Inside the world’s oldest gem market in Pakistan, home to terrorist financiers and drug smugglers
“Twenty-thousand dollars.” That’s how much Jalil says the blood-red ruby he is holding is worth. “It’s not my best,” says the 47-year-old gem trader. “My best pieces I only show to people holding a bag of cash.” A hush descends over the small group of men huddled around a lamp in Jalil’s shop.
The ruby, three near-flawless carats, glimmers with a surreal clarity. Other gemstones lie scattered on crisp white sheets of paper—sapphires from Kashmir, emeralds from Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, citrine and aquamarine—making the dark, windowless office feel like a cave of treasures.