Amber

Dominican amber is only a major source of amber during the last 50 years, although its existence has been known about since the times of the discovery of the island by Christopher Columbus. There is not much publicity, so many people -even Dominicans- don’t even know about it.

Dominican Amber is the only amber found on any of the Caribbean island. It is the true Caribbean Ambermay it be green or other naturally available Dominican colors. But not everything called “Caribbean Amber” is from the Dominican Republic. Confused? See: “Green Caribbean Amber“.

The mine sites of Dominican amber are in the north and in the east of the island. In the northern area, the amber-bearing unit is formed of clastic rocks, sandstone accumulated in a deltaic or even deep-water environment. In the eastern area, the Dominican amber is found in a sediment formation of organic-rich laminated sand, sandy clay, intercalated lignite as well as some isolated beds of gravel and calcarenite.

According to Poinar, 2001, Dominican amber is, up to 30 Mio years old. According to other renown scientists, Dominican amber is 20 to 40 million years old. (see:  New York Times, October 29, 2006.) This sets it not far away from Baltic amber.

Since the amber in the mountains in the north is tightly imbedded in a lignite layer of sandstone, holes are dug into the sides of the cliffs. Although amber mining is getting modern, most of the miners accomplish their work only with the help of primitive, simple tools and risk their lives daily.

 

Specially in the east, where large Chinese corporations extract the amber, more sophisticated methods are used, like caterpillars and jackhammers besides the traditional fox hole digging.

Dominican Amber presented to Columbus

Dominican Amber presented to Columbus

It is no industrialized product like much of the Baltic amber. Much Baltic amber is heated to change water bubbles, to discoid fractures, or to produce the “sun spangles” (flints) or produce the beautiful cherry color. Pressed amber (from small pieces, meal and rejects) and “ambroid” (pieces of amber imbedded in a plastic) are commonly found on the market. Pressed amber is made out of small pieces of amber that have been melted together under high pressure. Note: pressed amber is also called “genuine amber”. It is a legal way of cheating and it is hard to discern the illusion except for the price. The best varieties of the pressed amber are not discernible from the natural opaque amber and are used for jewelry production.

Not so Dominican amber which is kept natural and only cut and polished. The outcrop is much less than Baltic amber, it is rare in the true meaning and not all over the world. Hence, it is not the amber jewelry you will see in the Supermarket next door. Dominican amber is the real thing in an unreal world.