Cartagena, the home of Colombian Emeralds.

The Emerald City – Cartagena

Cartagena is the best place to buy an Emerald if you know where to go.

cartagena Cruise PortA trip through the Panama Canal is not complete without a stop in Cartagena, Colombia.

So… don’t miss the extraordinary opportunity to pick up the emerald of your dreams. Colombian Emeralds are among the most highly sought-after precious gems in the world and you are virtually as close to the source as you will ever be while on a cruise. A few helpful tips must be considered, otherwise, your experience will be overwhelming. Trust me on this. I have been through the Canal well over 100 times and have seen the look on many peoples’ faces when they enter the emerald stores.  It’s unlike any other jewelry shopping experience in the Caribbean. These stores specialize in emeralds and ONLY emeralds. They don’t really carry much of anything else. These stores don’t have one or two showcases of emeralds—they literally have showcase after showcase after showcase of beautiful emeralds.  It’s hard to describe until you see it for yourself.  In fact, it’s photo-worthy!

So…get focused. Make a plan. Prepare before you even step off the ship. Otherwise, you will look like a deer in the headlights!

Here is what you need to know…

Follow these steps and you will walk away with a beautiful emerald…otherwise, you will get caught up in the frenzy and walk away in frustration.


Here are some questions you need to answer for yourself. Once you answer the questions below, I will give you a short lesson on emeralds and this will make it all very easy for you.

1st…Decide if you want a loose stone or a set piece?

2nd…Do you want a cut and faceted emerald or one that is rough, uncut and in its natural form?

3rd…Do you want an emerald in a Pre-Columbian design, Contemporary or Traditional setting?

4th…Do you want your emerald set with or without diamonds?

5th…Do you want your emerald set in white gold, yellow gold or silver?

6th…Do you want an emerald ring, pendant, earrings, bracelet or all of the above?

Don’t worry about what “shape” of emerald you want just yet.  Keep an open mind on that one.

If you go in blindly and don’t have it narrowed down like this, you will likely walk out empty-handed, completely overwhelmed and unhappy.  So take my advice seriously and you won’t be disappointed.

Now let’s talk emeralds!

The most important thing regarding quality is COLOR.  A deep rich velvety green color is what you want.  Think bright, vibrant green—like freshly mowed grass.  Saturation of color is what is important.  Color is the key!

Next, remember that all emeralds have inclusions.  However, you don’t want highly visible cloudy spots or dark marks.  But keep in mind, even the top of the line Emerald will have some inclusions.  Dark green with inclusions is more valuable than a light green that is nearly flawless.  Ok, so with that in mind,  I personally will sacrifice a little color for a cleaner looking stone.  This is where it gets personal. No two are alike…so buy what you love!


Adriana’s Jewelry

Now you are armed and ready, so where do you go and who do you trust? I have two favorites.  One is  Adriana’s Jewelry in the old town.  This lovely lady came to Cartagena many years ago, fell in love and never left!  She has more variety than anywhere I have ever been.  Her specialty is the “rough” or “uncut” emeralds and she has far more to choose from than anyone else.  She even has a nice selection in sterling silver as well.  In addition to that, she also has a huge selection of emerald stud earrings at very affordable prices.  On top of that, she is truly the most generous and gracious person I’ve ever met.  She is involved in many local charities and has a heart of gold. Her staff has all worked for her for years and years…so it’s like one big family.  Everyone loves their experience here with Adriana. It’s the personal touch that you will remember long after you leave.

Mister Emerald

Deep rich emeralds from Colombia are the best.

My other favorite is Mister Emerald. This store is just around the corner from Adriana’s.  The owner, Lee Miles, is an institution!  This man knows everything there is to know about Cartagena, and he also knows his emeralds.  He carries a wonderful selection of Pre-Columbian designs and some of the most beautiful bracelets with perfectly matched emeralds.  Lee said something to me years ago, that I will always remember:  “You do not need to be a Gemologist, to recognize what is beautiful!”

So with all of this in mind, enjoy your time in Cartagena and don’t leave empty-handed or you will regret it.  Happy Shopping!

For more information on visiting Cartagena, visit the port page using this link to Cartagena.

Going on a cruise or visiting Cartagena subscribe for your free maps and coupons so you can find your way around the port and save time, effort and money when you shop ashore.

Blog written by Cruise Shop Save guest writer Elizabeth Sterne who has been cruising most of her life has done over 115 Panama Canal cruises.