Ouro Preto is the world's single largest source of high quality pegmatite, the igneous crystalline rock that yields gem minerals such as topaz, garnets and tourmalines. Sources of pegmatite from other regions of the world, like the Urals, Pakistan , Sri Lanka , Myanmar and the United States together do not equal what's available in Ouro Preto. It's no wonder then that Ouro Preto is an important trade hub for precious stones and jewellery.
Local artisans use soapstone to create a variety of products like table ware, vases, ashtrays and jewellery boxes. These are sold in the city and the adjacent district of Santa Rita .
This Ouro Preto Shopping Guide will tell you the best places to shop, as well as what to shop for. Check out our Brazil Shopping Guide for some general information about shopping in Brazil. Also check out our Ouro Preto Restaurant Guide for suggestions on where to find a great meal whilst shopping for that perfect souvenir.
Ouro Preto Shopping Guide
While shopping in Ouro Preto for gemstones, the place to head to is Praca Tiradentes. Browse through several shops selling a dazzling array of gemstones and jewellery. Do look around for the famous - and rare - Imperial Topaz. The rare and extraordinary Imperial Topaz, characteristically shaded in pink, mauve or peach comes from here. Also known as 'precious topaz', this stone was named in honour of the Brazilian royalty who greatly valued its magnificent, liquid-gold beauty. Thanks to their rarity, fine Imperial Pink Topaz and other typical Imperial Topaz colours are an expensive buy.
Visit with us the traditional jewellery producers in an unforgettable tour.
Soapstone is quarried in Santa Rita de Ouro Preto , 28 km from the city. Artisans use this as raw material to produce beautiful carvings and imitations of Aleijadinho artefacts. Soapstone is a versatile material; Ouro Preto's souvenir shops are replete with bric-a-brac made of soapstone that combine beauty with utility, such as jars, ashtrays, tableware, boxes and ashtray. This stoneware comes in several colours - soft greys, whites and browns to vibrant greens and orange.
Also check out the daily handicraft market for interesting soapstone products. Watch local craftsmen engaged in their trade at Largo do Coimbra, near Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis.
Shopping in Ouro Preto is not only about gems and soapstone; there are plenty of other options for tourists. If you're short of time and wish to pick up gifts and souvenirs in one shot, the place to go is Bobadela (Da Direita) Street, where a glittering variety of shops await your patronage. Besides the inevitable gemstone outlets, you'll find a vast range of locally made handicrafts and other products, ranging from blankets to ethnic dolls.
When shopping for jewellery in Ouro Preto, you'll realize that it's nearly impossible to find a perfectly matched pair of Imperial Topaz colours like pink, salmon or sherry. Here's a good tip: if you do come across a pair of matching earrings, you are extraordinarily lucky. Buy them, as the chances of your finding another such pair are very slim, no matter how much you are prepared to pay.