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Colombia is known for its coffee, but it plays a much bigger role in the world emerald market, where it produces more than half of the stones - and some of the best ones.
A round emerald, known as a colchon, or pillow.
If you're looking for an emerald, all you have to do is wander through the city center, where emerald shops line the blocks between Calle 12 and Jimenez and Carreras 5, 6 and 7, in La Candelaria. You might also see a crowd of men standing on the southwest corner of the intersection of Ave. Septima and Jimenez, many of them studying sheets of white paper. That sidewalk is the city's open-air emerald trading floor. Many of the traders have workshops in nearby buildings where they cut rough stones into gemstones.
Most of the emeralds come from the mines of Muzo, in Boyaca Department, just a few hours by bus from Bogotá.
Judging an emerald's value isn't easy, even if you've seen lots of them. Generally, bigger is better. Also, a deeper green color usually makes a stone more valuable, as does an interesting shape. But hold the stone up to the light to see whether it has defects inside which decrease its value. But if it's too perfect, be suspicious - it might be glass.
A bicycle tourist looks at an emerald offered by a sidewalk trader.
Passers-by look at the emeralds in one of the emerald district's many stores.
Inexpensive emeralds: They're small, not deeply colored and have internal defects.
Trading emeralds on the sidewalk.
Central Bogotá's open-air emerald trading floor.