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COLOMBIAN EMERALDS

Colombia is known for its coffee, flowers, soccer and of course our emeralds. If you are looking for an exclusive souvenir of your visit to our country Emeralds are your best choice.

We have intervie
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wed Algis Morales to better guide you in choosing an emerald. Algis and his family have been in the emerald industry for over 40 years in the mining, cutting and polishing, and jewelry industry. They have helped countless friends and loyal customers find that special Colombian emerald for their loved ones, or helped them find beautiful emerald specimens for their rock collections. Since 2001 they have an online presence www.emeraldbury.com.

What sets Colombian emeralds apart?
Colombian emeralds are considered to be the yardstick by which all other emeralds are measured up against. Colombian emeralds have always been considered to have the most desired green color. What differentiates Colombian emeralds from emeralds from other locations around the world like Brazil, Pakistan, Zambia, etc, is that Colombian emeralds are formed in sedimentary rock formations whereas emeralds from other parts in the world are formed in metamorphic formations over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. What this basically means is that during the thousands of years of geological formation, different conditions of extreme temperatures and pressure had to take place for these emeralds to come about. The deep green color that Colombian emeralds are known for is due to traces of chromium in their molecular crystal structure. That is why Colombian emeralds seem to have a "green on top of green" or "green on top of yellow or blue" color. Emeralds from other localities have a different green color because their coloration is due to traces of iron and vanadium, so their green seems to be a "green on top of gray" or "green on top of brown". Even within Colombia you can also find emeralds that are seemingly different in tone. Some emeralds can also have a slightly bluish undertone which is also desirable, but in being able to see a wide assortment of stones you can appreciate the unique beauty of our Colombian emeralds.

Where are the emeralds mined?
Colombia has several main areas where emeralds are mined. The main areas are comprised of Muzo, Quipama, Coscuez, Penas Blancas, Cunas, and Chivor, roughly about 100 miles away from Bogota.

What’s the process of mining?
The process of emerald mining is highly labor intensive. For many years these mines were quarried using the open pit method which literally sliced mountains layer by layer like an onion, with bulldozers and other heavy machinery. However, this caused much environmental damage and quite a great number of productive emerald veins were buried and lost by the erosion caused by this system. Today the mining is done strictly by drilling vertical shafts several hundred feet down into the ground, and then drilling horizontally branching tunnels in search of emerald bearing veins and pockets. The process is quite expensive but it is much safer and environmentally friendly than the way emeralds were mined in the past.

Where would you recommend people buy emeralds?
If you are looking to buy emeralds the best thing to do is ask someone you know if they can refer you to a reputable emerald dealer or jeweler. If not, take some time to learn about emeralds, (it's pretty fun and not that difficult as you can see), and make a trip to downtown Bogota to check out the emerald market for yourself. The emerald district in Bogota is on Avenida Jimenez and Carrera 7, in the heart of downtown Bogota. Ask several dealers and jewelers there to show you goods they have. You can always compare prices, compare the quality of stones they sell, and at the same time you'll make a few new good friends. The emerald market in Bogota shouldn't intimidate you at all if you're cautious and use common sense. Just like every other business the emerald market is a market built on people, relationships, and trust. I promise you that you'll love it, and you'll see how much you enjoy the experience!

How about on-line?
Buying emeralds online is an option of last resort unless you know and trust the person that is selling you the stone and if he or she has sold you emeralds in the past. When it comes to emeralds the best thing is to be able to see the emeralds in person because no matter how well photographed the emeralds are they can always be photo-shopped or altered. It is very difficult to capture an emerald's color, sparkle, and liveliness if you're not looking at it in person. Choosing a stone is a very objective and personal experience.

How can you tell real stones from fake?
Just like with diamonds, it is best to have someone who is reputable to guide you in the ins and outs of gemstones. To the untrained eye it can be very easy to be misled by the authenticity of an emerald, but someone who has seen thousands upon thousands of stones it is easy to tell the difference between a real emerald and a fake/simulant stone. Usually you can tell that a stone is not the real thing by the color of the emerald, the absence of inclusions, and the "feel" of it. This "feel" comes from experience and many years of looking at stones and setting them in jewelry.

