techniques of cutting and polishing have reduced the value of the stones and hampered the industry’s revenue potential. That is why usually most of the stones when exported abroad are re-faceted and polished again.
For reviving the gemstone industry, serious efforts of the government are urged for making the country a global market: Geological mapping and survey of the areas having gemstone deposits, introducing advanced technology, improved methods of mining, establishment of trading houses and formation of cutting/refining centers and gem training facilities (providing cutting, gemology, designing and manufacturing trainings) in major cities, strict quality control, establishing gem labs for certification, effective marketing, exhibition, showcasing and developing infrastructure for facilitation e.g. logistics, financial, services, insurance, and marketing etc.