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The Amber Gallery Museum, not to be confused with the Amber Museum of Puerto Plata, is a gift shop with an adjoining museum that was built on private initiative of the owner, and this reason alone ensures that the place is well maintained.
A few steps from Parque Central in Puerto Plata towards the Malecón (beach boulevard), visitors will find a small but very interesting museum, not only about amber, but also about the semiprecious stone Larimar which is found only in the Dominican Republic, and other typical things of the beautiful country, such as tobacco, Mamajuana or a small collection of cult objects of the Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola.
On the ground floor of the Amber Gallery Museum there is a very well-stocked gift shop with exclusive pieces of jewelery in all price ranges, including unusual unique pieces of amber and larimar, inlayed in gold.
In adjacent rooms, the visitor can look over the shoulder of grinders and see how they manage to form a shining jewel from an unshaped lump.
The Dominican amber (“ámbar” in Spanish) is up to 40 million years old and comes from the resin of an extinct species. Unlike the Baltic amber, which accounts for 80 percent of the amber deposits found on Earth, the Dominican amber is more transparent and has more inclusions of insects. Its colours range from bright yellow to the most common honey colour, to brown, to black. There also exists a very hard to find amber in a fluorescent blue.
Amber is not a stone but a mineral. It was used for making jewelry from time immemorial. There has been found amber jewelry, which is dated back to 8,000 BC.
Also since ancient times magical powers are attributed to amber. It is said that it absorbs negative energy and transforms it into positive energy. Amber gives the body vitality and eliminates diseases. It even provides business success and attracts money.
And if you should not believe all this: Amber always makes a beautiful piece of jewelry.
A semiprecious stone, which has deposits only in the Dominican Republic, is the Larimar. Larimar is a “new” gem which was discovered only in 1974. It can be found only in the province of Barahona in the southwest of the Dominican Republic and was discovered on a beach by Miguel Méndez and Peace Corps volunteer Norman Rilling. The locals called the stone “roca azul” and thought it was purged from the sea to the beach because of its light blue colour. Miguel Méndez combined his daughter's name Larissa with the Spanish word “mar” (sea) and therefore called the stone Larimar. The only occurrence of this silicate mineral pectolite is located in the National Park Sierra de Bahoruco, west of the city Barahona. Pectolite usually is a transparent or white crystal. The light blue colour of the Larimar is produced by small traces of vanadium.
Larimar was declared the national stone of the Dominican Republic
The entrance to the Amber Museum is located on the third floor. After passing the door, you will be greeted by an internally illuminated dinosaur made of amber, that is taller than a fully grown man. At the exhibition you can see the history of amber as well as selected pieces with trapped insects and fossils in the showcases. Anything worth knowing about amber is explained graphically, about the samples of the different shades of the mineral.
Then the exhibition continues with Larimar and its history, accompanied by very interesting polished pieces of the semi-precious stone in all kinds of forms, including a map of the Dominican Republic, or an eagle, put together with many pieces of Larimar.
After leaving this part of the museum, you enter another area in which Dominican history and Dominican peculiarities are represented.
There is an interesting coin collection with coins of different periods, back to the Spanish occupation of Hispaniola. In addition, there are old bank notes displayed.
In other showcases there can be seen exhibition pieces from the time of the Tainos, the native Indians of the Caribbean. Cemi figures, pictures of deities and ancestral spirits, to which magical powers were attributed. They served as burial objects, to watch over the souls of the dead, or were placed on fields to improve the harvest results. Cemi figurines were made of various materials, such as stone, wood or shells. Many of them were destroyed by the Spanish conquerors.
In one corner stands a replica of a house with the tools of a grower of coffee, and next to it another one of a cocoa producer.
At the end of the exhibition, the visitor finds the department of tobacco, a product in which the Dominican Republic is a global leader that does not have to fear the competition of Cuba in any way.
Recognized international tobacco experts assure that Cuban cigars are considered better than the leading Dominican cigar brands just by the fact that they have a better marketing and due to its history during the heyday of Havana before the Cuban Revolution. According to these experts, the Dominican tobacco is at least equivalent to Cuban tobacco.
In the tobacco department, a cigar roller shows, how cigars are made, and those who became interested can select among a wide range of good cigars. Such as the Luis Vicente Cigars, the house brand of the Amber Gallery Museum, of which a vast selection is provided in a humedor, so that the connoiseur or the neophyte can take them home to their place.
AMBER GALLERY MUSEUM
Puerto Plata, Calle 12 de Julio #32
The Amber Gallery Museum is located two blocks below the Parque Central on the way to the Malecón.
Open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Entrance fee 1 US$