By the time we arrived back to Bogota after touring the emerald mines, one thing was clear; The amount of work it takes to remove an emerald from the earth has given me an entirely new appreciation for them.  Ironically, despite all that, the work has only just begun.  Before an emerald can be put into a ring or a pair of earrings, the journey that emerald is about to embark on is one that Chance, Sassy, and Shadow would be proud of. 

On our trip, we managed to pick up a few Muzo emeralds, and we’ve partnered with @muzoemeralds and his in-house master cutter, Ricardo, to cut these new gems with the goal of building an engagement ring collection around them. 

In general, the rough emerald (once it’s been mined) will be graded and discussed onsite, or at the nearest town by the mines owner or production manager. From there, the owner will either have it cut himself - by his own cutters in Bogota - or try and sell the rough emerald directly to someone like us. This is where we take on a significant amount of risk

Emeralds are a notoriously difficult gem to cut so if the owner takes on the risk of getting them cut himself, he could potentially end up with a devalued, or worthless, stone.  Even the best Colombian emerald cutters have been fooled by rough emeralds. This because emeralds are often attached to rock formations, and if the imperfections remain undetected and come in contact with the polishing wheel, the entire emerald can combust and become unsalvageable.  


So, when we buy an uncut emerald for a lower price, it’s the owners way of hedging his bet.  Hedging involves cutting into a potentially larger profit by ensuring you will walk away with something.  For example, if you bet the Las Vegas Knights, at 200/1, to win the Stanley Cup you’ll probably want to put a couple bucks on whoever they are playing if they make it through another round.   

Basically, if the owner of the emerald gets a satisfactory price for the emerald(s) in his possession, it makes more sense to take the guaranteed money continue on with their mining operation.  

Upon purchase, we get both an uncut emerald and an increase in risk.  We then have Ricardo inspect the stone, looking both at its shape and yield potential, in order to figure out which method provides maximum potential to capture the best possible colour.  With emeralds, colour occurs in various pockets and predicting how light will affect it is very tricky.  

Due to its delicate nature, the cutting process for a single emerald can take 4-8 weeks. Assuming it goes well, we are left with another fork in the road.  We can sell the emerald as a loose gem, either through Cavalier or to another dealer; or, we can keep it and design an engagement ring that will appeal to someone looking for a finished product. 

In order to make the best decisions for our clients, we ask ourselves the following questions:   

  1. Is the quality what we thought it would be? 

  2. Should we keep it loose or design a custom ring around it?  

  3. What is the market price for a loose gem, or more specifically, what would a collector pay for a Fine Colombian Emerald of this particular grade? 

Keith seabrook.jpg

The Emerald Exchange market in Bogota is a scene in itself. There’s nothing else like it. We’ve been to gem markets throughout Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong, and New York, and I can say that Bogota Emerald Exchange is the most interesting and unique. It screams Colombia. Everything from how the dealers dress, interact, package, and sell the emeralds.    

It’s a combination of these obstacles that gives us a new meaning of appreciation for each emerald’s journey from mine to market.


The Finest Emeralds


The Finest Emeralds

Technically, my first encounter with emeralds would’ve been playing  Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis.  Officially, my first real-life experience was slightly less reminiscent of a seizure inducing acid trip. I was 6 years old and my Opa was then, as he is now, a wholesaler in the jewelry business. When my Oma was out with my Mom, and my Dad was away fishing, my Opa was tasked with the babysitting. Where my Oma would give me German candy and chocolate, my Opa would give me emeralds. Really though, it sounds a lot cooler than it was; they were the unsold, undesirable, dull pieces left from his sales trips and I kept them in an unmarked box under my bed.  Once under my bed, the emeralds were forgotten about in favour of Lego and WWF figures, but the stories accompanying them persisted.   

To look at my Opa, is to see a portly German man wearing track pants, a Costco golf shirt, and glasses who would drive his SUV to his mail box if he could.   

adams & stevens 6v2.jpg

But, to listen to him speak is to be enchanted. Just picture the storyteller that would emerge if you combined Frank Costanza, Don Cherry, the Dad from Big Fish, Barack Obama, and Roald Dahl.  Now, set their stories against the backdrop of any Indiana Jones movie.  The travel, the distance, the (alleged) smuggling; the story accompanying every emerald instantly turned that pale green colour into a lusher, richer, shade of vivid forest green. Basically, put him in Glengarry Glen Ross and there’s no way he would ever be forced to wait for new leads.  

Certainly, there have been times when I’ve had reason to doubt the legitimacy of these tales.  But, for me, that was the first core lesson of gemstones. The better the story, the better the stone. The second lesson being, if I nodded along for long enough, he would eventually dig into his pockets and give me a piece of fine German chocolate.   

That said, when it came to the emeralds and the stories that went along with them, one thing he didn’t exaggerate was how long it took to get to the Colombian mines. One road in, one road out and you were accompanied by security guards and armed escorts. However, even in that type of environment, or maybe because of that type of environment, he was able to develop real friendships with the countless, interesting people he met along the way. It goes without saying (but I’m going to anyways) that business is done very differently today than it was fifty years. But, when I think about the way my Opa described the journey - the jungle, the mines, the travel - so much of it still holds true. The jewelry business is a relationship business and access to the top producing mining regions in Colombia is still extremely limited simply by the geography. It’s still one road in, one road out for most mines and deposits around the Muzo region. 

And then there’s the people. Hard working, kind and eager. These people loved to smile and seemed stress free, far away from the daily hustle of Bogota and very, very far from the long nights in Medellin.  They’re always excited to see a new face and judge how much they knew about an emerald simply by how they held it. The more casual and nonchalant, the more knowledgeable you will be perceived to be.  Pro tip: don’t take this same tact when holding your friends newborn baby for the first time.

