The resin produced by of ancient trees, all processed by the weather and thousands of years, has turned the Dominican Republic into one of the very few places in the world that has significant deposits of amber stones, one of the most beautiful and best valued treasures found in the Caribbean.
Because of its importance, rarity and beauty, several Dominican cities (Santo Domingo, Punta Cana, La Romana and Puerto Plata) now have museums where tourists can marvel at these beautiful semi-precious stones.
Aside from the Dominican Republic, other amber deposits are found in the Middle East, Canada, Australia and Mexico. However, Dominican amber is known for its remarkable purity, clarity and variety.
Many stones conserve the fossils of insects and animals that are believe to be, in some cases, over 30 million years old.
Some 300 pounds of amber are collected each month from amber deposits in Puerto Plata, Santiago and Hato Mayor, three important Dominican cities. Stones come in yellow, red, green, honey and the much-coveted blue amber stones, a very popular item in certain international circles. The colors of the stones will depend on the tree, the natural elements it absorbed, and the resin’s elasticity.
Another semi –precious stone is the Larimar, or blue pectolite, found only in the country’s southwest province of Bahoruco.
Locals tell the story that it was in 1916 when the Catholic priest Miguel Domingo Fuertes Loren, a pastor in Barahona, discovered the first Larimar mine. When he filed for a legal permit to mine the stone, the request was denied.
In 1974 on a beach off the coast of the southwest city of Barahona, Miguel Mendez, a Peace Corps volunteer, found a deposit of what was then called the “Blue Rock.” Mendez is credited with giving the stone its current name, a name composed of his daughter’s Larissa’s name and the Spanish word “mar,” which in English means “sea.”
Sometime later they realized that the recently found “blue rocks” had been washed to sea by the Bahoruco River from what is now the Los Chupaderos mine , the same mine discovered by the Catholic priest.
Both the Larimar and amber stones are polished and sold in handcrafted gold and silver pieces.
These stones can be purchased in its natural state by the local museums that tell their history. These museums are located in Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata, La Romana and Punta Cana.
The country’s first “Amber Museum” was built in the north coast city of Puerto Plata. The museum is situated in an old, two-story, Victorian residence. Experts believe this particular museum is home to the world’s most important amber collection. Some amber stones contain fossils that are some 30 million years old.
The museum is the legal owner of the famous amber stone seen in the first “Jurassic Park” movie.” Address: Duarte Street #61, Puerto Plata. Hours: Daily from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The capital city’s Colonial Zone is home to the amber museum that exhibits the largest amber stone ever found in the Dominican Republic. The museum also features fossils found in many amber stones. Address: Calle El Conde, across the street from Columbus Park. Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
There is another museum in the Colonial Zone that features special exhibits of unique amber stone pieces. Address: Arzobispo Meriño, #452. Hours: Monday-Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
This particular museum displays the original tools used by local miners to extract both the Larimar and amber stones. Address: Palma Real Shopping Village, Bavaro – Punta Cana.
The mall offers free transportation to and from nearby hotels. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the famed Casa de Campo resort, one of the Caribbean’s most important high-end tourism destinations, the museum in Altos de Chavón (the resort’s cultural village) features a beautiful display of the many types of amber and Larimar stones that exist in the country. The museum sells unique pieces featuring sophisticated designs. Address: Altos de Chavon. Hours: Daily, from 8:00 a.m. – 6 p.m.