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Going for the Green

When it comes to gift giving it’s hard to go wrong with a birthstone. The personal and thoughtful nature of birthstone gifts have maintained their popularity. Of course you might be less likely to receive your birthstone from others on the regular if you were born in April (diamond), May (emerald), or July (ruby), compared to those born in more “cost-effective” birthstone months.

But wait. I have intriguing news for the May babies out there. Stay with me. As you know, for the better part of a year and a half world commerce has slowed down. Recently, even as we tried to return to “normal,” a new variant has stalled much of the world’s reopening. This slow-down has particularly impacted the travel industry. For the past 18 months all travel has been affected, particularly international travel.

Photo credit: Chris Hardy on Unsplash

Silver Lining?

While airlines and hotels work hard to attract customers and return lifelong road warriors to their frequent travel habits, perhaps there’s a silver lining to be found for gem-hunters. The “oversupply” of travel offered by airlines right now, particularly between the United States and Central and South America, poses a potential opportunity for savvy consumers.

Most gemophiles know Columbia is home to some of the world’s richest emerald deposits. They are widely considered among the most elegant – possessing the richest hues due to lower iron content than emeralds found in other regions of the world. As New York has its Diamond District, the Emerald District near the La Candelaria section of Bogota is famous for active trade and sale of emeralds. If you have education and experience with these stones, and a helping of street-sense which is advisable in any foreign market, you might get yourself a “cherry deal” on a Columbian emerald.

Emerald and Loupe
Photo credit: Sabrinna Ringquist on Unsplash

The most prized emeralds are a characteristic, translucent dark green. Younger emeralds, with hints of turquoise, have their own appeal. Overall size and coloration will be the largest determining factors when it comes to cost, but any emerald’s inclusions will also need to be considered. Inclusions in emeralds are sometimes referred to as “jardin” (which translates to garden) because they can be so frequent as to resemble moss or plant foliage. While they are extremely durable, emeralds need to be treated with care due to the nature of their internal characteristics. For example, mechanical cleaning with steam or ultrasonics can compromise an emerald’s internal integrity, potentially causing it to fracture.

You may be asking yourself why go to all that expense just to save money? Won’t the trip cost far more than I would save?

Opportunity Knocks

Remember that pandemic travel situation I mentioned? For those gemophiles who are vaccinated and intrepid a little trip to the Emerald District might actually be a consideration. With a 30 day advance purchase I found these prices on one popular airline from New York to Bogota:



Columbia is not considered a casual destination, yet it’s a country which has improved its image among travelers notably in years prior to the pandemic. According to travel advisory sites, Bogota is actually one of South America’s safest urban areas, with a crime rate lower than Indianapolis, Indiana. It’s also one of the world’s best places to drink coffee. Therefore, if you’re comfortable with international travel right now, it wouldn’t cost much to experience some culture, enjoy foreign food and adventure and surprise any May babies you know with some unexpected treasures. Of course, we all know someone doesn’t have to be born in May to enjoy a Colombian emerald.

Disclaimer: I find this a fun and romantic notion, but wouldn’t personally consider it until the world has come closer to normal. I’ll be watching the airfares with interest while that happens. And any international road warriors inclined to make such a journey should read the latest info to make an informed decision.

So how about it, emerald aficionados? Will you pack your best jewelers’ loupe, prowl the famous Emerald District, find a reputable dealer, intelligently negotiate and save significant money with a luxurious vacation to boot? (you will, of course, need to declare any purchases made and pay all appropriate VAT and import duties and fees.)

If you do, don’t miss the Museo Internacional de la Esmeralda (Emerald Museum) on the 23rd floor of the Avianca building. Post photos. I’ll be watching.

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