Gem Hunter spends 50 years helping Afghans
(ABC 6 News) – When the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, it changed everything, especially the lives of the Afghan people.
At Hight & Randall, a jewelry store in Rochester, there’s a man there who explored gemstone mines in Afghanistan for 50 years. Gary Bowersox goes by the name, the Gem Hunter. He goes to Afghanistan in the summertime to help Afghan people mine gemstones to help them get back on their feet.
Right before the Taliban took over, Bowersox left the country, now he’s traveling the United States to share his work and the story of the Afghan people.
"We all knew things were going to change drastically, so when we said goodbye, we didn’t know when we were going to see each other again," Bowersox said.
Gary and his Afghan friends spent many summers at the emerald mine in the Panjshir Valley.
The miners live in homes along the mountain and go to work in the nearby tunnels.
And it’s in those tunnels, that Gary teaches Afghans about the gemstone craft.
"Our main project was teaching them exploration of gemstones, how do you get them out of the tunnels in the mines, and how you market the gemstones," Bowersox said.
With the gemstones the Afghan people collected, Gary helped put together a newsletter from USAID. It’s an almanac with many different Afghans present, and the gemstones they collected.
One man pictured in the newsletter even collected around $10 million worth of rough emerald.
But as they were working, the Taliban were approaching.
"We knew the war was coming and I spent a lot of time up in the north until midnight talking to my afghan friends about what they were going to do. They didn’t expect anything like this, and the situation to happen this fast," Bowersox said.
Gary left on a commercial flight before the Taliban took over, but he wants to go back, and help his Afghan friends.
"I worked with the grandfather, then the father and now the son. It’s a family relationship," Bowersox said.
And now that Gary’s back in the states, he’s traveling across the country and sharing stories of the gemstones he found.
"When someone puts on a brand new ring, they’re excited! It’s better than selling life insurance and saying you’ll be dead! You’ll be rich after you’re dead. People are happy," Bowersox said.
And that’s his mission, advocating and sharing his passion with others.
If you would like to see Gary’s work, he will be at Hight & Randall until Saturday.