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I have to admit, I’m not real big on bling – aka precious metals and stones. I recognize their beauty and value, but it’s just not me.  For my taste, I prefer materials such as, say, turquoise, jade, and amber, which share a singular earthy beauty no matter how they’re cut.

Amber, in particular, is a fascinating substance. The ancient Greeks called it elektron (this word wasn’t applied to electricity till the late 19th century), and this fossilized tree sap has been used for adornment for at least a dozen millennia, give or take. I love its warm, soft translucence, in hues from the yellowish to the brownish (the most common, which gave rise to the color amber) to even, believe it or not, bluish. Amber’s air of mystery and just plain coolness is further heightened by the fact that in many cases bubbles, swirls and even fossils are a regular feature.

Amber Jewelry, Dominican-Style

What all of this has to do with the Dominican Republic is simple: apart from Baltic European countries like Latvia and Lithuania, the DR has the world’s only major deposits of amber, with many of the mines located up in the mountains between Puerto Plata and Santiago. Dominican amber tends to have more of those cool little details embedded in it like ferns, feathers, insects, and such (sometimes you’ll even see pieces with larger critters like frogs and lizards). If you want to learn more when you’re down here, pop over to the Amber Museum in downtown Puerto Plata, on the north coast.  With a Jurassic Park-like logo and an interesting and educational collection of amber and other local semiprecious materials (including pieces for sale), it’s housed in a charming Victorian townhouse called Villa Bentz. And there are plenty of other local shops that sell amber, including, it would seem, most resort gift shops; it’s possible to pick up a lovely piece or two of amber jewelry at surprisingly affordable prices. So take your time and browse, as amber is an evocative and beautiful souvenir that has its own unique story to tell – and you can take it with you.

Longtime travel journalist and guidebook author David Paul Appell is CEO of and its parent EnLinea Media LLC, an online content provider and social media management company.

photos:; Amber Museum

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Comment by BARBARA NECKER on August 13, 2014 at 9:08am

A piece of amber = a piece of history

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