LAHORE: As soon as one enters the ancient Nagina Market of Lahore, the mere sight of thousands of unique and sparkly gemstones is bound to mesmerise visitors.
According to shopkeepers – who use makeshift stalls to display gemstones instead of constructing concrete stores within the premises of the market – Nagina market is historically one of South Asia’s oldest and most expensive markets.
Located in Old Lahore near the famous Lahori Gate, the market was formed during the Mughal Era. Shopkeepers say that at the time, the market was built in the proximity of subcontinent’s Akbari Mandi where traders from across the globe used to come and sell different commodities.
“Among other items, the market became famous for the selling and purchasing of precious stones and the practice has been carried out since then,” Muhammad Bilal, a shopkeeper told The Express Tribune.
At present, there are around 100 stall present in the market where various types of precious-and-semi-precious gemstones are sold.
Bilal, who along with his sons, has been running his shop in the market for the past 30 years, explained that stones like Sapphire, Agate, Durr-e-Najaf (The Pearl of Najaf), Ruby, Turquoise, Aqua Marine, and pearl, to name a few.
“The price of gemstones range from Rs10 to Rs100, 000 and the most expensive stone which is being sold at Nagina Market is Emerald, which costs Rs300, 000 to Rs400, 000,” Bilal informed The Express Tribune. “Prices are also defined in accordance with the size and weight of the stone.”
He also explained that stoned available in the market are imported from various countries of the World, including Iran, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, India and several African countries. That apart, locally-extracted stones from Pakistan’s Northern areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are also available in the market.
“Owing to their experience and expertise related to gemstones, many shopkeepers – who hail from smaller cities – work as testers and appraisers of precious gemstones stones,” Bilal said.
Apart from using gemstones as ornaments and in jewelry, many people also collect them as a hobby. Some also use it to decorate their cars and trucks, he said. However, a vast majority of buyers use these stones for religious reasons and use them to make prayer beads or tasbeehs.
“Some people also believe that these stones have an effect on people’s personalities, so they choose them in accordance with their zodiac signs,” Bilal elaborated.
Other shopkeepers told The Express Tribune that if the government supports and promotes the trade of gemstones, then they can become good source of earning foreign exchange.