Posts Tagged ‘natural emeralds’

The Emerald District in Bogota.

In this blog I’ll take you to a very fun place for me, the emerald district in downtown Bogota, the capital of Colombia.  On Jimenez Avenue between 6th and 7th street, the heart of downtown, you will find the emerald district.  This is the place where most of the emeralds come after they have been mined and cut and the place where they make their first appearance in the emerald market.

Bogota is an amazing city of almost 8 million people.  It is nestled high in the Andes at about 8700 feet altitude and is a city of high contrast.  There are high rise buildings next to colonial churches, there are universities, theaters, and shantytowns, all with a mixture of Spanish, English, and Indian influences.  There is a great deal of wealth here but there is also poverty.  It is a city of wild traffic and an occasional calm oasis that reflects the bygone colonial days.  There is futuristic architecture, graffiti, congestion, restaurants, bookstores, and a lot of old world charm.  In the middle of all this, very near the presidential palace, is the heart of the emerald district.

Jimenez Ave. in Bogota

Jimenez Ave. in Bogota

The district consists of several blocks of buildings where larger dealers occupy booths and offices and where you will find cutters, gemologists, and international traders.  You will see small shopping centers with colonial looks and small, modest jewelry stores.  There are wholesaler workshops and people in the streets selling crafts with emerald themes.

There is one special block on Jimenez Avenue, between 6th and 7th, where the “comisionistas” (emerald dealers) get together on the wide sidewalk to do business.  These guys are the very heart and essence of the emerald market.  Most of them deal with loose emeralds that they get on commission from other dealers or that they have bought from the mines.  They move all day long between private dealers’ and cutters’ offices, jewelry stores, and the sidewalk.  They meet regular buyers and sellers and close deals for thousands of dollars right there in the middle of the street.

The dealers have the most beautiful emeralds of any size and if they don’t have it they will find it for you in an hour or two.  Most of them know each other and after many years have become close friends. They are always joking with each other and not taking their work day too seriously.  Most are middle class people with small and sometimes not so adequate incomes to support their families. Even so, stress is not part of their daily routine.  Most of the time they are a happy bunch and it shows just by watching them for a while.

One reason their job is not stressful to them is that they generally work from 10:00 a.m. to about 4:00 p.m.  They don’t work on weekends, holidays (there are 20 in the year), and they don’t work on the seven days of Holy Week.  That’s not counting the last week of December to January 14 to celebrate the New Year.

There is a very good reason for their short daily hours and it is the same reason why none of the offices in the district have curtains or blinds.  The only light anyone trusts to examine an emerald is sunlight.  That’s why all the deals are done in the street or next to a window.  After four, the sunlight is just not strong enough so everyone goes home.  And why get up before ten, anyway.

Emerald dealers in downtown Bogota

Emerald dealers in downtown Bogota

If you go to the market to buy an emerald, would be good to take someone with you who knows the market.  There is no return policy or store credit.  A handshake is a done deal and a contract.  While most of the dealers are honest people there may be others that just show up for a day or two to try their luck with imitations or lab created emeralds that can fool the untrained eye.  An honest dealer may offer you beautiful gems but probably not at the same price he would charge a fellow dealer.  They will consider that a sale to you will replace a sale to another dealer they know and will want to make it “worth their while” by charging you a higher price.

The nature of the emeralds themselves has created this tumultuous and exceptional market.  In the diamond market, everything is written down, classified, and graded according to strict guidelines.  You can buy a diamond over the phone or at Costco and know exactly what you get.  Boring!  Boring!  But in the emerald market it is very human, very personal, and a very face to face business that I love.  I love to talk to the people there and feel their moods and energy.  Each dealer is as unique as the gemstones they sell.

I hope you have a chance to see Bogota and the emerald market for yourself.  It is a busy, exciting, fun place to be.  If you go there to buy an emerald, have someone with you who knows the market and can help you negotiate for a quality gem and a good price.  If you go just to see the sights of Bogota, go to the emerald market, sit at a sidewalk cafe with a good cup of Colombian coffee, and just watch.  I’m sure it will be well worth your while.


A story

I would like to share a story that is very special to me, my wife, and our store.  Several years ago a gentleman in his early fifties came into the store by himself.  He had been in several times before with his wife and they loved our settings and emerald selection.

He started a conversation by saying, “Since my wife and I visited your store we became very interested in emeralds.  Every time we have the opportunity to check other jewelry stores for these gems we do it.”  He also mentioned that gems he found in different places were somehow different from ours.  “Most of the emeralds out there don’t have this kind of green.  They look kind of cloudy inside.  In most of them it is very difficult to see that green fire that I can see in yours.”  I was very proud and flattered when he told me how his wife always had our store in mind and that she had enjoyed learning about the stones when she visited here.

