Afrogem has become something of a Cape Town institution. This family-run business is conveniently located on Buitengracht Street, halfway between the Waterfront and the Cable Car Station. It’s become the go-to place for luxury shopping when going up or coming down the mountain, or at any other time that grabs your fancy.
Two stone horses guard Afrogem’s entrance, which seems a curious choice for a jewellery company. As it turns out, Afrogem is a company interested in heritage and the horses were salvaged from dilapidated cottages that were demolished to make way for the company’s modern factory and showroom. Archival records show that until 1882 the site housed stables, where wagons transporting goods from the harbour to Camps Bay would stop to water and rest their horses.
Afrogem is still a refreshing place to stop and shop. There’s bubbly from boutique Cape wine farms and fresh juice for teetotallers on offer while you browse the jewellery and carefully curated curios, which include a celestial-inspired Southern Cross pendant. And for anyone wanting a caffeine kick, there’s a coffee lounge where you can hang out and sketch out a rough idea of that bespoke item of jewellery you’ve been fantasising about.
The Afrogem Jewellery Fabrication Tour is unique in Cape Town. Here’s why:
In 1983, owners Ingrid and Peter Gilson pioneered a complimentary behind-the-scenes tour of their design and production studios. The Afrogem Fabrication Tour created a bridge between consumers’ knowledge and industry expertise, giving jewellery buyers the opportunity to observe skilled professionals at work making jewellery for the first time in South Africa.
The tour takes around 20 minutes and can be booked via Afrogem’s website or through most guesthouses, hotels and tour companies operating in Cape Town. We booked ours through our guesthouse and were collected by their concierge service, which picks up and drops off clients anywhere in the CBD.
Your jewellery education begins in the lecture room surrounded by the largest private collection of minerals in southern Africa. You’re then whisked upstairs to the 500sqm production studios. The Afrogem Fabrication Tour is the only jewellery creation tour in Cape Town where you can witness, first-hand, all three jewellery manufacturing processes: handcrafting to create one-of-a-kind bespoke jewellery; CAD, which utilises state-of-the-art computers and 3D printers; and lost wax casting. The vast design library, which consists of thousands of silver prototypes for casting, is mind-blowing, and there’s something deeply meditative about the spinning brushes where polishers expertly bring out the shine in each piece.
The next generation of Gilson’s have taken over Afrogem. Inspired by their innovative parents, they continue to find new ways to offer value to jewellery buyers.
The recently-renovated showroom now includes a design station complete with ring prototypes and gemstones. Buyers can consult with one of the in-house designers and select designs and gemstones to create something unique and personal.
The offerings at Afrogem are almost limitless. A rainbow smorgasbord of sparkling gems, with almost every precious and semi-precious stone in every cut available. What makes the design station a particularly wonderful experience is that you can also try different precious metals and stones against your skin tone. The knowledgeable sales staff are on hand to guide you to the best choice according to your budget and taste. Whether you’re into silver and rough gemstones, which are trending right now, or prefer a classic diamond and gold combination, Afrogem will create it for you.
Diamonds take forever, and that’s what makes them so special.
What’s so special about a diamond? Ramona, Afrogem’s showroom manager, gets asked this question a lot. You’ve heard that saying “Diamonds are forever”, a marketing slogan from the 1930s that has been so successful we still use it today.
“Diamonds have always been, and remain, the world’s most popular precious gem,” she says. “As the only gemstone formed from a single element – carbon – they capture the imagination for their purity. A diamond takes millions of years to form; geologists believe the most recently-formed diamonds may be up to 45-million years old.” They literally take forever!
Afrogem sources its diamonds, like its gold, locally. By doing so, they not only support the local economy, but ensure that all their diamonds are certified, ethically-mined and conflict-free. Buying your diamonds from Afrogem guarantees you a quality gemstone and a clear conscience, too.
If you’re after something rare that is uniquely African, consider Tanzanite.
Tanzanite is one of the world’s youngest gemstones. First brought into the global market in 1967 after a Portuguese prospector came across crystals he thought were particularly vibrant blue sapphires, tanzanite has become one of the most sought after gemstones. Only found in a single location in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, tanzanite is thought to be 1 000 times rarer than diamonds.
Afrogem is definitely the go-to company for tanzanite in Cape Town. They have a superlative collection of tanzanite jewellery and loose stones. The gorgeous blue-violets of this stone go especially well with silvery metals. The showroom at Afrogem has a spectacular range of tanzanite jewellery created by their in-house designers, from polished tanzanite set in white gold with diamond highlights, to rough uncut gems set in silver.
Even if you only have a couple of days left in Cape Town, you can still walk away with a ring on your finger.
“Tourists to the city shouldn’t feel like they don’t have options when it comes to fulfilling their jewellery fantasies,” says Ramona.
If you don’t see something that grabs you in the showroom, Afrogem offers a 36 to 48 hour turnaround time on bespoke jewellery, depending on the complexity of the piece. It’s a service they’re able to offer because their production studios are onsite. “Buyers are limited only by their imagination,” Ramona says, “and our designers can help you with that.”
For those not lucky enough to visit, but still interested in buying their jewellery from Afrogem, the company also offer an international shipping service. Follow them on Instagram or Facebook to see their latest creations.
We’re not just talking to the women. Afrogem designs incredible jewellery for the guys, too.
Contact Afrogem to book a tour or visit their showroom.
Monday to Sunday 9am to 6pm
Full tours within factory opening hours
Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm
Friday: 9am to 2pm
Reduced tours outside factory operating hours
Friday 2pm – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday: 9am to 6pm
There is free and secure onsite parking at Afrogem.
44 Seater Coaches can be accommodated.
Article written by Rachel Zadok