Amber World Museum, a showcase of the past

The Amber World Museum is very close to the Colón Park and the Choco Museum in the colonial zone of Santo Domingo. It is the second time I visited this private museum that was inaugurated on September 5, 1996. This was the date of the fifth centenary of the founding of Santo Domingo in 1496.

Jorge Caridad founded a museum in Puerto Plata and then opened a second museum in Santo Domingo. They make jewelery with materials native to the Dominican Republic, including amber, lagrimar and black coral.

Many tours include a visit to the Amber World Museum but you can also go on your own from your hotel in Santo Domingo. Opening hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday; on Sundays it closes at 3 p.m.

Visit the Amber World Museum

Amber is fossilized tree resin that is produced for protection when a tree is cut or attacked by insects, bacteria or fungi. When it is exposed it hardens inside rocks in the deltas of the rivers. Amber is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, therefore it is flammable. If it is rubbed with wool it produces electricity. Copal is also amber but younger, only between 100 and 200 thousand years old.

In the Amber World Museum they explain the history of amber, as it was discovered in the Baltic Sea. The oldest piece of amber worked by man was done 30,000 years ago in Hannover, Germany. European carvings are more rustic, while the Asian are more elaborate. The government of China presented the Amber World Museum with carved pieces of green amber.

Our guide showed us how to recognize fake amber. The test to know if it is real or false is to put the pieces in salt water. If they float is amber, if they sink they are fakes. In addition, the light must penetrate the entire piece and it must have brightness. Since it caught live animals it must have streaks of them trying to escape, therefore it can not be totally smooth.

They have a room of ants and termites, also you can see flowers and leaves in pieces of amber. Another interesting exhibition is that of the movie Jurassic Park which made amber fashionable. Jurassic Park III was filmed in Tres Ojos National Park.

The father of Dominican amber

Amber was known years ago in the Dominican Republic but it was hardly commercialized. Emilio Pérez was a craftsman who carved and made pieces for jewelry. He was hired in 1949 by the Mining Director who supported him in opening the Amber School, which was the beginning of the commercialization of this stone.

In 1954, General Trujillo appoints Dr. Pompilio Brouwer as director of Mining. This doctor was a naturalist and researcher of geological phenomena. Trujillo was never interested in amber, and said “Pompilio, look for gold and not those dirty stones.” To which he replied “you are an idiot; gold exists in many parts of the world, but amber in very few countries. The fact that the Dominican Republic has a potential, almost unlimited, of amber, will make it known throughout the world. “ Thanks to him they began to make the first excavations.

Since those years, Dominican amber achieved international recognition for its purity, beauty and scientific value. For all his work, Dr. Brouwer is known as the ‘Father of the Dominican industry of amber.’

His family donated pieces of fossils from his private collection to the Amber World Museum to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the museum. They wanted their legacy to continue and that all visitors could appreciate his work.

Amber from the Dominican Republic

Dominican amber comes from the hymenaea protera tree that is extinct. The most similar species currently is the carob tree. Unlike Baltic amber, the one found in the Dominican Republic is almost always transparent and has many fossil inclusions. These findings helped scientists recreate what tropical forests were like many years ago.

Originally it was believed that Dominican amber was 40 million years old. Then it was discovered that it dates from the Oligocene to the Miocene era, therefore it is about 25 million years old. There are three main places where it is located: The Northern Cordillera, in the north, and Bayaguana and Sabana de la Mar, in the east.

It can be found in many colors, apart from yellow and honey, which are the most common. There are less red and green, although the rarest is the blue that is only found in this country. This type of blue amber is found in the Palo Quemado mine and is removed with rustic mining that is very dangerous. In the Amber World Museum you will be shown this amber against the light so you can see its true color.

The mining holes are made with machetes, shovels and picks and are only wide enough to stand at the beginning. Miners crawl on their knees. They can not use explosives or machines as it would break the amber. Therefore, everything is done by hands. It’s an earthquake zone so it’s very risky for the miners. There are almost no security measures and it is done in places that are difficult to access. The only form of light comes from candles and the humidity inside the holes is 100%.

Visit the Amber World Museum in Santo Domingo to see the living history in semi-precious stones.

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