It's summer again and I am ready to explore a new location for gems: Colombia. On Saturday July 13th, I am flying out to Bogota to meet my travel buddy Jochen from Jentsch Minerals and his friend Klaus, who also collects minerals as a hobby. Jochen lived in Colombia when he geological surveys from 1968-1970 and speaks Spanish well enough to keep us all afloat. (My Spanish is fairly non-existent, except what I picked up by osmosis from living in downtown Jersey City).
My Travel Buddy Jochen on his last trip to Colombia
Emeralds have been mined in Colombia for over 500 years but mining lore has it that the mining of emeralds in the area goes back as far as 500 B.C. In Bogota, we will pay a visit to the Gold Museum and of course the emerald market. Then we head out to the town of Villa de Leyva, an old historical town, for an overnight stay. The following morning our rented four wheel drive (much needed given the roads there) will take us to Muzo where we have arranged a mining trip via a local hotel. Muzo has lived off of emerald mining for hundreds of years, but not very many tourists go there. On a trip Jochen took last fall, however, he did manage to buy various specimens and two trapiche pieces.
I'm curious if there will be anything for me as the mining and selling of emeralds is firmly in government hands. While of course there are plenty of ways to buy, I am not convinced that there's any reason to expect that a one time buyer like me with a fairly small budget will be offered anything but regular retail prices. But we will see, and I will learn.
Here are some images of Muzo and the two trapice emerald pieces.
After a two night stay in Muzo, our adventure continues with a probably all day drive to Chivor. Here's an image of the mining regions in Colombia.
The mines in Chivor are privately owned so we probably won't get to see them, but the area is supposed to be beautiful and of course, I can't wait to follow in the footsteps of history. Chivor was the first mine to produce in the Americas, discovered by the Spanish in the 1500s, abandoned about two centuries later and the location lost until 1896, when it was rediscovered by Francisco Restrepo based on 300 year old maps. As history has it, Restrepo searched for eight years before he found the exact location.
You can read more about the history and Chivor in this very informative GIA article, "In Rainer's Footsteps: Journey to the Chivor Emerald Mine."
I will try to keep in touch from Colombia. Internet access is fairly smooth I am told, and I am in the same time zone as in NYC, which will help a great deal.
Looking forward to reporting back soon! We will fly out of Bogota on the 23rd, rest up in the Dominican Republic for a couple of nights, and I arrive back on the 26th.