Rio is a hub for buying precious and semi-precious stones, given that Brazil produces around 65% of the world’s colored gemstones. Beach vendors offer more affordable hippie-styled jewelry and South American and Central American backpackers looking for extra travel income have also been recently resorting to selling exotic pieces along the beaches. We round up some of the best places to go to buy unique and beautiful jewelry.
Amsterdam Sauer and H Stern are the two largest gemstone and jewelry stores selling expensive, high-quality jewels. These two leaders in the jewelry market stock some exquisite pieces, and if you’re serious about jewels, be sure to check out these two shops. Look out for the aquamarines, of which Brazil produces 90% of the global market share. Other star gems are Brazilian emeralds and topaz in deep orange and light pink. Brazil is the main source of tourmaline too, which is stocked in both stores. A local alternative is Carioca-owned Antonio Bernando, which is still on the pricey side but more boutique than the Amsterdam Sauer and H Stern.
For more affordable yet still semi-precious stones, stroll along Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema and Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana in Copacabana, both of which have rows of small, boutique jewelry shops that sell beautiful pieces. Although they may not have the same gemstone quality as the upscale stores, the designs are pretty and a fraction of the cost.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating places for gemstones and jewelry items is LEGEP in Recreio dos Bandeiramentes. Although far away from tourist spots, it is worth the journey there to visit the largest gem and mineral store in Rio de Janeiro. Its layout seems like a warehouse for wholesale, and it stocks hundreds of precious and semi-precious stones in their raw form, polished, or ready in jewelry.
Another store worth visiting is Maria Oiticica, a boutique that sells wonderful and affordable necklaces, bracelets and rings made from Amazon forest seeds and wood fibers. Her biojewelry is ethically and sustainably sourced, and is completely unique.
The Hippie Market, held every Sunday in Ipanema’s General Osorio square, is one of the best markets to pick up unique and lovely jewelry pieces. There are a wide range of stalls that offer wooden jewelry, delicate trinkets threaded onto black cords or authentic silver pieces. Look out for the long, beaded bracelets that can wrap around your arm several times and come in funky, vibrant colors. There are also stalls with big, chunky, beaded bracelets and necklaces that are based on designs from the Waimiri Atroari tribe in the north of Brazil. See the original designs at the Museu do Indio (the Museum of the Indigenous) in Botafogo.
The Night Market in Copacabana is also a good place to scout out jewelry, especially hippie designs and wooden pieces. Although smaller than the Hippie Market in Ipanema, the advantage of the Night Market in Copacabana is that it opens Monday to Saturday from 6pm, so you’re not restricted to waiting for Sunday.
The best place in the city to pick up vintage jewelry is Feira Rio Antigo,which is centrally located and a treasure trove for vintage, second-hand and unusual jewelry pieces. Many of the 400 stalls there sell jewelry, and it’s here that you’ll find unique and one-of-a-kind items. The fair opens once a month, on the first Saturday of each month.
All along the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon there are beach vendors that either lay out large cloths on the promenade to display their jewelry, or that relentlessly march up and down the beach all day selling their hand-made jewelry pieces to tourists and locals alike. Take a wander along the promenade to check out the jewelry there, which is often intricately carved wooden or metal items, threaded onto silver chains or black cords. The items are one-of-a-kind, hand-made pieces and provide the perfect accessory for any outfit.