My journey to Colombia was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. From the very early days of my journey as a goldsmith, the emerald became one of my favourite gems to use in my designs. So where could I have wished to go to more than Colombia, where the most precious and beautiful emeralds in the world are mined? However, Colombia and specifically the areas where emeralds are mined does not work exactly in the same way as if you are getting ready to go on holiday to Croatia. I had to wait for this dream and keep it in my special drawer, ‘maybe, perhaps, one day…’.
This maybe, one day, perhaps, became possible much sooner than I would have ever have thought. one day I received a phone call from an unknown number, with a gentleman at the other end saying that he would like to show me emeralds, the like of which have never been seen in the Czech Republic before. It sparked a great deal of interest in me and I decided to meet with this unknown gentleman in a petrol station in Holesovice. Whilst sipping a coffee from a machine for 50 CZK, he pulled out a tray of emeralds. They were so beautifully coloured, that it became obvious to me that they were altogether different from those which I had seen before. We both very quickly came the conclusion that we both have the same weakness for emeralds and he offered to take me to Colombia to visit the emerald mines in person. Such places are extremely guarded and unless you have an invitation from the mine owner, you simply won’t get in. Today, I can disclose his name, his name is Jura Liska and I think he is one of the few people who really understands emeralds very well and we remain friends until this day.
The journey was unbelievably long. We started from Prague and flew to Amsterdam, where we then continued to Bogota. For people who have followed me for some time, they will know how much I love flying and how I really truly did (not) enjoy this! Upon our arrival at Bogota, I was rather surprised by the thinner air and the smog. Bogota is 2,640 metres above sea level and that takes some getting used to.
The first evening, we were invited by Mrs Krausova for dinner (She is the sister of the TV moderator Mr Kraus) and she was telling us the story of how she moved as a young woman to Bogota and her experiences there. After spending a few days in Bogota, we transferred by jeep to the locations of the emerald mines. We travelled almost a whole day on crazy roads, because in some places, you are driving on only mud or rock. In the evening we arrived at a small village amidst beautiful green nature, at which point I immediately knew that I was in the place where emeralds are mined. The houses in the village seldom had windows and they were mostly huts made out of metal without windows or doors. That evening, we were invited by the local mayor (perhaps) to his house for a beer and the whole village came to inspect us and also show us their beautifully stabled horses. The stables were the nicest buildings in the whole village. They put me on one of the beautiful horses and walked me by rope through their village, as if I was in a circus. This was the first time I had ever sat on a horse.
In the morning, we went to look at the local market place, Chakaro, which according to an old New York Times article, is one of the most dangerous places in the region. It was a well trodden, smallish area within the jungle, with a few metal huts scattered around. We met local people, who were trying to sell their emeralds of questionable origin.
In Colombia you buy everything for cash, so that the content of my rucksack in this muddy field, amidst all the locals did not keep me exactly calm, so we therefore very quickly made the decision to move to the emerald mines. Unlike the other emerald mines, the one we were at surprised me most by its sheer size of the entrance into the mountain, it was tiny! At the beginning they handed out helmets, until today I don’t know why, since the health and safety in these mines was so abysmal that the helmets would be of no use.
At the beginning of the mine, as we entered, there were at least a few supporting beams, but the deeper we went, the smaller they got and the supporting beams became scarce. I don’t think you can imagine the conditions under which these miners work. There was water everywhere, seeping through, it was almost impossible to breathe there and it was awfully hot. When you are there, you understand how demanding and dangerous this work is. When you meet with the people who mine the emeralds in such conditions, you gain a different perspective when working with these gems. I certainly gained a different level of respect and sympathy for them.
I also experienced several unpleasant situations whilst in the mine. One of them was the moment when they came to tell me to sit down on the ground, open my mouth, because they had hit hard rock which they needed to demolish with explosives. We were sitting in metre wide tunnels, bound to the ground, because there were poisonous fumes emanating from the explosion above us. We all had open mouths, because the pressure could rupture your ears. I was praying that we wouldn’t be buried there, as it was only a month ago that 7 people had been buried alive in this very location. It was an unbelievable experience, but I must admit that at that particular time, I was asking myself whether it was worth it.
I experienced a lot there. I learned to ride horses, riding in such beautiful nature through the river beds and galloping across beautiful pastures was totally unique. It was also here that I bought one of the first remarkable emeralds from the Muzo region, which I immediately put into a beautiful piece of jewellery for my client upon my return to the Czech Republic. Unsurprisingly, it sold almost immediately.
I have also built up good contacts there and this is why I am able to offer our clients beautiful and unique pieces, especially from the locations where these emeralds are mined and there is no comparison with regards to quality and colour anywhere in the world. If you would be interested in a unique piece of jewellery, with emeralds originating from these regions, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will come up with something together.