The bane of any day tour is the shopping hour. On a good day, I’m not that fond of shopping. So when I’m forced to shop, either actually spending money or just window-shopping, I can get rather cranky. As such, when shopping is shoe-horned into a day tour, wasting time that could have been spent exploring fascinating sites, I’m definitely not a happy little tourist. Unfortunately, many tours have shopping hour and as a solo traveler who is too cheap to rent a car on her own, I am not always successful in avoiding such tours. And once, success escaped me while in Turkey. That is how I was forcibly given the opportunity to learn about Turkish onyx.

On a visit to Priene, there was an onyx shop at which our little group made a stop. Part of me was annoyed to lose valuable time that could have been spent exploring Priene (which I loved) further in depth but the other part of me shrugged. I knew nothing about onyx so maybe I would actually learn something at this shop. For example, I didn’t know that the stone can come in many colours. The colours include brown, red, yellow, green, grey, white, black, and pink. The colours normally aren’t ‘perfect’ as they tend to have striations running through them but to me, that’s what makes the stone interesting. Each piece is unique in its colouring even if several pieces have been fashioned into the same shape. Apparently, while black onyx is the most famous, it isn’t as commonly found as the other colours. I didn’t see any at that particular shop but I did find black onyx (or what was advertised as such – apparently making fake black onyx isn’t complicated) while in Mexico – so no, onyx isn’t unique to Turkey.

While onyx is a very hard stone, artisans can make pretty much anything out of it – jewelry, chess sets, figurines, vases, etc. My little group was given a short demonstration on how the stone is made into items. It involves machines that spin the raw pieces, water, files, and sandpaper. There were no face masks in sight – I seriously hope that is not the norm because breathing in the onyx dust can’t be good for a person’s lungs! After the lesson, we were taken to a showroom where we were free to browse the items for sale. Much of it was overpriced in the sense that it would probably cost about the same as buying it back home. In my mind, though, why shouldn’t people in these countries we visit be allowed to expect the same amount of money regarding the stuff for sale? Especially if they’re the ones who made the items?

At the end of the day, I walked away from the shopping hour having learned about onyx as well as being the owner of some onyx itself. While this experience did not change my mind much about shopping on tours, I must admit that I am happy with the bowls I bought.

How about you? Are you a fan of shopping on tours? Did you ever buy something you’re happy with while on tour? Or did you ever buy something on tour you regret getting?