What are the characteristics buyers should look for when purchasing an emerald?
Many people have heard about the 4 C's when it comes to looking for a diamond. The 4 C's are: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat weight. According to these characteristics in a diamond, the diamond industry goes by fixed prices that you can find in what is called the Rapaport Sheet (or Rap Sheet), which is basically the international benchmark by which diamond dealers establish their prices. However, when it comes to Colombian emeralds, and pretty much all other colored stones, they do not have this same stone grading system as diamonds because there are so many other characteristics in emeralds that simply cannot be established by the 4 C's, namely because when it comes to emeralds you have more than 600 tones of green with different levels of saturation and hues, and simply by this characteristic it's difficult to gauge an emerald's value. Because of this there really aren't any fixed prices when it comes to emerald. But don't let this confuse you nor let your interest fade. Emeralds are some of the most beautiful and fine gemstones, and with just a little education and eye training you can become quite good at telling the difference between average stones, commercial quality stones, and the really fine quality emeralds that Colombia is so well known for. Looking at emeralds is fun!

Color: When it comes to emeralds, the first and most important factor you want to look for is a deep grassy green color. The darker and deeper the color, the higher price the stone will command.

Clarity: Along with a deep green color, you also want the stone to have good clarity. In other words, the quality of the crystal should be as flawless as possible, or what we call "eye clean" (by simply looking at the emerald with the naked eye). Emeralds during their formation through hundreds of thousands of years develop growth features that some people call "flaws", but are known by gemologists as "inclusions". These inclusions are trapped gas bubbles in the crystal lattices of the emerald, other crystals that have been caught in the lattices during the formation of the emerald, or tiny stress fractures that have occurred through the growth and formation of the emerald through it's geological history.

10 Places to visit around Bogota

1. Guatavita: The center of “El Dorado” Legend. This is a sacred lagoon for the ancient Muisca people. Here they would hold rituals where gold was the predominant element. This lagoon is situated ...

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about 1 hour north of Bogota, here you will be able to enjoy beautiful landscapes.
You can also visit “New Guatavita”, a town built after the old town of Guatavita was flooded during the construction of the Tomine Dam. The new town was built respecting colonial architecture.

2. Zipaquira: this is a town north-west of Bogota with salt mines, one of which features a magnificent Salt Cathedral 180 meters below the surface. This construction will leave you breathless because of its beauty and magnitude. It is considered an architectural and engineering masterpiece.

3. Nemocon: A very picturesque colonial town in the Savannah. This town also features some interesting salt mines that are a treasure to be explored, showing saline formations of more than 500 years, like a salt crystal in the form of a heart called the “heart of Colombia”.

4. Towns around the Savannah: Close to Bogota there are a myriad of small picturesque timeless towns. These laid-back towns are a great place to explore local gastronomy and local crafts, as well as to get to know the kind people of the area. Among these towns you may want to visit Chia, Cajica, Tabio, La Calera, Sopo, Tenjo and Guasca

5. La Chorrera: is an example of the many hikes to be done around Bogota. If you visit La Chorrera you will see Colombia’s tallest waterfall. The hike lasts about 1 hour and you will walk through cloud forests. Once you reach the waterfalls you can explore the back of them, or if you don’t mind cold water you can swim.

6. Suesca: If you enjoy rock climbing and trekking, this is the place to go. This town is located about 45 minutes from Bogota. The first Colombia to climb mount Everest set shop here taking advantage of the rocky mountains surrounding the town.

7. Villa de Leyva: Somewhat farther away from Bogota is this town considered as of 1954 a national monument. Completely built in a colonial style (where by law even new dwellings have to look like colonial buildings) and with cobble stoned streets lies this gem. The drive to Villa de Leyva is about 4 hours, but is filled with breathtaking vistas and landscapes. Villa de Leyva was founded in 1572 under the name of Villa Santa Maria de Leyva. Today the town offers not only its beauty but many activities. It is arguably the best kept colonial town in Colombia.

8. Raquira: in the Chibcha language this town’s name means “city of pots.” This beautiful and colorful town is known for its pottery and hand-woven goods. Traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation since pre-Columbian times. There are quite a few good restaurants to try local food. Half an hour drive from this town is the Candelaria Desert with magnificent Spanish Monasteries.

9. Villavicencio: is the main city in the Llanos Orientales (Oriental Plains) region of Colombia, and the capital of the Meta Department (State). This is the gateway to our Cowboy land. A place for you to fall in love with our flora and fauna. At Los Ocaros Bio-park you can encounter indigenous fauna and flora. At Las Malokas park discover the legends and myths of this region. While visiting this area do not forget to taste “carne a la llanera”.

