Last updateWed, 20 May 2020 12am

The hidden riches of Panjshir, the “Valley of the Five Lions”

Mia crystalMammoth 2.2 pound Panjshir emerald crystal.“Let us fall in love again and scatter gold dust all over the world. The glance of Love is crystal clear and we are blessed by its light.”
Rumi, 13th century Afghan mystic and poet

According to lore, the Valley of the Five Lions, or Panjshir, at the foothills of the Himalayas in northern Afghanistan, was named for five local 11th century “lions,” heroes who created a dam on the local river forming a reservoir for the Sultan.

Today the vast unspoiled riches of the region, especially the huge deposits of magnificent emeralds, are emerging on the international scene as an important major source for this precious gem prized for millennia throughout the world.

Forrest Snowden and Habib Mohebi, partners in Aria Gems (www.ariagems.com) have joined forces to supply 21st century global logistics to the isolated region, help rebuild the local war-torn economy, support the local mining community in a socially responsible manner and bring the region’s vast riches to the world.

Forrest, with his entrepreneurial background in global logistics, partnered  in 2013 with Habib, an Afghan native with deep local roots and knowledge of the history of mining in the region. The two have become fast friends, “like brothers.” It’s a unique partnership across social, cultural and international boundaries.

Aria Gems is 40% Afghan owned. “Part of all our profits go back to the native villagers to help improve their quality of life, rebuilding the local economy. We’re training Afghan women in the skill of gem cutting. They’re part of our supply line,” Forrest shares.

Mia ForrestForrest Snowden (Aria Gems) visits Mia Katrin at her booth at the recent JANY Special Delivery Show.

Aria Gems controls all aspects of their vertically integrated supply chain - mining, customs and valuation, global area logistics, cutting and processing, marketing and wholesale sales internationally, from Singapore to Dubai and Europe, South America and the US. This vertical integration ensures that all aspects of the sourcing of gems, from mining to finished product, are transparent and ethical.

In today’s market, with customers increasingly seeking ethically sourced gems from socially responsible sources, this transparency is invaluable. The Kimberly Process has helped ensure the transparency of the diamond mining supply chain. But providers of colored gemstones, usually sourced in smaller, artisanal mines, have found it more difficult to guarantee ethical sourcing through their multi-layered supply chains. Currently newly emerging technologies such as block chain are arising to help fill this need.

The sheltered Panjshir Valley has mined emeralds since before the time of Alexander the Great, who fostered trade along the famed Silk Road to East Asia. The local Panjshiris have traditionally been fiercely protective of their precious mineral resources, from abundant emeralds and aquamarines to tourmalines and richly colored lapis lazuli. Plentiful local chromium deposits help augment the intense green hue of the local emeralds, rivaling the color of the most prized Colombian emeralds.

Mia ValleyThe Panjshir Valley.

Moving into the future Aria Gems is beginning to offer their prized gems also on a retail level, partnering with award-winning designers to offer Collections highlighting the unique beauty of their distinctive gems to the international community while benefitting the local Panjshirs. It’s a win-win situation.

Mia Katrin is an award-winning jewelry designer featured in over 100 top stores nationally. She is available for lectures and seminars. To add her Collections or book a lecture: www.jeweljewel.com, 877-539-3569, facebook.com/MiaKatrinforJEWELCOUTURELLC, subscribe to her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UC2B-53XBuB_HD5-bofc5jAA