Gem of a Store: Treasures of the Turquoise Crab

By Casie Dean

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Treasures of the Turquoise Crab (in Careening Cay Resort on Isla Carenero) is a hidden gem to be discovered or revisited. Off the beaten path, amidst lush tropical gardens, Treasures is a visually stimulating gift store with exquisite crafts and jewelry from Panama and around the world. Emberra woven baskets & masks, Kuna molas, Tagua Nut carvings, windchimes, stained glass lamps and sun catchers, ceramics, metal art, wood carvings, mosaics, incense, natural coconut oil based soaps & lotions, decorative rugs & wall hangings, signed art prints, colorful batik sarongs, …….and of course…..magnificent silver & gemstone jewelry, fill the walls, windows and attractive display cases. Indulge in a leisurely walk through this eye catching store (best enjoyed with one of the many
fabulous cocktails from the Cosmic Crab, a wonderful waterfront restaurant also on the resort).

Joan & Stephen Crabtree, owners of Careening Cay Resort, have years of experience in jewelry design, manufacture and sales in gift & jewelry stores. Stephen was a reknowned fine jewelry designer and owned stores on 5th Avenue in Naples, Florida for 25 years. Joan met Steve while working as a multiline jewelry representative. Romance, collaboration and team work fueled their many future endeavors.

“In the summer of 2002, turquoise reemerged as the latest greatest fashion craze. One of my favorite stones, I started stringing my own designs using turquoise as a focus and my own line of jewelry, Turquoise Crab was born. I strung necklaces while Steve drove to accounts, often selling necklaces as soon as they were made. The line became very successful and the sales helped bail us out of debt”.

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After arriving in Panama in 2005, Joan taught local women how to string her gemstone designs and paid a fair wage for finished products. One new mother was able to work with her newborn by her side earning nearly double the minimum wage. These necklaces were sold in galleries, boutiques, gift shops and museum stores in the States and are available in Treasures for reduced prices.

“So many experiences evolved to bring us to this point. As a craftsperson, I was inspired by the exceptional art and jewelry I saw in the fine galleries I serviced on sales calls. I also exhibited in Gift Shows in Orlando, Miami, Atlanta & New York and met vendors with unique products that I dreamt one day I would have in a store of my own”.

Joan & Steve also buy “Fair Trade” products from around the world including Haitian metal art, handwoven baskets from Uganda & Ruwanda, decorative paper mache animals from El Salvador, handcarved wood crafts from Honduras, Costa Rica and Indonesia, delicately handpainted ceramic parrots and toucans from Nicaragua, intricately decorated masks from Ghana & Indonesia, handpainted kites and beaded baskets from Bali, brilliantly colored telephone wire baskets from South Africa. The Molas she buys directly from Kuna women in San Blas, have been made into decorative pillow shams and are beautiful easy-to-carry gifts. Hand carved Emberra & Wounan tagua nut animal designs have been incorporated into stunning necklaces accented with silver and stone beads.

If you are looking for a special gift, jewelry or decoratives for your home, or just enjoy shopping,
Treasures of the Turquoise Crab is a delightfully unique Bocas destination and definitely worth a visit.

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