The Gem Hunter, True Adventures of an American in Afghanistan:
An amazing and colorful tale, June 12, 2004
Reviewer: Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
The Gem Hunter: True Adventures Of An American In Afghanistan is the
personal memoir of an American man who spent thirty years seeking precious gems in
the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. His encounters with Afghan miners,
freedom fighters, government officials, ethnic peoples, scientists, and
sometimes even international spies fill this amazing and colorful tale of danger,
determination, and the drive to earn a living by literally seeking one's
fortune. Photographs, maps, figures, coordinates of gems and minerals in
Afghanistan, and much more round out this thoroughly engrossing and engaging true story.
- James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review
- 278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575, 1-608-835-7937
- My friend Everett Osborne of Osborne Jewelers in Athens, Alabama got a
copy recently, with your autograph to me, in my absence, and gave it to me a
couple of weeks ago at Church.
I have just now finished this outstanding book and want to congratulate
you on the accomplishment as being, in my opinion, in the overall genre of
Richard Halliburton and his travelogue, Thor Heyerdahl and KON TIKI, and Sir
William Ramsey, the New Testament scholar, who traveled the roads of Anatolia
using the Book of Acts to retrace the journeys of St Paul.
Also I have your first book on gems in Afghanistan but did not read but a
bit of it; must now return and give it more serious attention.
As a retired US Army Chaplain, I spent 1979 in Anatolia at the remote
Sinop site with our listening radars trained on the USSR and its missile
testings NE from the Crimea. I traveled to Aleppo, Syria, Lesbos Greece, and through
much of Turkey, even leading a small tour group to Troy.
Thus my traveling experiences enabled me, but only slightly, I must admit,
to appreciate the challenges and difficulties you faced in Central Asia. The
fleas and the lack of a shower/bath??? Now that is really roughing it!
Next time you come to Athens, as I told Everett this past Sunday, I would
like to have a couple of months lead time and then schedule a lecture hall
at the Uni of Ala in Huntsville (where I taught History part-time in the
1980s)and have you speak MOSTLY on Central Asia history and the political situation
up to the US invasion, along with the gemological work. I have sponsored four
visiting speakers over the years there and all with success and interest
and TV coverage.
Take care and keep up the good work!
- Robert H. Countess, Ph.D., Ancient Greek, Toney, AL USA
(Note: This review appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of Gems & Gemology.)
The Gem Hunter: True Adventures of an American in Afghanistan
By Gary W. Bowersox, 505 pp., illus., publ. by Geovision, Inc., Honolulu,
HI, 2004. US $29.95*
Written as a companion book to the author's 2002 video travelogue
(reviewed in the Spring 2002 G&G, p. 113), The Gem Hunter chronicles Gary
Bowersox's life as a gem merchant, starting with his youth in Michigan and his military
experience in Vietnam, continuing into his beginnings in business and his
eventual path to Afghanistan.
But this is more than just the exciting memoirs of an intrepid wanderer.
Throughout the book, he returns to the concept of "The Great Game" the
complex geo-political scramble among the powerful and the developing countries ... Mr. Bowersox does not mince words in his criticism of U.S. foreign policy in
central Asia in the 1980s through September 11, 2001, and he writes
passionately from his sneakers-on-the-ground perspective of what was happening vs. what
he believes should have been happening.
Each of the author's many journeys over the mountains and passes between
Pakistan and Afghanistan seems to be more harrowing than the last, as he
relates his encounters with the many dangers in that harsh, unforgiving part of
the world. With the help and guidance of loyal and resourceful Pakistani and
Afghan friends, he somehow overcomes one obstacle after another. Upon arriving in
Afghanistan at the midpoint of each trip, dodging bullets, bombs, and
missiles becomes a constant routine.
In 1976, the Afghan government granted Mr. Bowersox exclusive rights to
export lapis lazuli to the United States. Drawing on these early contacts,
from 1980 through 2002 he held a series of eight gemological symposia at
various sites in the U.S. and Pakistan in an effort to open the world's eyes to the
full gemological potential of Afghanistan.
With future business in mind, but not without some altruism for this
war-torn nation and its people, Bowersox's raison d-etre has become the
training of gem miners and the exploration and mapping of Afghan gem
deposits' emeralds of the Panjshir Valley; rubies of Jegdalek; tourmaline, aquamarine, and kunzite of Nuristan; lapis lazuli of Sar-e-Sang; and spinels of Kuh-i-Lal. Sadly, the book's last entry, from April of 2003, speaks of this proposal being
lost in the bureaucracy of the newly forming government.
Illustrated with over 200 black-and-white photographs and 50 maps and
drawings, this work is a singular reference on Afghan gems. Extensive
appendices include a glossary of proper names, a bibliography, a chronology of Afghan
historical and political information, and GPS coordinates for over 1,200
gem and mineral localities.
- CHARLES I. CARMONA, G.G., Guild Laboratories, Inc., Los Angeles, California
- An authoritative, important, professionally researched and well written
book about a subject worth exploring
- Gary Roskin, G.G., FGA, Senior Editor, Jewelers Circular Keystone
- I met Gary in northern Afghanistan in 1988. His personal account speaks
volumes and vividly provides a window into the struggle of the Afghan
- Ambassador Haron Amin, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Japan
- Drawing on 32 years experience, Gary Bowersox provides the reader with
first hand accounts and highly valuable insights full of wisdom and
humor about an Afghanistan that we seldom see reported in the Western media.
- John Temple Swing President Emeritus, Foreign Policy Association
- Gary Bowersox has been called a modern-day "Indiana-Jones
- Diane Sawyer, ABC's "Good Morning America"