10. Tierra Caliente: refers to Girardot, Melgar and other towns at lower altitude than Bogota, which mean they are warmer. Bogotano’s love to go to these towns for the week-end to enjoy the nice weather, sunbathing and swimming. These towns have charming central squares and lovely views of the Andes Mountains.

BOGOTA’S TOP 10 FESTIVALS & FAIRS

Bogota is an exciting city with a highly diversified cultural life. Whenever you come to town you are bound to find a theater festival, a jazz concert, a major international pop group playing.

1. F
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eria Internacional del Libro: This international book-fair takes place during the first half of every year. It is one of the largest book-fairs in the America’s, welcoming writers, publishers and buyers from all over the workd. Each year a different country is invited as the main guest. In 2007 Bogota was named World Book Capital because of this Fair. (http://www.feriadellibro.com/)

2. Bogota Fashion Week: This yearly event takes place in Mid-February at Corferias and showcases the best of Colombian designers, as well as foreigners. If fashion is your passion this is a great place to see new trends. This event brings together clothes designers, footwear designers, jewelers and leather goods manufacturers. Over 750 international buyers come Bogota’s Fashion week.

3. International Theater Festival: During the two weeks prior to Easter Sunday in even years (2014, 2016, 2018, etc), Bogota hosts perhaps the biggest theater festival anywhere. Hundreds of companies from around the world perform in dozens of theaters. There are also free performances in plazas and parks, as well as street parades. (http://festivaldeteatro.com.co/)

4. Rock al Parque: This is the largest rock festival in all of South America, and takes place every year in early July. Most of the concerts are given at the Simon Bolivar Park, and entrance is free. You can listen to local bands as well as international stars. (www.rackalparque.gov.co)

5. Feria de las Colonias: This is a wonderful fair that allows you to travel throughout Colombia in one day. Corferias is transforms each of its pavilions into a different region of the country. Each pavilion features culture, gastronomy, tourism, handcrafts as well as a vast range of products, services and projects that gather the most representative of each region. Each year a different region is showcased presenting its main attractions business, craft, cultural, musical and art projects. If you are in Bogota during July, make sure to visit this colorful and vibrant fair. It will be a memorable day. (http://www.feriadelascolonias.com/index.cfm)

6. Festival de Verano: The summer festival held every August includes sporting, recreational and cultural outdoor activities. It is held yearly to celebrate the founding of the city. Most of the events take place at Simon Bolivar Park.

7. Food & Wine: Colombia Humanitaria and the First Lady of the nation crated this festival in 2011 to benefit local farmers that had been affected by a devastating winter. The event includes more than 18 events from elegant dinners hosted by international chefs, cooking and to mixology demonstrations, to wine tastings. Events are held in restaurants, clubs and hotels throughout the city. (www.bogotawineandfood.com)

8. International Film Festival: Since 1986 this festival is held during the months of September and October. IT brings filmmakers from all over the world, and includes screenings, conferences, work and special exhibitions. (http://www.bogocine.com/)

9. Ópera al Parque: Started in 1996, this festival brings this art form from the Opera House in the Candelaria to several venues throughout the city, so that the general public can enjoy this art-form. Each November prestigious Opera singers, musicians, orchestras and conductors, as well as new talent come to participate in this festival.

10. Expoartesanias: For 20 years now, every December Artesanias de Colombia organizes this fair at Corferias. It features international exhibitions of traditional and contemporary crafts. (http://www.expoartesanias.com/ )

Contact our concierge for up-to-date information servicioalcliente@lancasterhouse.com.co.

5 Not-so common places to visit while in Bogota

If you have read about Bogota or if you have been here before, you are probably aware of such places of interest as Monserrate Mountain, the Gold Museum, Botero’s Museum, the Candelaria Colonial nei ...

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ghborhood, and Zipaquira’s Salt Cathedral.

But if you have already been to these places or if you would like to discover and enjoy not-so-common places while you visit Bogota, here are five ideas on how to spend your time wisely in a fun and different way:

1. Coffee Roasting, Packaging and Tasting tour. If you won’t be visiting the Coffee growing region near the cities of Armenia, Pereira and Manizales, you can certainly enjoy a 3-hour Spanish or English tour of the process of coffee cultivation, roasting, packaging and tasting at Hacienda Venecia (www.haciendavenecia.com) where a couple of times a week guided tours are offered. Make sure to call ahead of time and book your spot.

