Kunduz’s silver jewellery market flourishes amid economic decline

In the year and a half since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the market for silver jewellery has been thriving in Kunduz, while the demand for gold has been on the decline. Kunduz’s silver goldsmiths have noted a significant increase in customers seeking domestically produced, handmade silver jewellery, leading to an improvement in their businesses over the past few months.

Officials from the Kunduz Silver and Goldsmiths Union have reported that the province now hosts five factories producing quality, beautiful and elegant silver jewellery for the market. They attribute the rising demand for silver to the economic poverty prevalent in the region, leading to silver’s more affordable price compared to gold. As poverty and unemployment continue to plague the population, people are opting for the more reasonably priced silver jewellery instead of expensive gold.

Silver and its field of application 

Silver, one of the precious metals, has been widely used in different fields throughout history, including the production of coins, mirrors, musical instruments, and kitchenware. Nowadays, in Afghanistan, silver is mainly used for making various ornaments and dental covers.

Goldsmiths in Afghanistan obtain raw silver materials from “Mashhadi” and “Qeran” metals and coins, which were commonly used in the past. Additionally, they extract silver pieces from miners in the northeastern provinces of Badakhshan and Panjshir. Silver mines in Afghanistan are found in pure form and percentage form, in mines such as copper, nickel, lead, and zinc.

Afghanistan’s most important silver or “White Gold” mines are located in the heights of Badakhshan, Panjshir, Simkoh Herat, Khakriz Kandahar, Ghorband, and mountains in the central regions. Some silver mines are also found in the Aynak Logar copper mine and Bibi Gohar lead mine in Kandahar.

The booming business of silver jewellery

In recent years, Kunduz has seen a shift in the jewellery market, with silver taking the lead over gold. The reason behind this change, according to Kunduz local goldsmiths, is the availability of modern tools and equipment in silver jewellery production and factories, making the work more efficient and streamlined.

Silver jewellery sets on display at a production factory in Kunduz. Photo: Etalaat Roz/KabulNow

Gholam Jilani, manager of a silver jewellery production factory in Kunduz, notes that the low price of silver compared to gold has made it a popular choice among customers who cannot afford the latter due to economic poverty. 

“One gram of 100% Thai silver is valued at 140 Afghanis ($1.6), whereas one gram of 80% pure silver is priced at 100 Afghanis ($1.2), and one gram of 40% pure silver is worth 50 Afghanis ($0.57). These prices are indicative of the high demand for silver in the jewellery industry in Kunduz.” Jilani said. 

The factory has nine workers who use raw materials sourced from Kunduz and neighboring provinces, including Mashhadi and Qeran coins, as well as silver pieces from mines in Badakhshan, Panjshir, and Logar provinces.

The Kunduzi goldsmiths create a wide range of jewellery designs, including earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces, and rings, and supply them to shopkeepers and customers in neighboring districts and provinces. Young people including women make up the majority of silver jewellery customers in Kunduz, who purchase the items for weddings, Eid celebrations, and gift-giving.

As the market for silver jewellery continues to grow, Gholam Jilani hopes that the Taliban officials will facilitate the marketing and export of their products in coordination with businessmen, providing a boost to the silver jewellery industry in Kunduz.

Sayed Hekmatullah, a reputable seller of silver jewellery in Kunduz, reports an increase in sales in recent years, particularly among female customers. He highlights that despite the rise in sales, the government has imposed increased taxes on their business. As such, Hekmatullah and his fellow sellers call for a reduction in taxes to ease the burden on their business.

Atiqullah, a member of the Union of Silversmiths and Engravers in Kunduz, reports that five factories are currently producing silver jewelry in the province, with each employing between five to ten goldsmiths. The industry’s growth has provided employment opportunities for dozens of people in Kunduz, and the union is working towards further developing the goldsmith industry by using domestic silver for jewellery production.

Providing job opportunities for young people

The silver jewelry industry in Kunduz has been providing young people with job opportunities and income for their families. Najibullah, a worker in one of the silver factories, has been producing silver jewellery with six other workers for five years. He learned the trade as an apprentice with a goldsmith in the province for two years and has now started working on his own.

A boy working at a factory in Kunduz. Photo: Etalaat Roz/KabulNow

Najibullah explains that he and his colleagues make a decent living working in the factory, and many young people are trained by experienced craftsmen to learn the goldsmith industry so they can work after their training. They produce various kinds of jewellery, which are ordered by customers and shopkeepers.

Shamsullah, another worker in a silver jewellery factory in Kunduz, has been working in the industry for ten years. “In this factory, we produce and sell various types of jewelry such as earrings, necklaces, rings, etc.” Shamsullah says. “I earn a living for my family by working in the factory,” he adds. 

What are silver customers saying?

Silver jewelry made by goldsmiths in Kunduz has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its quality and elegance, according to the province’s residents. According to them, high quality jewelry attracts many customers.

Obaidullah, a resident of Kunduz, prefer high-quality silver rings with precious stones. He believes that if goldsmiths use better metals in their jewellery, they can satisfy more customers and have a thriving market. 

Another resident of Kunduz, Ahmad Khan, who has been operating in Kunduz for years, shares his valuable experience in the field of silver trading. Khan states that he sources his silver jewellery from Kunduz’s local factories and sells it to districts and provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan. He further adds that premium quality silver retains its luster. The majority of Khan’s clients are the younger and older demographics from provinces in the northeast zone.

Bashir, a resident, visited one of the silver factories to buy an original silver ring with an agate gem that will maintain its quality over time. He noticed that the number of silver customers had increased in the last year, and the prices of silver had also risen.

The residents of Kunduz and silver jewellery customers hope to see significant growth in this industry, leading to the production of even better quality products. The expansion of the jewelry industry not only creates job opportunities for young people but also enables customers to order their favorite items at a reasonable price. The officials of the silver factories and the goldsmith union in Kunduz believe that with government support and investment, they can expand production and grow the silver industry.