Crafts and trajectories of emeralds. Between tradition and formalization

  • Parra Bautista, Johanna Andrea (PI)

Project: Research Project

Project Details


In 2018, the Research Seedbed "Studies of Economy and Society in Boyacá" was established at the School of Human Sciences of the Universidad del Rosario. This space was consolidated as an interdisciplinary group of study and analysis of the emerald region of western Boyacá. The seedbed is active and theoretical and methodological texts are studied, which allow the group to frame the research that is carried out in it. The seedbed is composed of ten (10) students from the undergraduate programs of Anthropology, Sociology, Liberal Arts and Journalism and three (3) graduate students (Master's in Management, Master's in Economics of Public Policy, Master's in Social Studies). The students of the seedbed show a genuine interest in the studies of this region, sometimes linked to their own family trajectories, this prints interesting autobiographical elements in their approaches.

Western Boyacá is a region where national problems are condensed, such as a history of violence, the abrupt development of the economy of gemstone extraction, the decrease of agricultural productivity, corruption and illegal economies regulated by local private powers. The conflicts that have taken place in the region and the difficult access to both its precarious infrastructure and its security have prevented a large number of investigations from being carried out in the region. In addition, the proximity of some of the emerald entrepreneurs to illegal economies, added to the green wars of the second half of the 20th century, have contributed to the creation of a stigma that weighs on these groups. The consequence of this has been the scarcity of jobs in general in the region, and in particular, the little documentation of the emerald production chain's trades that today is changing due to the mining formalization policies in the nation and the entrance of multinational companies in the west of Boyacá.

In the current operation of the Semillero, students carry out their graduate work research and also participate in a general project of the Semillero called Crafts and Careers of Emeralds. Between tradition and formalization, which is what is proposed to compete in the fund for Semilleros. This project seeks to understand the meanings that men and women involved in the exploitation and commercialization chain of the emerald give to the precious stone, to the territory, to the work and to the trades. Since the emerald leaves the land until it reaches the final consumer, it passes through different hands, each one of them is in charge of giving it a special and unique treatment, with the use of particular tools and techniques. The stone goes through an average of five hands until it reaches its final recipient. If the stone is sold well or at a lower price than expected, this depends on the subjectivity of the next buyer. This does not mean that it is not possible to appreciate when a stone is beautiful or not, but that individual observation is a definitive mark for the business. This particularity attributes to the emeraldsmith's trades a high component of knowledge and know-how that they develop from transmission and experience.

The lack of academic studies about traditional trades around emerald makes it necessary to carry out a study aimed at documenting the trades and workers in each of the links. So, the guaqueros, traders, commissioners, carvers and craftsmen are the central axis of the study. The purpose of the research is to document the trades, the set of techniques, objects, and meanings they give to their work and their territory, through interviews, life stories, and focus groups.

Each profession develops its own technique that differentiates it from the other crafts, even though they are in the same economic sector. In this case, even though they are all related to the extraction and commercialization of the emerald, each actor has a particular way of doing his work (Everett Hughes, 1958, Men and their Work). New trades are constantly emerging and changing (Hughes, 1958), so, in view of the changes in the different links of the emerald chain due to the historical process, technological developments, new environmental guidelines, market regulations, it is relevant to understand the characteristics and meanings of the trades in the emerald chain.

The proposed approach will generate an impact in the field of western Boyacá studies, in the development of a social perspective in extractive studies, emerald mining and crafts in particular. One of the most relevant impacts is the possibility of studying this mining from its production chain, and its later compilation in a book that shows the different stages of extraction, process and commercialization of the emerald through the stories and histories of the actors involved in these trades.

Throughout the research process and thanks to the research work of the students of Semillero, relationships have been established with different associations of the trade and with entities of the departmental order that have great interest in the study of this social group and the region. Among these, the relationship with the Corporation for the Development and Peace of Western Boyacá (BOYAPAZ) stands out, which is related to more than 20 associations that have been formed in recent years in the region around the guaquería and other agricultural and mining production activities. Boyapaz interacts with the different entities involved in the development of the region (companies, multinationals, associations, public entities) and represents an important ally that provides us with security in the territory.


1. Book result of research: Book on the emerald trades, result of research. The book will have the objective of making known the traditional emerald mining trades, its techniques and work tools. For this purpose, life stories of actors who may have gone through several trades will be used.
2. Category B article: Three research articles developed by students belonging to the Semillero de Investigación will be presented according to their research activities and findings.
3. Ponencias: Seis ponencias que se presentarán en el Congreso Nacional de Sociología 2020: 1 Main research paper, 2. Five papers by undergraduate students participating in the seedbed
Effective start/end date4/6/206/1/21

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Main Funding Source

  • Competitive Funds
  • Incubator


  • Bogotá D.C.


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