Blue Amber Hunting in Dominican Republic
When I first saw blue amber from the Dominica Republic, I didn’t like it! That was about four years ago at the annual Gem and Mineral Show held in Tucson, Arizona. However, mine owner Patricio then invited me to visit his amber mines in the Dominican Republic, and I have since grown to love this unusual amber.
Amber from the Dominican Republic is typically in yellow and honey colors, sometimes red and green, and rarely in blue. In the case of blue amber, rare is an accurate term as I was told that less than 1,000 kilograms of blue amber are mined, across all grades.
Dominican Republic amber was formed from the sap of a now extinct tropical legume called Hymenaea. It was first dated as being 40 million years old, but researcher have now estimated that it was formed around 25 million years ago.
Blue amber is sometimes referred to as ‘fluorescent amber’ because when natural sunlight (which contains ultra violet light) strikes the amber it turns blue. This is because there are hydrocarbons in the blue amber, which turn the ultraviolet light into blue particles, giving it both its blue glow and name.
The mines I visited were very basic. The mineshaft was just broad enough to allow a miner to descend. Its sides were neatly lined with branches to prevent the shaft collapsing. A simple pulley system, powered by two cheerful miners, was used to bring up the earth for sorting.
Blue amber is prized by Hong Kong, China and Japan and is most often used to carve sculptures or bought as beads for necklaces. The beads have also become popular in the Middle East where they are strung together as ‘worry beads’.
I brought back some beautiful blue amber from the Dominican Republic. From what the mountains above Santiago took 25 million years to transform from a once tropical forest now passes into my designer’s hands. I am excited about using this beautiful blue amber to create some unique pieces for my customers.