Your Ultimate Guide To Buying Emeralds In Bogota
Whether you’re really into jewelry, are looking to buy that perfect engagement ring or just want a really memorable souvenir, you might want to consider buying emeralds in Bogota.
Emeralds are native to Colombia, with mines located within a 200km radius from the capital. As a matter of fact, part of the reason Bogota is where it is, is due to these very mines!
How to identify Colombian emeralds
In case you didn’t know, Colombia supplies 65% of the world’s emeralds, followed by South Africa, Brazil, and Russia. In each of these countries, emeralds will have different characteristics due to the minerals and natural conditions of the land. Brazil is known to have the largest emeralds for example.
Colombia, on the other hand, is known to have the highest quality emeralds. A high-quality Colombian emerald has a uniform color and little inclusions. But more on that later!
Ever since I arrived to Colombia, I’ve felt the whole emerald market in Bogota was a mystery. I was scared of getting ripped off, I was told that the men who gathered in plazas in the center to trade and sell emeralds were part of a big mafia and that they were not to be approached as they were dangerous and armed. I was told all this by Colombians too!
To demystify the emerald market here in Bogota, I ventured off on an emerald tour that taught me everything there was to know about the precious stone, from how they are formed to where to buy Colombian emeralds and more.
If you yourself are looking to buy, here are a few pointers to getting the real deal.
How to buy Colombian emeralds
Like wine, there’s a Colombian emerald for every taste and budget. There are some younger formations that look like turquoise or jade and are more opaque and lighter in color. These are very affordable and can easily cost below $50, depending on the size.
Other translucent dark green emeralds have taken up to 45 million years to form and a small stone the size of your pinky fingernail can cost anywhere from $200 to $10,000 USD and up!
The price difference is determined not only by the color of the stone but also by the inclusions it has. For example, although a darker stone is typically more valuable, if its lighter counterpart has less inclusions, in that case, the lighter stone would be more expensive.
Where to buy Colombian emeralds
If you’re in Bogota and are looking to buy, you must head over to the Emerald District in the center of Bogota. Once the emeralds are extracted from their mines, they are brought over to the Emerald District, where they are sculpted and polished to give them their beautiful, shiny finish.
You can peruse the streets of La Candelaria around calle 12 and 6th Avenue, where you’ll find emerald jewelry shops back to back.
You can also head over to the Emerald Trade Center of Bogota on Avenida Jiménez #5-43. Despite its humble appearance, you can rest assured that you will be getting a legitimate stone.
Take your time to look around, ask for quotes, and NEGOTIATE! No price is set in stone. Pun intended.
Buying on the Bogota Emerald Market
There’s something very unique to the emerald market in Bogota which has always caught my eye: Men gathering to sell, trade and exchange out in the open air. Whether you’re looking to get a great deal (as these men don’t pay taxes) or just see what the excitement is all about, head over to Avenida Jimenez between 6th and 7th street. Here you’ll see crowds of men chatting, exchanging and negotiating.
Many of these men know each other and keep an eye out for each other. These traders mostly sell to jewelry shops and wholesale to clients who come from abroad. Many of them have worked in emerald mines and even sculpt and polish their own rocks. Although it looks informal, don’t be fooled by their appearance! Some of these men are carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise!
If you want a great deal, buying from these men can be a smart option. They’ll sell you the emerald separately from the jewelry setting. But although the large majority are honest, it’s best to go with someone who speaks Spanish, can negotiate, and knows a thing or two about emeralds.
WATCH OUT! These guys have been known to perform a popular scam called the cambiazo. This means that they’ll sell you a real stone and switch it for a fake one before handing it over to you.
How to spot fake emeralds
Every single emerald will have some type of inclusion which can be seen by holding it up in the light or using a magnifying glass.
Fake emeralds will not. They’ll be too perfect. They’ll have no inclusions and have a wonderful uniform color. So if it seems to good to be true, it probably is!
If you plan on buying emeralds in Bogota, take your time and spend a day to go to the Emerald District in the center to review your options, get quotes and get a good deal. Also, check out my video to get a feel for the tour!
If you’re working on your Spanish or need some help to assist you in your purchase, Colombia4U offers knowledgeable and trustworthy guides that will show you the ins and outs of the emerald industry in Colombia and help you get a great deal.