Dangerous Beauty: Minerals of the Hindu Kush


Southern Arizona residents and visitors can take a rare peek inside the headlines surrounding the vast mineral resources of Afghanistan and Pakistan with the UA Mineral Museum’s new exhibit, featuring some of the most beautiful and valuable gems and minerals ever displayed from the “Hindu Kush.”

“Hindu Kush” is the name of the mountain range that stretches between central Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, and is where the rough gems – ranging from emeralds and rubies to peridot – and rare minerals in the “Dangerous Beauty” exhibit come from. The beauty of the specimens is undeniable, and yet the risks that artisanal miners take to extract specimens by hand from the high altitude mines, and decades of violent political turmoil, make mining and transporting gems and minerals dangerous work.

The exhibit boasts some of the finest aquamarine crystals ever discovered in these perilous mountains, and includes both one of the largest Afghan morganite specimens ever found, and the largest known morganite crystal ever recovered from Pakistan – just three weeks ago. Other outstanding specimens include a large, pink tourmaline in matrix, kunzite crystals half a meter long, and crisp, clear quartz crystals.

Visitors can also learn about the importance of immense deposits of “strategic minerals” found in Afghanistan, such as lithium – used in batteries to fuel our technological thirst for cell phones, computers, and electric vehicles. In 2010, American geologists working in Afghanistan discovered untapped mineral deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, lithium, and rare earth minerals, worth an estimated $1 trillion.

In addition to the magnificent minerals, the exhibit details the centuries of history that make Afghanistan and Pakistan the unique nations they are today, including a fierce tradition of fighting off foreign invaders over the centuries. The region has become known as the “Graveyard of Empires” for its history of bringing about the downfall of major world powers, including the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union.

Displays that illustrate the proud cultures of this region through photos and descriptions of Afghan and Pakistani life further enrich the exhibit experience.

“Dangerous Beauty” is open to the public and school groups Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursdays for Family Fun Time from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays for Family Fun Time from 1 to 4 p.m. The exhibit continues through the end of June.

General Admission (includes Planetarium shows, Brain Teasers 2 exhibit, and UA Mineral Museum)
Adults: $7.50
Children (4 to 15 years old): $5
Children under 4 years old: Free
Cat Card holders: $2.50 off
Arizona college students (with ID): $2