Do you remember the movie Jurassic Park? They created dinosaurs by extracting dinosaur DNA from blood sucked by an insect trapped in amber. These are quite sensational things!
Although, of course, all science fiction has enough science behind it to make it a pretty intriguing scenario for reflection. I remember shopping at a nature store when this movie first came out and they noticed the renewed excitement people were showing over amber jewelry containing insects.
Fossils of all kinds are fascinating, of course, but the fossils contained in the amber have a special intrigue because they are often preserved in such a sophisticated three-dimensional detail. This also includes the soft parts and details to the cell structure. These amber fossils are a window into the past that we just don't get from other fossils, as an impression of rock!
In fact, amber is itself a fossil, not just insects and other once-living creatures stored in it. Amber is a fossilized woody sap, also called resin. The exact process by which wood juice hardens into a fossil is still a mystery and therefore cannot be repeated in a laboratory. This makes the amber very special and very sought after.
Amber is found all over the world, but the two areas with the highest concentrations so far are the Baltic region of Eastern Europe and the Dominican Republic. The Baltic amber is commercially available on a much larger scale and for a much longer time than the Dominican amber. In fact, it was not until 1960 that the world began to pay serious attention to Dominican amber. However, he was definitely known to the indigenous Taino as early as 400 AD. They used it as an ornament and it was found associated with their graves. Amber deposits in the Dominican Republic have also been known to Christopher Columbus and the Spanish colonialists since the end of 1490, since the people of Taino presented them with amber necklaces on their first arrival. However, the Spaniards have such a clear focus on gold, they have largely forgotten about amber.
In 1960, Germans began to extract amber in the Dominican Republic and export rough amber products from the Dominican Republic for processing. In the late 1970s, the Dominican government began to consider the value of amber as a national natural resource and passed a law that would not allow the export of that resource unless it was worked by local Dominican craftsmen. This has kept some of the revenue generated from this natural resource in the country.
Today, tourists visiting each region of the Dominican Republic can find jewelry from Dominican amber and other fine amber items for sale in outdoor markets, beach stands, traditional shops and museums. In fact, this is one of the hottest items sold in the Dominican market, which makes people often forget how hard it is to actually get there.
Most of the best Dominican amber, the hardest and oldest and most inclusive, is located in the La Cumbre mountain area north of Santiago and south of Puerto Plata. It is found high in the mountains and is accessible only by foot or donkey. In addition, it is tightly embedded in lignite sandstone layers and must be extracted from the rock in a piece and by hand. Therefore, it is quite difficult to pass and this requires special skill and hard physical labor. So when shopping for Dominican amber jewelry, keep in mind how difficult it is to get this beautiful gem and you will understand why it can and should command a higher price than other jewelry.
Dominican amber is considered to be of higher quality than Baltic amber for two main reasons. First, Dominican amber is more translucent than Baltic amber, so you can see more clearly what is built into it. In fact, Baltic amber is usually quite dark by comparison and full of artifacts that make it difficult to see. Second, Dominican amber has about 10 times more interesting inclusions such as insects than Baltic amber. We will look at these reasons in more detail below.
When you grab a piece of Dominican amber, you hold a piece of precious story in your hands – literally! Dominican amber comes from the tree sap of Hymenaea protera, a tree that is extinct but associated with the modern algarrobo tree. However, through DNA testing, it is believed that this prehistoric extinct tree is more closely related to another type of hymen found in Africa. In fact, all the Himalayan trees in the Caribbean are considered to be derived from hard seed pods flying from Africa to the southern equatorial course along the same route as the hurricanes. The trees from which the Dominican amber was created are thought to have dominated the shade of the ancient Caribbean tropical forest 20 to 40 million years ago. These impressive trees reached a height of about 82 feet (25 meters).
Most Dominican amber comes in the same shades of color you would find in different types of honey: straw yellow, deeper golden, orange and brown. However, Dominican amber is also available in other colors that are rarer and therefore more valuable than collectors. Red amber is sometimes formed by surface oxidation and can be quite beautiful. Green amber is even rarer and the rarest of all is blue amber. Both green and blue amber fluoresce these colors under natural sunlight and are considered by many to be the most beautiful type of amber.
One of the things that makes Baltic amber so much more opaque than Dominican amber is that it is often filled with small air bubbles. That is why baltic amber is sometimes called "bone amber" because it may look like the inside of a bone. In an effort to remove these bubbles and try to create a clearer and lighter piece of amber, Baltic amber is often treated with high pressure and temperature. This often leaves noticeable streaks all over the amber piece. Dominican amber does not need to be subjected to such stresses and is therefore more virgin and often more valuable.
Blue amber is found almost exclusively in the Dominican Republic, but you should be careful that you get the real thing when you buy it. A piece of jewelry made from blue amber, especially a piece with a pleasing inclusion, is almost always much more expensive than a piece of gold amber. If you find a blue amber piece that you think is unrealistically cheap, beware of the buyer! Keep in mind that only about 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of blue amber is opened annually, so the market should never be flooded with blue amber jewelry.
It should also be noted that all true Dominican amber fluoresces in blue light under ultraviolet light. In fact, this is one technique used to determine if Dominican amber is real or not. Copal, hardened wood juice, but not fully absorbed, is sometimes deceptively marketed as amber, but this imitation will not fluoresce under ultraviolet light.
Inclusions in Dominican amber jewelry and other Dominican amber jewelry can greatly increase the value of each piece. Insect insects found in the Dominican amber include flying ants, shameless bees, sweat bees, beetles, mushrooms, sands, small crickets, moths, spiders, pseudo scorpions, parasitic wasps, flies, plant protozoans and bony beetles. You will also find leaves, flower petals, plant roots, undivided eggs, spores and pollen. In larger pieces you will even find rare amphibians, reptiles or mushrooms! These pieces can cost a fortune and are often preserved as museum pieces.
In addition to jewelry, some collectors collect unusually nice pieces of amber. They may contain a rarer form of inclusion or unusual color. All inclusions have some scientific value, but some are so valuable to the scientific community that they are not allowed to be taken out of the country and the Dominican Museum of Natural History approves.
Dominicans are becoming more aware of how valuable their amber resources are, and therefore the value of this amber is growing rapidly. Dominican amber is a true treasure and one of the benefits of traveling to the Dominican Republic is the ability to shop for a favorite piece of it. Finding Dominican amber elsewhere becomes more difficult every day.