Colombian bling to shine at World Cup finals

Fri Apr 23, 2010 3:50pm EDT
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By Luis Jaime Acosta

BUCARAMANGA, Colombia (Reuters) - Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo could finish the World Cup wearing a Colombian white gold ring as the most valuable player in South Africa.

Although Colombia did not qualify for the finals its world famous emeralds will be on show after a local jeweler acquired the rights to make 2,010 official rings for the tournament.

Rings encrusted with the green gems found in the mountains of the Andean country have been sanctioned by soccer's world governing body FIFA and will be on sale in South Africa.

The rings will cost from $2,500 to $250,000 each and the design features soccer balls, stadiums and the flags of the 32 participating countries in the month-long extravaganza.

In a private house turned workshop in Bucaramanga, Enrique Vasquez and his colleagues in this and other mini-factories in the northern Colombian city are working hard to get all the rings made before the tournament starts on June 11.

He spends his days placing tiny emeralds in the platinum, gold and silver rings that he and 269 other artisans are making for the first World Cup to be hosted in Africa.

It is crunch time but he cannot rush the job.

Looking through a pair of magnified glasses, he uses special tweezers to slowly place one emerald after another on a ring topped with a bulky diamond-encrusted soccer ball.   Continued...

<p>A FIFA 2010 World Cup ring is shown at a jewellery workshop in Bucaramanga April 22, 2010. REUTERS/John Vizcaino</p>