The actual mine in Barahona is several kilometers north of the main road from
Barahona to Bahoruco. The dirt road is very steep and hilly and is not passable
without a four wheel drive vehicle. There is also no sign so if you do not know
where you are going, you will have a very difficult time finding it. However,
the scenery along the road is reportedly a spectacular view of tropical trees
and flowers. Aside from that, like many areas of the remote Dominican
countryside, the structures in the area surrounding the mine are mostly small,
poorly constructed houses and huts. Most of their occupants are men that are
employed in the larimar mines and their families. These men usually begin
working in the mines at a very young age. As there is not much other
opportunity, the mines provide some stability and though the men earn little
money, it is enough to allow them and their families to live a simple lifestyle.
Working in the mines can be very dangerous as they are poorly constructed and
reinforced and very few safety measures are taken. The deep tunnels can easily
collapse, trapping any miner who may be working inside. A number of miners have
reportedly been buried alive due to collapses such as these.
During the rainy season, the mines occasionally become flooded and as a result,
the potential to mine becomes limited. It is really not known exactly how much
larimar is in the mine and conceivably, the mine could become exhausted of the
precious gem at any time. This uncertainty and occasional rumors surrounding
larimars availability causes fluctuations in its price. The fact that the
existence of larimar has become more widely known and that tourists have been
purchasing it with increased frequency has added to its value.
Larimar rates between a 5 and a 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness which is a
system that measures a substances resistance to being scratched. The darker blue
stones rate closer to a 7 with the lighter ones rating closer to a 5. The stones
hardness and beautiful color has made it a very popular item for making jewelry.
Of course, the larimar is not taken directly from the mine and immediately made
into jewelry but has to go through a process. First, the stones taken from the
mine must be sorted and it has to be determined which ones are suitable for
making jewelry. Next, they have to be classified by size, color, and clarity.
Then the stones have to be shaped accordingly and polished before being mounted
into the piece of jewelry by a professional.
There are necklaces, earrings, cufflinks, bracelets, rings, pendants and other
forms of jewelry made from larimar. There are many stores around the Dominican
Republic selling these items as well as several companies on the web. The
Larimar museum has become a popular place to visit and is located in the
colonial zone in Santo Domingo. It has a large display of larimar as well as a
store and gift shop. At the museums store, if you do not see the specific piece
of jewelry you are looking for, you can request them to custom make it for you.
You might also encounter vendors selling larimar jewelry on the street. Although
the items may be cheaper than what you will see in the larimar museum or in
stores, it is generally a poorer quality and could very well be counterfeit so
purchasing larimar on the street should be avoided or at the very least,
approached with caution.
While visiting the Dominican Republic as a tourist, it might be difficult what
to decide to bring back as a souvenir. Larimar’s unique history and beauty can
make this decision easier. Whether you want to purchase a beautiful piece of
jewelry or simply buy a small stone as a good luck charm or memento of your
visit, larimar is a terrific choice.