2. Flower Plantations. Did you know Colombia accounts for roughly two thirds of all flowers consumed in the US? Most flower farms are located in the vicinity of Bogota and are the greenhouses you clearly identify as you land at El Dorado airport. Visits to these spectacular and colorful farms can be arranged by contacting the association of Flower Growers and Exporters, Asocolflores (www.asocolflores.org, www.growerdirect.com ), or a few of the main receptive tour companies in town like www.hansatours.com.

3. Botanical Gardens. Colombia ranks second in the world in flora diversity. Why not enjoy a few hours walking the vast terrains of the Botanical Gardens? These gardens have won international acclaim for having the most typical tropical flora in worldwide. The Botanial Gardens also feature concerts by the Colombian Philarmonic Orquestra as well as temporary exhibits (www.jbb.gov.co).

4. Salitre Magico Park located midtown Bogota the park offers a variety of rides and attractions for kids and adults including an Avianca airplane, a 150 –feet Ferris Wheel, and a hunted house (www.salitremagico.com.co )

5. Cerro de Guadalupe While most people visit Monserrate, it’s neighbor mountain Guadalupe is as scenic and less touristy. At 3,317 meters above sea level This Mountain top also has a church and a 15 meter tall statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception that opens her arms towards the city. You can visit stores that sell local crafts, as well as enjoy local fare at restaurants.

Where to get Kosher food in Bogota?

If you are travelling to Colombia and you are wondering if Kosher food is available, wonder no more. Here you will find the top places and resources for the Kosher traveler.

Although Colombia is a c
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ountry of over 46 million people it boasts a Jewish community of only over 3,000 people in the cities of Bogota, Cali, Medellin, and Barranquilla, with new and smaller communities in San Andres, Cartagena, Cucuta and Villavicencio, among others. For the most part, the communities are very traditionalist and mostly affiliated with the Orthodox movement, with some exceptions being Masorti.

While there are plenty of places of worship in all these cities, as well as numerous community organizations and regular activities (including the presence of schochatim and mashgiim), the small size of the community has made it difficult to offer a wide selection of Kosher restaurants. Non-the-less, there are many resources for travelers interested in the Kosher food while visiting Bogota:

 Carrulla Supermarket (www.carulla.com): This supermarket has many locations nation-wide and sells some to the products mentioned under the list of Kosher certified products in KoserColombia.org. But if you would like to eat at a Kosher restaurant the Carulla located on the corner of 11th Avenue and 76th Street has a kosher restaurant on the second floor.

 Meats: If you would like to buy some kosher meat and other processed foods the best places supermarkets to get them are Carrefour at Santa Ana neighborhood, on 9th Avenue and 110th Streeet, Surtifruver (www.surtifruverdelasabana.com) on 85th street near 15th Avenue and also Surtifruver on 9th Avenue and 137th street. In the last Surtifruver will also find a kosher pizza place within the food court.

 Bakery: If you are looking for fresh baked goods, try the “Miriam Camhi” (www.miriamcamhi.com), Joyce (www.joyce.com.co) and Cometa (www.elcometa.com.co)

 Restaurants: There are no Glatt Kosher restaurants in the city, but certain restaurants and hotels may offer kosher meat dishes upon request but with no kosher kitchen per-se. You can preorder kosher meat dishes at our Gatsby Restaurant (remember we do not have a kosher kitchen) by letting our Concierge know of your needs, since we do not advertise these dishes on our menus. We can also cater kosher events (www.lancasterhouse.com). For juicy steaks try famous “Harry Sasson” (www.harrysasson.com) or “7-16 Steak House”. Hotel Casa Dann Carlton can host kosher events (www.danncarlton.com). Finally, there is Monet Restaurant at the JW Marriot which on occasions may offer a kosher buffet on Saturday evenings one hour after Havdalah.

 Carmel Country Club: This is the private social and sports club of the community. Every Sunday there is a fabulous Kosher BBQ. The only drawback is that you have to be invited by a local member in order to go.

For further information on Kosher products in Bogota you can visit www.koshercolombia.org.

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