Friday, January 27, 2012

BLUE AMBER - a Total Surprise !

Typical rough Amber pieces from the Baltic

Amber, that strange material that hardened from several species of tree resins from several hundred million years ago. The best known Amber is from the Baltic Region, but it also comes from Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, North and South America and some Islands in the Caribbean. But do not confuse Amber with Copal, Copal is the new kid on the block being only a few million years old and in most cases much softer, coming from Columbia and a few Caribbean Islands.

Piece of Dominican Blue Amber as seen in the rough

Amber is supposed to be amber color, right? Not exactly. There is the original colors of Amber, yellow, orange, honey, cognac or similar. A new delight among jewelry designers is Butterscotch Amber, found in the Baltic as well as the Middle East. But there also is cream, cherry, red, green and even blue, which is by far the rarest of all the Ambers. Up to this day many people do not believe in the existence of "BLUE" amber. Must be something in the air or in the ground, since two of the more highly prised gemstones that come from the Dominican Republic are both "BLUE" - Blue Amber and Larimar.

Chunk of Dominican Amber with Reds-Cognac-Yellow coloring.

Is Blue Amber Truly Blue? No. It is not. And yet, it is. Confused? Blue Amber is a result of fluorescence and no solid color exists. Ultra-violet or violet light is re-emitted as blue or green light, attributed to the presence of poly-nuclear aromatic molecules. Therefore, Blue amber is blue, but not the way you might think.

When sunlight strikes the Blue Amber on a white surface the light particles pass right through and are refracted by the white surface. Result: the Blue amber looks almost like any other Amber, only with a light blue hue. But when the light particles can't pass through and refract back, the hydrocarbons in the Blue Amber turn the sun's ultraviolet light into blue light particles. The result: the famous blue glow of Blue Amber. This effect is only possible with Dominican Blue Amber pieces graded within the Blue Amber category. Any other Amber (like Baltic and others) will not display this blue phenomenon at all. And, on top of that other Dominican Amber will show this blue efraction only in concentrated UV light, and not in natural light. Light passed through the Blue Amber from a flashlight, will also result in the normal looking cognac amber color.

Example of same piece of Blue Amber with front lighting, then looking as same piece lighted from the reverse

Thanks to The Amber Ranch for the pieces of and the info on Dominican Blue Amber

Sunday, January 22, 2012

LARIMAR - Jewelry of the Caribbean ! is blue, and a very pretty blue at that. It is more durable and longer wearing than many of the other non-faceted gemstone or mineral on the market. It makes up into beautiful beads and great pendants. Sometimes called Pectolite, Larimar (many times misspelled: Lorimar) is a rare blue variety of the mineral Pectolite, and is found only in the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. Although Pectolite is found in many locations worldwide, none have the unique volcanic blue coloration of Larimar. This blue color, distinct from that of other Pectolites, is the result of cobalt substitution for calcium. Its coloration varies from white, light-blue, green-blue to deep blue. This stone is cut into cabochons and carved into shapes for setting to a variety of jewelry items throughout the Caribbean islands. Its a must buy if you are planning a cruise any time soon.

The most important outcropping of Larimar is located at Los Chupaderos, in the section of Los Checheses, about 10 kilometers southwest of the city of Barahona, in the south-western region of the Dominican Republic. It is a single mountainside, now perforated with approximately 2,000 vertical shafts, surrounded by rainforest vegetation and deposits of blue-colored mine tailings.

Quality grading is according to coloration and the typical mineral crystal configuration in the stone. Larimar can also be found with green and even some with red spots and brown stripes, due to other chemicals and/or oxidation. But the more intense the blue, and the contrasts in the stone, the higher and rarer is the quality. The blue color is photosensitive and fades with time if exposed to too much light and heat. So when wearing Larimar Jewelry, one must be careful to keep it away from intense sunlight so as not to ruin that very expensive piece of Nature you just bought.


However, be careful and do not let anyone sell you the cheaper but also very beautiful blue, many times called Caribbean Blue or Paraiba Blue, Chalcedony, which looks very much like very high quality Larimar. At recent shows, slabs of true rich Larimar a few inches in each direction and 1/4 inch thick can be seen going for $100 or better.