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The Blue amber from the Dominican Republic

blue amber from Dominican Republicblue amber beadAmber is a fascinating organic material that is extremely light ( it floats on salt water) and is found in the Dominican Republic. In the 15th century, Christopher Columbus mentioned a great quantity of amber on the Hispaniola Island (ancient name for Haiti). He brought back on his second trip some objects crafted by people living in Hispaniola. The most recent research shows that amber from this region is 25-to 15-million-year-old, which means that it belongs to the Oligocene and Miocene geologic epochs. This amber comes from a fossil resin produced by a plant named hymenaea portera.

Amber from the Dominican Republic can be found in a surprising wide variety of colours, the honey colour is the most common one but it is not unusual to found some red, some green and some blue which is the most searched for. These rare pieces don’t appear systematically blue, but only when they are observed on a black background where a strong blue reflection appears on the surface.

polished blue amberAssumptions have been stated to explain the blue colour and the strong fluorescence noticed on this type of amber when it is exposed to UV light.

Some scientists believe that an extended exposure of the fresh resin to high temperature due to volcanic eruptions or some intense forest fires can cause these colour phenomenon.

Recent researches tend to prove that the blue colour is due to the presence of perylene, a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. This organic compound produces a specific blue fluorescence.

blue amber minerThe most beautiful blue amber comes from the Los Cacaos mines, and some beautiful ones can be found in Santiago.

On my last trip to the Dominican Republic, I noticed that the blue amber business had expanded a lot. Some landowners who used to make profits from cacao or coffee plantations saw their income increase incredibly after they had found some blue amber on their lands.

The price of the Dominican Republic amber has constantly gone up in the past five years.

blue amber mining areaTens-meter-deep holes have been dug perpendicularly to the soil to reach the layers rich in amber. In the villages near the mines, I have watched the unveil and unpacking of the harvest, in a backyard behind a small house, four chairs were set and some black plastic bags full of amber left on the ground. The ambreros with their gun on their belt would empty their booty in water basins to better distinguish the colour that can vary from blue to green in this region; a simple colour change can affect the price and multiply it or divide it by two. Once everything would be set, the discussion with the buyers would start. Amber pieces are weighted, cleaned and prices negotiated before the buyer leaves with his amber acquired for a few thousand dollars per ounce. For a few years now, Chinese are seen in San Domingo near the mines, they love this blue stone, and the rumour has it that it could supplant jade.