The man was on a mission to choose a very special gift for his wife.  I asked about the special occasion to see if it would help me choose pieces for him to consider but he was a little evasive.  I helped him the best I could and we narrowed his choices to three rings.  All three were gorgeous pieces with beautiful emeralds and tasteful settings.  After a while I could see he had a favorite but there was a huge battle within him and it was price related.  I gave him some other options but he kept coming back to his favorite and his stress was building.  The more he thought about it, the more stressed he became and soon he became silent, just staring at nothing at all.

So there we stood in silence for a couple of minutes. He was lost in his own thoughts and I didn’t dare interrupt. Then, gradually, his shoulders relaxed, his face changed, and he broke into a big smile.  More to himself than to me he said, “…she will live to enjoy it…”, and confidently pointed to his favorite ring.

He began to tell me that a few months prior his wife had been diagnosed with cancer.  He wanted to give her a reason to be happy every day, to distract her from treatments, and to give her another reason to feel beautiful.  I was speechless for a moment, overcome by the situation, and ended up mumbling something about how honored I was that he picked our store for such a noble purpose.

The next day I got to work early and still hadn’t opened for business.  I heard someone knocking out front and when I went to look, guess who I saw.  I saw the happiest, most radiant lady, one hand waving to show me her new ring and the other hand clasped tightly around husband’s arm.  They both told me how happy the ring made her but the words didn’t really matter.  I just knew.  I just knew.

I think of this story often.  It pops into my head when I get carried away explaining clarity, color, settings, and all those things that make emeralds precious to me.  I am reminded that the technical aspects of any emerald and its price tag are not as important as the reasons my customer may have for buying it. The motive may be far beyond purchasing the perfect stone. The sentiment behind the purchase makes every emerald unforgettable and priceless.

Which emerald is a good emerald? COLOR


This is a question that many people have asked me for years, every day.  It’s the biggest concern for anyone shopping for emeralds or is simply curious about this exotic gem.  Sometimes the explanation is hard to understand because there are not many good examples in the marketplace you can refer to for comparison.  Not all jewelry stores have a nice variety of natural emeralds or have good information about them.

Blog 2If you are not a gemologist, the jargon and methods used to grade quality can be hard to understand.  From my side of the jewelry counter, I may look at as many as 7 different features of each stone.  From your side of the counter you need to know simple but important things to make your own decision. For someone looking for an engagement ring, for the ladies that love gems and want some idea of what to look for, or for someone looking for that special gift that shows how much you care, there are four very important qualities of natural emeralds that you can assess yourself, Color, Clarity, Brilliancy and Size.  We’ll discuss color first.

Color is the biggest factor in establishing the value and quality in natural emeralds.  Color is divided into: Hue, Tonal Grade, and Saturation.  Hue refers to the kind of green color the emerald has.  It gives a name to the color.  Most of the Colombian emeralds present a “bluish green”.

Tonal grade establishes the degree of darkness or lightness of the green color in the gem.  Natural emeralds present a wide variety of green tones:

Very Light,       Light,       Medium Light,       Medium,       Medium Dark,       Very Dark.

Many people consider that a good emerald is dark green.  Most of the literature about these gems will say that a good emerald will have a Tonal grade from Medium to Very Dark.  Be careful because this is only one part of the color feature.  Color is only one of the factors that make the value in these gems.

How vivid and how much power the green has is as important as how dark it is.  That is what we call Saturation in the color.  Saturation is the strength or intensity of the color, ranging from a dull hue (green) to a pure vivid hue.  That’s why you will find emeralds with a dark green color but at the same time they are dull or “flat”, having a dead look that is not exciting and doesn’t speak to you.

P1010535In the same way you will find a light green colored emerald that is full of life, one that catches your eye in the display case and you can not stop looking at it.   That mysterious power grabs your attention and you cannot explain why.  So…light green is not always a bad thing.

When you mix the Tonal grade and Saturation you will have the color in an emerald.  In the market the most expensive emeralds are the ones with high saturation and a Tonal Grade between Medium and Medium Dark.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy a Medium Light with nice saturation or vivid green emerald.  You can’t imagine how many customers I have had who were looking for a dark green emerald “because those are the good ones” –they say- and can’t help falling in love with a Medium Light Tonal Grade emerald with good saturation.

“I haven’t seen emeralds in this kind of green color.”   “I didn’t like emeralds because I though they came just in dark dull green…”  “I can’t tell what it is about this stone that I love.”  “I have seen emeralds but not like these.”  “My mom has an emerald but it doesn’t looks like yours.”

These are the phrases I’m very happy to hear and I hear them all the time. We have a nice selection of emeralds, a selection that you normally won’t see in traditional jewelry stores. Some of them are dark and some light, some with a high saturation some with low saturation…but all of them are beautiful.

Color is only one part of the quality in natural emeralds. I’ll talk about Clarity in my next blog.