When people enjoy an exotic vacation it is pretty customary for them to want to take a little piece of the location home with them as a remembrance. While you can always head to a gift shop and buy a Dominican knickknack (usually made in china), it is sometimes nice to pick up something that is unique to the country. The Dominican Republic produces several items that are unique to here. One of the most popular items is Larimar, but there is also amber and a rather interesting blue amber that is found here.
Larimar is a semiprecious stone that is only found in the Dominican Republic. In fact it is only mined in one location (at least at this time), between Barahona and Bahoruco, Dominican Republic. Barahona also called Santa Cruz de Barahona is one of the main cities in the Barahona Province, in the south of the Dominican Republic.
Along with the larimar stone that is mined there Barahona is also known as an ecotourism port, for its “Barahona Type Coffee” and the Barahona Sugar Factory. Barahona is also a sea port.
One point I found particularly interesting is that most of the mines are more of family operations. The mines are usually found on family property and while there is some government safety regulations that govern the mines, due to the “family” manner of running the business many people get hurt or killed in the mines.
Apparently you can also pick up smaller pieces of the stone on the beach, but you need to go to the mines if you are wanting more than small chips.
Larimar Jewelry and Larimar Carvings
As with most semiprecious stone, larimar carves into beautiful pieces. There is a thriving industry of jewelers and carvers near the mines in the Barahona area and near Casa Bonita.
Part of what makes larimar so expensive is the way it is mined. The veins are small and usually on private land. There isn’t enough of the stone to warrant large mining operations so this stone will remain rare and could in time be mined out. Once mined out, the price of the stone could raise considerably.
As with most stones there is a thriving business creating fake versions of the stone. Some of the fake larimar is good enough to make it very difficult to distinguish from real larimar. Price is often a giveaway. If it is very cheap then likely it is either fake or very low quality. Larimar is also opaque. Light should not be able to shine through the stone, unlike glass or plastic.
Larimar is also a “natural” stone, while that seems an obvious statement that will help reinforce the next statement. Naturally produced stones are rarely uniform in color. Real larimar will have natural variations and most will have a white streak in it (one of the better distinguishing factors between larimar and other similar stones). It can also have a variety of other colors in the stone.
Best Prices for Larimar
In most cases the highest prices you are going to find are going to be in the tourist areas, especially those a ways from the source which is the south-west end of the island. For the most reliable sources you can go to the larimar and amber museums in Santiago and Santo Domingo. It’s a bad idea to try buying from street venders due to the flood of fake larimar on the market.
You will find the Amber Museum (also sells Larimar) in Santo Domingo atAmber World Museum
Arz. Mariño #452 Esq. Restauración, Zona Colonial
The Larimar Museum is atIsabel La Catolica Street no.54, Zona Zolonial
There is also an Amber Museum in Puerto PlatoAmber Museum
61 Duarte St, Playa Dorada,
Likely the best prices are going to be near Barahona and Bahoruco. Here you can work with the people that actually take the rough larimar and shape it into Jewelry, ornaments and sculptures. Before you buy, take a look at what things are going for on eBay. It would be a shame to think you are getting a good deal at the source to find out that you have over paid for a particular item. You also need to compare quality, reasonably, high quality stones will fetch a higher price than low quality stones and there is quite a difference between qualities of larimar.