For example, when they handed me this 27.00 carat rough gem, I didn’t want to stare too long, knowing they would up their opening price purely based on my first, natural expression. Emeralds, especially ones that hail from the Muzo and Chivor regions, are known for their quality and indescribable hues and tones. Believe it or not, emeralds possessing such fine clarity and colour have almost always commanded higher prices than fine diamonds and, when it comes to cut, Colombians are world renowned for their excellence and know their material better than anyone.  Cutting emeralds - a notoriously fickle and included gemstone - is a skill all in itself. But, not every emerald is cut equally.  When buying rough emeralds, it’s imperative to have a veteran buyer who can assess potential yields and grade on the spot.  It sounds simple enough but the pressure ramps up slightly when you are in the searing heat, with sweat dripping down your brow, under the judging, watchful eye of the gems owner, while small machinery works in the background, and armed soldiers fiddle with their military grade weapons a few paces away.   

As I mentioned, it was sometimes difficult to discern fact from fiction when it came to my Opa’s stories. Because of that, I thought the stories I heard beforehand, from him and others in the business, and from the (gem) dealers in Bogota were from a world long gone, if it ever existed at all.  Like a memory or a fleeting feeling that can’t be relived, I wasn’t sure if the quality of the emeralds themselves would be as I had heard, or imagined.  

I was wrong. Everything about Muzo, from its vast jungle, to its people, to seeing some of the world’s finest and most fabled emeralds in their natural environment made me feel as if I had travelled back in time. Despite the world around it becoming more advanced, developed, and congested, this region maintains the rugged, beautiful, raw identity that has defined it for over two centuries.

Part of growing up is learning the stories you were told weren’t necessarily accurate. Jack never really climbed that beanstalk, pixie dust and Neverland aren’t really things, and no matter how many lamps you rub you’re not going to get three wishes. These can be difficult realities to confront but, in truth, it just makes it better when, as was the case with my Opa and his emeralds, one of those stories turns out to be true.   





Exploring The Mines Of Muzo


Exploring The Mines Of Muzo

A reputation can be a difficult thing to change.  Even if you’re now a barely tolerable analyst, whose tenure as an NHL GM was somewhere between controversial and laughable, people will always just want to talk about that time you hit a guy with a shoe.  

As a country, Colombia is, and perhaps always will be, inextricably linked in the public consciousness to Pablo Escobar, the Cali Cartel, and the cocaine industry.  Admittedly, the topic makes for fascinating reading, and intermittently entertaining television, but it also provides an outdated impression of a country moving forward with new, profitable (and legal) industries.

One of those industries is mining and, within that industry, the towns near the Muzo and Chivor regions are becoming more world renowned for their emeralds than ever before.    

Alongside our friend George Smith of @muzoemeralds, we first travelled (by helicopter, then jeep) about 7 hours north of Bogota to access the Muzo region, where some of the finest Colombian emeralds are mined.

We saw first-hand what Muzo has to offer in terms of rough emeralds for sale and, just as importantly, what is being sent to Bogota before being cut, polished, and eventually exported to worldwide markets.  For us, the most rewarding part of the trip was our interactions with the locals – both those working the mines and those earning a living day-to-day.  Curious of our presence at first, they were simultaneously welcoming and appreciative when they learned of our interest in celebrating their livelihood.  


Below, you’ll get a look into a mine tour and buying trip we did in that area.  Let us know what you think and tag or share this with a friend who would like to learn more about Colombian Muzo Emeralds. 


Did You Know? 

May is emerald month! Check out some more photos below from our trip to Muzo, the source of some beautiful pieces that you can now find at Cavalier, our shop in Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood.   


Welcome to the Cavalier Blog


Welcome to the Cavalier Blog

“You can get a good look at a T-bone steak by sticking your head up a bull’s ass, but wouldn’t you rather take your butcher’s word for it?” 

– Tommy Callahan III, (from Tommy Boy, 1994) 


While it might not have endured like fellow 1994 releases Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Clifford (just kidding), Tommy Boy is still pretty damn funny twenty-four years later. However, what doesn’t hold up as well is the ideology expressed by Tommy Callahan (played by the late great Chris Farley) in the above quote. 

Far from simply taking companies at their word, today’s consumers are more aware than ever of the routes and processes that bring desired products to the point of purchase; the ethical sourcing of food, clothing, and electronics is top of mind for a larger segment of our society than ever before. 

With that in mind, this blog is one way that we, at Cavalier Gastown, can provide transparency into what we do. Essentially, it will serve as a platform for featured videos from buying trips, mine tours, and product launches. By incorporating opinions and expertise from members of our team, we believe this blog will be thought provoking, entertaining, reflective and genuine. 

As a bonus, we promise it’ll be slightly more exotic than visiting the farm that provides the milk for your morning coffee. Unless, of course, you have your milk flown in direct from a Bogota dairy farm. 

Starting next week, when we journey to the emerald mines located in the Colombian towns of Chivor and Muzo, we’ll take our clients, friends, family, and Instagram followers behind the scenes to detail the often fascinating steps involved in our mine to market strategy. 

Here's a sneak peek from our most recent trip.

Finally, in addition to providing a glimpse into the happenings outside of our storefront in Vancouver BC, we’d love to hear what you want to see or read about! Essentially this post is an invitation for you to crowd our inbox with questions, comments, ideas, or opinions. 

At Cavalier, every stone we sell becomes part of your story – how that stone gets to you, is ours. 

If you have something on your mind you’d like us to write about you, you can post in the comments below.