Gem of a stone
From time immemorial gemstones have fascinated the human race. Generally worn for beauty and style, these stones are also worn for their astrological powers. And it may come as a surprise to many that Nepal is home to a number of precious stones. You will not find diamonds here, but you can find a host of other stones if you are lucky enough. Attached to rocks on hills and mountains, or hidden in rich river gravels, there are rubies, kyanites, sapphires, tourmalines, quartz, aquamarines, topaz and jaspers waiting to be found.
How’s it formed?
Gemstones are actually minerals that appeal to you in looks and lustre. Some organic solids like pearl and coral are also taken as gemstones. Almost all gemstones form below the earth’s surface.
Some form when minerals from earth’s mantle push up and turn into rocks, like diamond, “while, sediments also collect to form gemstones; many are also formed by the reaction of minerals rising from earth’s mantle towards the surface with other stones, forming a new mineral,” explains Satya Narayan Jha, senior divisional mining geologist at the Department of Mines and Geology.
Some gemstones also see life through the hydrothermal process, he adds.
A ruby for you and me
In Nepal, ruby and kyanite are found throughout the Himalayan range.
“Recently one of the finest kyanites was found at Jajarkot, which has spurred more interest among gemologists in this mineral,” informs Dr Hari B Upadhyay, Principal of the Gemstone Research and Training Centre, Taukhel, who has written two books on Nepal’s gemstones.
He adds that jasper is found in rivers as well as hills, mostly in areas like Dang, Banke and Bardia. Quartz is also found throughout the country.
Says Nikki Joshi, a gemology teacher, “I often take my students to a river near Sankhu as we often find tourmaline there.”
A precious mine
Nepal is a mine of precious stones, and if tapped well, it spells opportunities galore.
“It can be a good source of income for the underprivileged and women folk,” argues Dr Upadhyay.
One such person who believes Nepal can immensely benefit from gemstones is noted singer Yogeshwor Amatya, who completed his gemology study from India.
“Although India does not produce diamonds, she has tremendously benefited by cutting and polishing the stone. Nepal too can benefit in the same way as we have excellent artisans. The Gemology Institute of India had agreed to assist us on this, but there seemed to be less interest among ‘those above’ here. We also need proper gem labs, less red-tape and more professional equipment,” he shares.
Recognising the stone
Anyway, even if you manage to find one unusual stone, how do you know whether what you’ve found is actually a gemstone?
All you need to do is just look at the colour and lustre. “If the stone’s colour and lustre are attractive, just pick it up,” suggests Dr Upadhyay.
And if you’re lucky, you might get rich. The ratnas attract good price based on their looks, colour, cut and polish, hardness, and, of course, rarity. Diamond is the hardest, so it is highly priced. But those, like the multicoloured opal, are not that hard yet are priced relatively high.
Prices of some are also determined by their stability in the market and customer views and popularity. “It is basically the combination of various factors that influence the stone’s price,” informs Dr Upadhyay.
Diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emeralds are the most valued stones as of now.
The next time you go trekking or wander among the hills or the meandering river’s banks, you might want to keep an eye out for these stones. Perhaps you can organise a group hunt and spend your weekends doing it. You never know but the next time you think you are bringing home another stone from the river, you could be ‘picking up a gem’.
KATHMANDU: Gemstones not only exert their spell on humans, but also on stars. Some of these stones even gather value out of their astro-power.
“Gemstones are directly related to cosmic evolution and with the five elements,” informs Dr Milan Ratna Shakya.
If you’re young and have just found a jade, you might not want to sell it.
Explains Dr Shakya, “When some youngsters become depressed, I suggest that they put on a jade. It has worked well.”
And almost everyone believes in the luck that one’s birth stone brings.
Dr Shakya shares with us the the Zodiac sign and the corresponding stones according to Nepali charts.
Here are some places in Nepal where you are most likely to find one or the other kind of precious stones
• Mechi (Sapphire hill): Multicoloured sapphire
• Taplejung: Quartz
• Sankhuasabha (Hyakule Phakua): Tourmaline, Quartz, Aquamarine, Smoky Quartz.
• Langtang Valley: Ruby, Sapphire
• Dhading’s Dolomite rock: Ruby, Sapphire
• Ganesh Himal: Ruby, Sapphire
• Jajarkot: Kyanite, Tourmaline, Quartz
• Dang, Banke, Bardia: Jasper