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Blue spinel with graphite from Afghanistan, but where?

Posted by Nick Gilly  
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Nick Gilly September 14, 2018 05:39PM
Does anyone know where blue spinel and graphite are found together in Afghanistan? I bought a specimen from one of the dealers in Peshawar (wrongly IDed as sapphire), but the only location listed was Afghanistan. Maybe Badakhshan province somewhere?

The crystals show a slight colour-shift, from a teal blue in daylight to a more sapphire blue in artificial light. There is also off-white calcite present. The colour must be due to iron.

I'll take a pic or two tomorrow when the light is better.

Thanks for any info on this.
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Owen Lewis September 14, 2018 08:32PM
Nick Gilly Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Does anyone know where blue spinel and graphite
> are found together in Afghanistan? I bought a
> specimen from one of the dealers in Peshawar
> (wrongly IDed as sapphire), but the only location
> listed was Afghanistan. Maybe Badakhshan province
> somewhere?
>
> The crystals show a slight colour-shift, from a
> teal blue in daylight to a more sapphire blue in
> artificial light. There is also off-white calcite
> present. The colour must be due to iron.
>
> I'll take a pic or two tomorrow when the light is better.
>
> Thanks for any info on this.

I can't help with a suggested locale for you but you raise another couple of interesting points along the way.
- What tests did you use to determine spinel as the correct ID?
- Had you determined the ID to be sapphire, I'd be guessing that the mild colour shift you see is pleochroic in origin. But spinel is never pleochroic (plus pleochroism is a directional effect not governed by the illuminating wavelengths).
- I don't seem to have any reference to an association of blue spinel with graphite in the Tadjikistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan area but it's reasonably well known in such stones from Sri Lanka.

Anyway, let's see your pics and then perhaps chat some more.
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Nick Gilly September 14, 2018 08:51PM
Hi Owen.

The crystals are clearly octahedral in habit and have that compound/parallel octahedral faces thing going on that seems to be typical for the species. It's definitely not corundum, as all the pseudo-octahedral crystals of corundum I have seen have characteristic striations on the crystal faces. The crystals are sharply formed too.

I read that the gem markets in Peshawar were often started by refugees from Afghanistan, and so maybe they also trade on eBay and so have access to specimens from remote parts of that country. They certainly have some very interesting and nice specimens for sale.
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Nick Gilly September 15, 2018 09:50AM
Some pics below. The camera 'sees' the crystals as a more intense blue than my eyes do, and doesn't capture the teal element at all:




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Nick Gilly September 15, 2018 09:52AM

- shows the graphite
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Owen Lewis September 15, 2018 01:42PM
Interesting piece. What might you think about gahnite?
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Nick Gilly September 15, 2018 02:16PM
Hi Owen.

It doesn't match the pics of gahnite I've seen on Mindat. Gahnospinel may be a closer match as that can be gemmier and less dark, but I don't know of any gahnite or gahnospinel from Afghanistan or Pakistan. Most of the gahnite I've seen looks pretty much black.

I know blue spinel is found in Pakistan, in the Hunza valley, and I'm wondering if the same deposit resurfaces somewhere in Afghanistan, like the connection between the rubies in Jegdalek and Hunza.

I also suspect the colour-changing property, even though it is slight, is the reason that the camera is not displaying the colour correctly, and also partly why the specimen appeared a more vivid blue in the eBay pics. My photos make it look like a tanzanite blue.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2018 02:17PM by Nick Gilly.
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Nick Gilly September 16, 2018 01:08PM
I messaged the seller again and apparently my guess was correct; the specimen does appear to be from Badakhshan province, but he couldn't be any more specific than that. If so, it must be a new find of blue spinel, as I've not been able to find any references online about blue spinel & graphite from Afghanistan.

I'm guessing there could be more interesting finds from there in the near future.
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Aymeric Longi September 19, 2018 02:31PM
Indeed, blue spinel is something new for Afghanistan, very nice piece!
I have a pink spinel specimen with some graphite which comes from Badakhshan, probably the Koksha valley purple spinel occurence.
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Nick Gilly September 19, 2018 06:02PM
Thanks Aymeric. Maybe we'll see more blue spinel out of Afghanistan. I missed another one on eBay which was a single gemmy crystal perched on albite, with a very pure saturated colour, similar to the specimens coming out of Vietnam.

