Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Gemstones of Pailin, Cambodia

The southeastern corner of central Thailand along the Cambodian border has been an important source of fine ruby and sapphire for centuries. Pailin is at the edge of the Cardamom Mountains in the west of Cambodia, 25km from the border of Thailand. Pailin was a prosperous town due to its gem deposits. Those resources attracted the attention of the Khmer Rouge.
Sapphire mining near Pailin using high-pressure water to turn the gem rich gravels into mud. The mud is then processed.
The Khmer Rouge were Cambodian Communists who mounted an insurgency against the national government in 1967 and succeeded in taking power in 1975 under leader Pol Pot. They ruled for 4 years until they were ousted by the Vietnamese army in 1979.
The Khmer Rouge regime was distinguished by the genocide of an estimated 1.5m people.
The blue sapphire from Pailin are highly regarded. They range in colour from light to deep blue, but with a distinctive purity and intensity of color. The Khmer Rouge used proceeds from mining Pailin sapphire to fund their offensive and later their government once they gained national power.

Pailin sapphire was one of the first "blood gemstones."
The first stones to be treated with heat to improve their colours originated from Pailin mines. Cambodia is famous for gem treatment.
The precious stone industry in Pailin is dwindling with deposits largely depleted. Cambodia's gems are declining sharply.

Sapphire mining was not the only digging in Pailin. It is one of the most heavily landmined areas in the world.