The Reprosa jewelry store (Avenida 2 Sur/Samuel Lewis and Calle 54 Este, tel. 271-0033, www.reprosa.com , 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) is a Panama institution. It’s a great place to go for unique presents or souvenirs. There’s a second Reprosa store (9 A.M.–5 P.M. daily) in Casco Viejo .
Reprosa is most famous for its reproductions of gold and silver huacas, figures recovered from pre-Colombian graves. The figures are created by using molds made through the so-called “lost wax” process, which creates exact replicas, including the imperfections in the original. This process is virtually the same as that used to produce the ancient original pieces.
Prices at Reprosa are very reasonable—some start at less than US$10, though the cost goes straight up from there depending on the purity of the gold or silver. Pieces include replicas of some of the finest and oldest huacas in the collection of Panama’s anthropology museum. The store carries other jewelry as well, including replicas of pieces of eight and the pearl-encrusted brooches known as mosquetas, the latter were traditionally worn with the pollera.
Reprosa offers tours of its factory near Panamá la Vieja ; send an email to tours [at] reprosa [dot] com for details. Its website also offers a quite thorough virtual tour of the factory, plus a map of how to get there. (Local trivia: The blonde model in Reprosa’s fanciful ads is the owners’ daughter.)
Linen house, Casa de los Manteles (Avenida de los Mártires near Calle J, tel. 262-0822, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.), is known for its lovely embroidered tablecloths, napkins, and other linens. It also carries good-quality guayaberas (the semiformal traditional Latin American shirt). This area is not the safest these days, though it should be fine in the daytime and the store has a parking lot behind the building.
There is a handicrafts market in Plaza Cinco de Mayo, behind the anthropology museum, that offers hats, mola blouses, hammocks, sandals, and the like. Hats are especially well-represented. A place here takes passport photos for US$1 per half dozen. Most stalls open by 9 a.m. daily and stay open until sundown. If you have trouble finding this market, ask for the artesanía near Plaza Cinco de Mayo. Better handicrafts markets are in Balboa , in the old Canal Zone.