Looking for a lasting memory of your trip to New Orleans? After you have gotten the beignets at Café Du Monde and boas on Bourbon Street, head over to St. Philip Street for some bling-bling at New Orleans Gem & Lapidary, a spot decidedly off most tourists' radar.
Located on a small side street between Decatur and Chartres a few blocks away from the French Market, this jewel of a gem boutique will knock your socks off. Owned for 17 years by partners Guy LeBlanc and Alan Hobden, New Orleans Gem & Lapidary rises to any occasion, serving up a shining array from giant specimen crystals to freshwater pearls and every imaginable type of gemstone.
I found gifts for my 92-year-old grandmother (she adores her silver-dollar-size red Swarovski crystal on a long silver chain, $50) and my niece turning 21 (chunky Wilma Flintstone -style cultured pearls separated by shimmering crystal beads, a steal at $45). For myself, I chose a garnet ring custom designed in white gold for $300. There's even a funky collection of gag gifts for the bachelorette party set. If you're not sure what you want, the friendly and ever-patient staff will show you possibilities you hadn't considered. Best of all, the prices will leave you with plenty of cash to show off your purchases over lunch.
New Orleans Gem & Lapidary, 527 St. Philip St., 504-524-9595, 800-356-6252. Daily 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.