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Monday, June 27, 2011

Colombia - Land of Emeralds and Gold

Gold and Emeralds

Raw Emeralds at the Mine
Many people have known, for centuries, that the finest emeralds in the World come from Colombia.  If you are in a museum in Europe looking at crown jewels, the emeralds came from the mines of Colombia, probably Muzo or Chivor

Entrance to an emerald mine
It might be interesting to take a closer look at the emerald mines, since most of us are accustomed to seeing only the finished product in a ring, or a queens crown.  To this day, the mines that produced the emeralds for Europe's royal households are still operating.  So I thought I'd post a little article and a few photos so that you could see where these emeralds come from, what the mines look like, and get a sense of how it all happens.

The standard operating procedure is that miners pay a tribute to the person who owns the mine.  They enter the mines and work for themselves.  They can sell the emeralds to people who travel to the mines, but few people take the long drive through winding mountain roads to arrive at the mine sites.  Instead, most of the miners take their emeralds to the major market in Bogota where emerald buyers converge from around the World.  Many come from major diamond houses in Europe to buy emeralds and, in fact, some pay with diamonds.  This creates an interesting market where inexpensive diamonds can be purchased in the emerald markets!

Museo del Oro
Those who do drive to the mines are able to conclude their business directly with the miners.  The people who do this typically cut and polish their emeralds and mount them in jewelry that can be found in many of the high end jewelry shops in major cities like Bogota, Cartagena, or Santa Marta.  Another major resource of Colombia is gold, and there's a national museum called the Museo del Oro where some of the best examples of Pre-Colombian gold art can be found.  It is a national treasure and well worth seeing.

A Chillin Porch in Colombia
We also tend to think of Juan Valdez and coffee when we discuss the beauty of Colombia, so I thought I'd put a few coffee photos in here too.  Just so that you can see that Colombia has every variety of coffee imaginable.  The reason Colombian coffee is the best quality in the World is due to the climate and the soil.  This is no different than the Rheims region of France where the best Champagne is produced.  It's about the climatic conditions and the soil. 

Coffee Cherries
Finally, perhaps a photo or two of the colonial architecture and the beaches of Colombia.  Colombia has three colors on the flag, gold, red, and blue.  These colors have significance insomuch as the gold represents the natural resources of Colombia, the blue represents the fact that Colombia has both Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and the red is for the blood of the patriots who bravely defended Colombia and have created the longest standing democracy in all of Latin America.

Beach on the Atlantic Side
The beauty of Colombia is surpassed only by the magnificence of the people.  Consistently, in the United Nations study on where the happiest people in the World live, Colombia is always near the top of the list probably because the Colombian people are very happy in general.  They don't seem to need all the material wealth we have in order to be happy.  I think it also has to do with the tremendous climate and natural wealth of great food, great weather, and every possible kind of climate imaginable within a few hours drive.

So take a look and enjoy some of the photos, I think you'll find Colombia is a very beautiful place.  I know that I've come to love Colombia in a very deep and profound manner.  I love everything about Colombia.  And sure, I recognize there have been difficulties, but what country doesn't have challenges?  The point is this, one can be happy no matter where you live.  But if you happen to live in Colombia... you've got a huge basket of reasons to be happy!


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