I also bought a lot of 7 small gem quality lilac/lavender spinel crystals, also from Badakhshan province, earlier in the year. I'm guessing they may also be from the Koksha valley location.

You have some gorgeous specimens from Afghanistan and Pakistan in your collection. The eBay dealers in Peshawar have some really interesting and beautiful specimens from that part of the world. I'm keeping an eye out for more interesting spinel and others from them.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/19/2018 06:02PM by Nick Gilly.
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José Zendrera September 20, 2018 02:02AM
A graphite occurrence near Sar-e-Sang is listed in Mindat Istrombi graphite occurrence nor far from the Purple Spinel Occurrence so Nick's sample is likely to be from anywhere between these places. A very plausible hipothesis but hard to confirm.
For many reasons, miners and dealers from this area prefer keep their sources under secret. That's why most of the large number of specimens coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan, mostly distributed via Peshawar, arrive to market with an imprecise location when not erroneous. Those of us who have traveled there we know how hard is to obtain information in situ. And to insist asking often only serves to get an invented answer. Personally, I acheived to locate more mines in Afghanistan and Pakistan "flying" in Google Earth than after had spent two months there...
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Aymeric Longi September 21, 2018 05:11PM
Hey Nick,

I think we might have stumbled upon the same specimen as I saw one a couple weeks ago, nice deep blue crystal perched a the top of a white matrix, pretty neat!

Oh, thanks for your comment, that's very nice of you to say. I focus most of my collection on minerals from the Af-Pak region actually, haven't had, yet, the chance to eat the dust of Afghanistan's roads and trails, but I had plenty enough already of Pakistan's to be deeply in love with the country and its minerals, and anything good coming out of there as a matter of fact.

If you take the time to browse there are definitely many gems and oddities to be found among the Peshawri dealers on ebay. One of my latest acquisition is an association of epidote, diopside and actinolite, with some pseudomorphosis of diopside replaced my actinolite, gorgeous!

Cheers!
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Nick Gilly September 22, 2018 10:43AM
A very quick pic taken of the lilac/lavender spinels, bought in the spring:



I'm guessing that these are also from the Purple Spinel Occurrence somewhere in the Koksha Valley?



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 09/22/2018 04:45PM by Nick Gilly.
open | download - Lavender spinels 2.JPG (2.09 MB)
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Nick Gilly September 22, 2018 03:47PM
Aymeric Longi Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hey Nick,
>
> I think we might have stumbled upon the same
> specimen as I saw one a couple weeks ago, nice
> deep blue crystal perched a the top of a white
> matrix, pretty neat!
>
> Oh, thanks for your comment, that's very nice of
> you to say. I focus most of my collection on
> minerals from the Af-Pak region actually, haven't
> had, yet, the chance to eat the dust of
> Afghanistan's roads and trails, but I had plenty
> enough already of Pakistan's to be deeply in love
> with the country and its minerals, and anything
> good coming out of there as a matter of fact.
>
> If you take the time to browse there are
> definitely many gems and oddities to be found
> among the Peshawri dealers on ebay. One of my
> latest acquisition is an association of epidote,
> diopside and actinolite, with some pseudomorphosis
> of diopside replaced my actinolite, gorgeous!
>
> Cheers!

Definitely! The diverse range of minerals coming out of both Pakistan and Afghanistan is fascinating. They really are blessed with amazing natural resources.

There's also a dealer who we always check out at the Rock & Gem shows at Kempton Park who goes under the name of 'Precious Gems', who is from Pakistan and he always has interesting specimens from there at excellent prices. I bought a couple of large epidote specimens from him last time we went, the largest weighing >500 grams. A lot of the specimens he has are of large cabinet or cabinet size. He also has jewellery & cut gems for sale.

I'm intrigued by some of the 'unknowns' that the Peshawar eBay dealers are selling. I'm sure there must be some real bargains hidden in them!
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Aymeric Longi September 24, 2018 02:22PM
Hi Nick,

That's a very nice set of crystals you got there!

Haaaa, yes, between the "unknowns" and mislabelled, there are some real nice curiosities to find out!

Definitely! The diverse range of minerals coming out of both Pakistan and Afghanistan is fascinating. They really are blessed with amazing natural resources.


You should go and visit Pakistan, you'll love it!

Cheers!
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