Saturday, March 14, 2015

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 hundreds of years.
Pailin was a prosperous town due to its extensive gem deposits. Unfortunately those resources attracted the attention of the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian Communists who mounted an insurgency against the national government in 1967 and succeeded in taking power in 1975 under their notorious leader Pol Pot. They ruled for only 4 years until they were ousted by the Vietnamese army in 1979.
The Khmer Rouge regime was distinguished by the genocide of an estimated 1.5 million people.
The rare blue sapphire of the Pailin area are very 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 ever to be treated with heat to improve their colours allegedly originated from the Pailin mines in Cambodia. Cambodia is famous for commercializing gem treatment.
The precious stone industry in Pailin today is dwindling with deposits largely depleted. Cambodia's gem supplies are declining sharply.

Sapphire mining was unfortunately not the only type of digging that was carried on in Pailin. It is considered one of the most heavily landmined areas in the world.