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Larimar - The Rare Caribbean Gemstone

Of Tropical Lagoons
Part 2 of 2

Winters can be brutally long up here in Canada. So, many Canadians like to flee to a warmer climate at least for a short while. One favorite destination is the Caribbean. Noreen, a bead party hostess from the past, kindly sent me pictures of the jewelry she picked up in the Dominican Republic where the family went to attend her son's wedding. She bought the sterling silver mounted larimar jewelry (shown above) in a store run by two enterprising Canadian ladies. They provide transportation from the resorts to bring tourists to their shop!

As you can see, the stone is just lovely, reminding one of beautiful blue tropical lagoons. It's not surprising larimar has become wildly popular - a gemstone rush.

The color variations of larimar range from white to greenish blue to a deep blue. Larimar makes a great alternative to turquoise, if you are fortunate enough like Noreen to be able to buy some.

The stone is soft so the earrings and pendant Noreen bought are much better buys than a ring would have been. Noreen should also take care of her jewelry and keep it in the dark when she is not wearing it as larimar is photosensitive and will fade over the years.

The blue rock, a form of pectolite, is considered rare because it is only found in one place, in the coastal province of Barahona in the Dominican Republic. It was first discovered by a priest back in 1916 but it took several decades before its rediscovery by two men in 1974. One of them, Miguel Méndez, named the stone larimar, a composite formed from his daughter's name, Larissa and the Spanish word for sea, mar. The natives believed the stone come from the sea because specimens were found on the beach washed down to the sea by the Bahoruco River.

Larimar is now obtained from the outcrop that bears this gemstone at the Los Chupaderos mine. The mountainside is riddled with some 2,000 vertical shafts! The rock was volcanic in origin and formed as chimneys or tubes. You can see pictures of the mine and workers here and here. It is a hard life for the mine workers at this remote location as the work is strenuous and they only have simple tools to use. Safety standards are practically non-existent. The shafts are not shored up and with heavy rainfall, occasional cave-ins occur and have killed mine workers.

Hopefully with time, jewelry designers and the industry will press the Dominican Republic to improve working conditions at the mine. Perhaps even start funds to help the families of dead larimar workers as they have for the families of tanzanite miners in Merelani, northern Tanzania where mining conditions aren't great either.

Wikipedia : Larimar
Larimar Museum
The Beading Gem's Journal

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  1. Beautiful stone that is. Never knew it was that rare but on the other hand, I don't recall seeing larimar beads for sale. Of course my mind IS like a sieve!

  2. Sistren Pearl,

    This is such a painful subject for me!

    Rather than wait for a morally bankrupt government in a third world country to provide decent working conditions to the masses, why can't jewelry designers and the industry refuse to purchase a gem that is covered in the blood of miners?

    Whether it is larimar, unsafely mined in the Dominican Republic, blood diamonds from South Africa or tanzanite from Tanzania, we should not adorn ourselves in the misery of another human being.

    And please don't tell me that they are grateful for the mining jobs. They aren't grateful, they are desparate to feed their families.

    I am now stepping down from the soap box and picking up my bead tray.

    Bless Up,
    Lady Roots

  3. In the case of blood diamonds and Burmese rubies, I would agree that an international ban on those sales is the way to stop the financing of civil wars and the deliberate drug addiction of young Burmese miners. See my past posts :


    However, in the case of tanzanite and larimar where many people depend on it for a living, a ban will only hurt them. If they are already desperate to feed their families, cutting off this source of income is not a good move.

    What is needed is pressure on the Dominican Republic to beef up mining safety practices. Mining, even at good mines, is still a dangerous occupation.

  4. Hey everyone, we don't live in a perfect world. That said, all the miners I have met and done business with are all very happy people and smile even when things get tough. Accidents happen and when they do it's sometimes with sad regret that they loose a friend or family member...still they choose to return to the mines. They are tough people. :)


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