Wednesday, December 21, 2011

La Candelaria: Emerald Country

Eye on the stone:Studying an emerald in Bogotá's open-air emerald market. 
In addition to being Bogotá's historical and cultural center, La Candelaria is also an emerald market - and perhaps even the world's premier emerald market. After all, Colombia produces more than half of the world's emeralds, lots of them mined around Bogotá. 

So, what Christmas gift could be more Colombian, or even La Candelarian, than an emerald?

Streets 12b and 12c between Carreras 5 and 7 have lots of jewelry stores, as does the Jimenez Ave. around Seventh Ave. But perhaps the most interesting emerald market is the open air one which forms every day on the southern sidewalk of Jimenez Ave., just west of Seventh Ave. On weekdays, you'll see dozens of men standing about here, and if you look closely you'll notice they're carrying sheets of paper, in which they hold their emeralds. Now and again, one will hold a stone up to the sky to check it for defects.

The rule here is 'buyer beware': a stone's value varies depending on its size, cut, its transparency and the depth of its green color. Unethical traders can doctor emeralds to hide their defects. And, of course, the unwary may go home with a sparkly piece of glass. Many of the dealers will offer you a certificate - but outside of Colombia that certificate may be nothing more than a piece of paper. 

Remarkably, even with thousands of dollars in stones changing hands here every day, I've never heard of one getting lost or stolen.  

Men at work in La Candelaria's open-air emerald market by the intersection of Seventh and Jimenez Avenues. 

An emerald shark. 

A little emerald-carrying burro in the window of the Emerald Trade Center on Jimenez Ave. 

You can also visit the Emerald Museum, located across the street from the Gold Museum. But, inexplicably, they prohibit taking pictures inside!

Related entry: The world's biggest emerald - or not!

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Carlito said...

That sector is one of the safest in the city but because there must be about one gun for every 4 traders, if you look closely, they have bodyguards, acting as traders or bystanders too.

Miguel said...

Funny. I've been there innumerable times, but never seen a gun or someone who looked like a bodyguard to me.

But they've told me that nobody fools with them because if anybody tried, dozens of esmeralderos would be after them instantly.