A sacred stone during the height of Mayan civilization, jadeite (more commonly known as jade) is traced to a specific region of Guatemala, the Motagua Valley, located along the Motagua River near the eastern department of Izabal. This low-lying region is one of only four parts of the world where this precious turquoise-colored stone can be found. In Guatemala it is mined extensively for its worth and popularity with foreign tourists and locals alike. To indigenous peoples and the ancient Maya, jade was more precious than gold or silver, as it symbolized eternity, the sky, and unending love. When a person of nobility passed away, a piece of jade was typically placed in their mouth before burial to serve as the carrier of the deceased’s soul and ensure their passage into heaven. In modern times, jade’s beautiful turquoise color is prized for jewelry. Jade can be found in many stores in Antigua and the capital, and while not cheap, the prices are sure to be significantly lower than in the United States or Europe.
Perhaps the best place to shop for jade in Guatemala is Antigua. While jade is used to make beautiful jewelry worldwide, the quality is particularly excellent in Antigua. One of the best places to shop for jade and learn about the mining and jewelry-making processes is Jades, S.A., which offers guided tours of its fascinating jade museum. Also in town, La Casa del Jade (the house of jade) houses a workshop where you can see for yourself how different kinds of jewelry are assembled. Like anywhere, knock-off jadeite is sold throughout Antigua – you’ll know it’s fake by its surprisingly low price. Be sure to check out the travel guide for more information on the best places to shop for jade in Antigua.
Photo Credit: The Times