Colombia’s Hidden Treasures

September 25, 2021

When we think of the origin of gemstones, we tend to think of exotic locations buried deep within the forest, brimming with vivid jewels and secret treasures. It’s a scene that we can only picture, with miners foraging deep into the earth for these colourful stones, labouring away in tropical heats and unearthing seemingly nothing rocks which will be polished into heavenly pieces. Well, these very scenarios, although perhaps less dramatic, truly do exist and are happening as you read this post – in one location such as Colombia.

In the 1850’s, a Spanish conqueror Conquistador believed that below the great Lake Guatavita in Sesquile laid hidden treasures beyond belief. To test his theory, he attempted to drain this lake by cutting a hole in the lakes rim. He was miraculously right, and at the edge of the lake he discovered riches of gold and emeralds.

Colombia is host to an abundance of resources, all of which we use today either for practical use or for luxury items. The country is known for its emeralds which are majority located within the ‘emerald belt’, situated within a sedimentary basin near the Andes. There are three main mining locations for emerald extraction: Coscuez, Muzo and Chivor. This mining has been taking place since the 1500s, when the Spaniards arrived at the new worlds with a mission to discover treasures and goods. At this time, from and throughout the Pre-Colombian period, emeralds were being worshipped and used in sacrificial offerings to the gods. Trading also began at this time, stretching from Peru to Mexico. In 1533, the Spanish conqueror Pizarro sent 4 chests of emeralds to the King of Spain all the way from Peru. This began the first major mining efforts of Colombia, when the Spaniards opened their emerald mine in Chivor.

Over the years of excessive mining, the emerald belt is slowing extraction of top-quality emeralds due to exhaustion. New mining operations have been set up in La Pita, where an increase of emerald yield is occurring. Since their discovery, Colombian emeralds remain in high demand due to these stones displaying the most desired hue and quality.

Of course, as well as emeralds, Colombia is host to exquisite gold deposits which are thoroughly utilised. The earliest examples of gold mining within the country stretch back to 325 BCE when the Tumaco people began excavation of the Pacific coast. Again, this news of gold and riches spread to the Spanish conquistadores who ventured to the country to trade. Today, Colombia is still mining and producing large reserves of gold that are used across the country. On top of emeralds and gold, Colombia is also host to mineral reserves such as silver, copper, nickel, and halite.

Ricardo the Lapidarist, gemstone polishing

In 2020, we at London DE opened our wholly owned subsidiary right in the heart of the Emerald district – Bogota, Colombia. London DE SAS allows us to buy our stones and minerals right from the top of the supply chain and cuts out any middlemen, meaning we can offer you luxury pieces for highly affordable prices unlike other jewellers. Our Colombian office also allows us to maintain a transparent mine-to-market scheme meaning we can see exactly where our materials have come from, where they are going and where they land.

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