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Psst... it's duty free

Bahama bargains abound


The nicest thing about shopping in The Bahamas is not the huge selection of fine merchandise you can find here. Nor is it the friendly and helpful people in the shops - though both of these things help. What really makes Nassau a top venue for shoppers are the fantastic duty-free prices.

You'll find deals on everything from T-shirts to diamond rings; souvenirs to watches and from hats in the straw market to superb emerald necklaces in the emporia along Bay St.

There are great prices on just about everything, but the best savings are on the duty-free items: china, crystal, cameras, watches, fine jewellery and gemstones, linens, leather goods, fragrances and alcohol.

(While prices and comparisons were correct at press time, they are subject to change.)

China and crystal
Consider, for example, an exquisite piece of crystal for your front hallway. You might choose the Baccarat Ginko 240 vase, $696 in the US before taxes. At Solomon's Mines, it?s $557. That's also before taxes, but the difference is that there aren't any taxes in The Bahamas. The price you see is the price you pay.

If you're looking for dinnerware, Solomon's Mines has dozens of designs on display, all at attractive prices. Landmark Gold, by Lenox, is a good example: a five-piece setting is $71.50, exactly half the suggested retail price in US stores.

"We guarantee a savings of up to 25 per cent over US prices, and sometimes more," says Darcia Christie, china and crystal buyer for Solomon's Mines. The store carries many of the foremost lines, including Waterford, Lalique, Lenox, Daum, Rosenthal, Nachtman, Herend, Christofle, Wedgwood and Lladro.

Buying crystal and china in The Bahamas is easy. "A lot of visitors will place an order and it will be shipped directly from the vendor to their home. They still get the duty-free price and they don't have to have the hassle of carrying it home," says Christie.

In addition to china and crystal, designer boutiques in Solomon's Mines offer savings on other luxury items. A colourful 90cm Hermes silk scarf is $243. The before-tax price in the US is $270.

You can't miss Solomon's Mines. There are three stores on Bay St and two more on Paradise Island: one at Atlantis, the other at the Hurricane Hole Shopping Plaza.

Emeralds and diamonds
If you're in the market for gemstones - diamonds, rubies or emeralds - or their semi-precious cousins, Nassau is a great place to look and the savings are excellent.

However, when comparing prices on expensive gems, it's important to also compare quality, says Josephine Knowles of Crown Jewellers.

Explaining that there's a vast difference between certified gems and cut-rate or mail-order stones, Knowles says you can save big money here. "Generally, and I mean generally, we're between 20 to 40 per cent better and much better than that when it comes to high-end jewellery stores in the States.

"If I sell a two-carat diamond for $20,000, just as an example, a stone of comparable quality would be $31,000 or $32,000 in the States," says Knowles. You can compare prices at any one of Crown Jewellers' four shops, three of them on Bay St.

Designer jewellery is usually less expensive in The Bahamas. Rupa Sharma of Colombian Emeralds International (CEI) says you can buy a 24-in flat-link chain by Baraka, in 18kt white and yellow gold for $1,785, compared to $2,100 for the same thing in the US. That's a tidy savings of 15 per cent.

The Ebel Beluga ladies watch at CEI also qualifies as jewellery. It has a diamond bezel, mother of pearl face and an elegant stainless steel band, says Sharma. In The Bahamas it's $3,000; in the US it's $4,000.

As the name suggests, there's a huge selection of emeralds to choose from at CEI, ranging in price from less than $200 to more than $40,000. Whatever your price range, the gem is guaranteed to be much less in The Bahamas. Equally good prices are available at Jeweler's Warehouse, also on Bay St.

Handbags and luggage
Ladies handbags are hot sellers in Nassau. At The Brass and Leather Shops on Charlotte St, the small Shopper Pratica handbag by Furla is $249 here and $275 in the US.

"There are great savings on Furla handbags," says Diane Delisle-McCartney, buyer for Brass and Leather. Another example: a large Basic Shopper by Furla is $289 in Nassau and $320 in the US. Brass and Leather also carries Kenzia, Kipling, Land and Tumi bags and luggage.

At Fendi, just around the corner, the very classy Medium Diavolo Selleria bag is priced at $1,469 in Nassau and $1,583 in the US, plus taxes - a savings of more than $114 on this sought-after handbag. If you prefer something smaller, look at the Mini Mama Zucchino: $339 here compared to $363 in the US.

Perfume and linen
Fragrances are much cheaper in The Bahamas. Typically, a perfume that sells for $100 (not including sales taxes) in New York can be picked up in Nassau for $80. And 100ml of an eau de toilette spray, valued at $75 in the US is around $64 in The Bahamas.

There are, of course, hundreds of fragrances to choose from: Allure, Burberry Touch and Chanel No 5 at one end of the alphabet, to Shalimar, White Diamonds and Ysatis at the other.

As well, there are reasonably priced scents available here that cannot be had for any price in the US: Nothing, and Reggae Splash - scents for both men and women - and White Witch, a bewitching scent for women, are manufactured in the Caribbean by Parfums Jamaica.

The Bahamas is also a good place to track down the best linen that Hong Kong, the Philippines and India have to offer, all at great prices.

"You won't find finer quality linens anywhere else in the world apart from Europe," says Jeanne Kemp, manager of Far East Traders in the Prince George Plaza, off Bay St.

Far East Traders has the largest selection of fine Oriental linens in The Bahamas, as well as silk pajamas, kimonos, blouses and children's clothing - all at 20 to 50 per cent below US prices.

One example, says owner Paul Lane, is a Chinese brocade dress, with an oriental collar and a slit up the leg, which Far East Traders sells for $54.95. "I have seen it on sale in the United States for $104.95," says Lane, who adds that specific comparisons are difficult because most of Far East Traders' goods are unique to the store.

Watch these watches
Among the very best values in The Bahamas are watches. Prices range from from cheap to steep here but whatever price range you've decided on, it's better in The Bahamas.

Sanchia Davis of John Bull says that many wristwatches are 35 per cent cheaper here, whether you want a fancy designer-name chronometer or a plain, reliable timepiece.

Esperanza by Movado, a two-tone stainless steel and electro-plated gold watch, sells for $683 in The Bahamas and about $1,050 in the US. Also at John Bull, a stainless steel Seiko Primer Chronograph, which typically sells for $475 in the US goes for $309 here. And a lady's Eco-drive Citizen sells for $399.95 in the US and $260 in The Bahamas.

John Bull is the official Rolex retailer in The Bahamas but also sells a wide range of luxury items, from gemstones, gold and designer jewellery, to cameras, leather, sunglasses, fragrances and cosmetics.

Tag Heuer, Charriol, Chopard and Corum watches are drawing a lot of interest this summer and fall at The Colombian, which also features exquisite jewellery pieces and, of course, fine Colombian emeralds.

Whatever duty-free items you decide to buy, you can have confidence that you'll get a bargain price in The Bahamas.


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