Friday, 06 July 2012
I wish I had a photo of Don Gerardo's jewelry shop on the fourth floor of the Sanandresito in the El Hueco section of Medellín. The Sanandresito (named after San Andrés, a Caribbean island belonging to Colombia, and a favorite shopping destination because of the contraband available there) is a world difficult to describe. Imagine a building five stories high, no elevators, each floor's narrow hall lined with miniscule shops consisting of a six-foot wide glass counter and a small space behind. The first floor is clothing, school supplies, and trinkets. The upper floors sell technology (cell phones, stereos, watches, fans, computers) and jewelry.
We select my large emerald from a small cardboard tray on the top shelf of the glass counter. Gerardo shows us an assortment of tiny emerald baguettes and assures us that he will find seven or eight matched for size and color for Alicia's wedding ring. When we ask about emeralds for the engagement ring, Gerardo brings from the six-by-six back room (where his jewelers make what he sells) a two-inch stack of improvised envelopes held together by a rubber band. He unfolds one and shows us 50 or 60 emeralds. "Those are too big for a braided ring," says Alicia. "They'll make it too wide."
He opens the next envelope, and we nod. "Those should do," I say. "What are they, 2.5 millimeter?"
"2.3," says Gerardo. He shakes them onto a grooved plastic tray and begins sorting them by color.
When we go by a couple of days later to take him a second payment, he is busy with a man who has a lunchbox-size zippered soft plastic container completely full of cash. Bundles of bills are released from their paper straps, counted, exchanged. The $800,000 pesos I bring (mostly in $50,000 bills) is paltry in comparison. "I have to leave Wednesday," I say.
"I'll deliver your ring to you on Tuesday," Gerardo promises.
Tuesday afternoon I call him and tell him we're at the Unicentro mall. "Oh, that's on my way home," he says. "I'll bring it to you there." He tells me the balance due, slightly higher than we had expected. "It took an extra 1.3 grams of gold above the estimate," he says.
I go through the ATM line twice and make five or six withdrawals. The cash limit is small in Colombia, and I need to leave enough with Alicia for her rings.
We meet him at one of the entrances and find a place to sit down at Sweet Lemon, a fruit restaurant. Gerardo orders tinto (dark coffee) and pulls out a small box. The ring is exactly as we had envisioned it, and costs less than half what it would at a conventional jewelry store.
I like the superhero look of this shot. I think the stone is greener than it looks in the flash.
And written inside...
Alicia's rings should be ready about now. The upper half of the engagement ring has a braid of three strands of gold lined with emeralds. The wedding ring has a row of emerald baguettes. I can't wait to see them.