South Africa’s greatest assets are her mineral wealth and her people. No company understands this better than Cape Town based-jeweller, Afrogem. Their company ethos combines innovation and tradition to harness the country’s assets sustainably, delivering an extraordinary luxury shopping experience to both tourists and locals.
Afrogem was established in 1966, but only became the groundbreaking enterprise it is today when Ingrid and Peter Gilson took over in 1983. Soon after, they pioneered a complimentary behind-the-scenes tour of their design and production studios. The Afrogem Fabrication Tour created a bridge between consumer knowledge and industry expertise, giving jewellery buyers the opportunity to observe skilled professionals at work for the first time in South Africa.
The modern two-storey structure that houses their factory and showroom is conveniently located nine minutes from Table Mountain and fifteen minutes from the V&A Waterfront. The building was sensitively designed within the area’s greater historical context and reflects the enigmatic houses that made the Bo-Kaap famous. Delve into the Cape Town archives and you will find the first documented use of the site was for coach houses, where travellers could rest their weary horses on the steep road from the harbour up to Table Mountain. The stone horses guarding Afrogem’s entrance were salvaged during the construction of the current premises, in an effort to further conserve the site’s provenance. A trip to Afrogem still makes a refreshing interlude in any Cape Town sightseeing itinerary.
Afrogem’s tour is unsurpassed in Cape Town. Visitors can watch goldsmiths craft bespoke handmade pieces and tour a working factory that uses state-of-the-art jewellery mass-production techniques. To this day, the Afrogem Fabrication Tour continues to be acknowledged as the most detailed and extensive jewellery and gemstone tour in South Africa.
Your tour begins in the lecture room, where you can enjoy a glass of orange juice or sparkling wine — sourced from boutique Cape winemakers. Here, you will learn about the history of diamonds and Tanzanite, how to select quality gemstones and gain insight in to the creation of Afrogem’s remarkable South African jewellery portfolio. The lecture room houses the largest private mineral collection of precious and semi-precious gemstones in southern Africa. Visitors are encouraged to explore the stones, which includes a rare uncut Tanzanite crystal, acquired before the export ban on rough Tanzanite was in place.
The most engaging part of the tour takes place on the bustling factory floor. A knowledgeable member of the Afrogem team will escort you, explaining each process of jewellery mass-production, from concept to final product. Take a few minutes to observe goldsmiths and diamond setters handcrafting intricate fine jewellery. Many of Afrogem’s skilled staff trace their lineage directly to the Cape Malay, who brought the art of gold- and silversmithing to South African shores in the 16th century. They are the heirs of a distinctive style and influence, and their heritage is reflected in the jewellery produced at Afrogem.
Your tour completes in their luxury showroom, where you can browse their exquisite range at your leisure or have something designed and made-up, just for you. Afrogem boasts a 24-36 hour turnaround time, and even tourists on a weekend visit to Cape Town can leave with custom-made jewellery. Afrogem also provides an international courier service for those on briefer stopovers.
That the African continent is rich in minerals adds another dimension to the jewellery created at Afrogem. The company’s buyers source many of the precious stones they use from African mines, and all the gold and diamonds used are mined in South Africa. The Afrogem portfolio includes graded Tanzanites and diamonds, Tanzanite and diamond jewellery, as well as precious and semi-precious jewellery and gemstones.
With well over forty years of in the diamond and gem industry, Afrogem gemologists provide expertise buyer’s can trust. Their diamonds are cut and polished at the South African Diamond Centre, and provided with EGL and GIA certification.
The Afrogem range is not limited to jewellery. A curated selection of unusual African curios expands the value they bring to their international clientele. Beautifully crafted Zawadi figurines, cold cast in bronze or pewter, make the perfect gift or souvenir. The five-pointed Southern Cross pendant, a design inspired by a celestial constellation visible only in the southern hemisphere, is another original Afrogem innovation worth noting.
The tour is available in various languages and welcomes visitors from all over the world. Courtesy transfers can be provided from in and around the CBD, and there is secure, onsite parking.
Afrogem is a uniquely South African jewellery experience that offers discerning buyers, seeking rarity and beauty, exceptional jewellery.
Address: 181 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town, South Africa
GPS Co-ordinates: 33°55’36.30″ S 18°24’39.78″ E