Literary creativity by novelist Michael Crichton followed by the Hollywood hype of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jurassic Park’ movie made the substance famous worldwide – now visit the amber museum a short walk off the central historic square of Santo Domingo and learn more about this semi-precious stone.
Years of devotion by friendly and well-informed Jorge Caridad, founder and president of the Amber Factory AMBASA, has helped create a fascinating, multi-faceted tribute to this most intriguing substance, one that has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty for thousands of years, ever since Neolithic times. Its uses have been diverse - as an ingredient in perfumes, a healing agent in folk medicine and as jewelry.
In the Amber Museum (amberworldmuseum.com) located 300 yards behind the Old Colonial Square you will find historical and scientific data on the creation of the gem – fossilized tree resin - millions of years ago and the insects, animals and vegetation that have been captured inside it (in ‘Jurassic Park,’ the DNA for dinosaurs was preserved inside a piece of amber), as well as detailed information on its formation and its characteristics, all colorfully displayed in cabinets, on panels, in large wide-field microscopes and through audio-visual presentations.
Most fascinating are the various amber pieces containing fully preserved, fully intact insects and parts of animals embedded inside, many of them thousands of years old – a truly dramatic time capsule. Viewing devices help visitors see the tiny insects in startling clarity.
The museum also highlights the main areas of the world where amber is found and defines the five different classes of the substance, based upon their chemical constituents, as well as the various methods used for extraction. A small shop offers a range of souvenirs, books and jewelry, including intricately designed earrings and bracelets made on-site in the museum workshop.
Caridad has been very active over the years in helping protect this valuable natural resource within his country and supporting workers involved in its extraction. He has also established a special educational foundation across from the museum in which young people learn artwork and are trained in jewelry design.
So fascinated by gemstones of all kinds, Caridad also developed a second museum at 54 Isabel La Catolica Street – within easy walking distance in central Santo Domingo – focusing on the beautiful, aqua blue larimar stone, which is found globally only in a single mountainside in the southeastern region of the country in what the museum describes poetically as being, "within an explosion of gigantic trees, amid arbors of mangos, plantains, papaya, serenaded by symphonies of orchids and hibiscus."
From a mineralogical standpoint, larimar is a pectolite (calcium-sodium silicate) and is usually green or blue. The most prized variety has a turquoise hue. Its attractive color, its hardness, and the shine it emanates after polishing makes it excellent material for jewelry, with beautiful examples of this in the museum and gift shop.
The intrinsic value of larimar is often linked to human emotions. As a panel in the museum states, "Larimar has captured the essence of both water and air. Water relates to the emotions and air to thoughts. It is like an angelic thread that weaves the impressions of peaceful harmony between the heart and the mind..... It is volcanic in nature and has evolved from a hot fiery source, yet it is the coolest, softest blue imaginable. From the stone we can learn how to cool down the fiery energies within ourselves ad to calm down burning emotions such as frustration, lust and greed."
For more information, see www.larimarmuseum.com