The Dominican Republic has the distinction of having of the two most extenisve deposits of Amber in the world, the other being the Baltic Sea area. Classified as a gem, Amber is actually the fossilized resin of extinct species of trees. The source of Dominican Amber was the leguminous tree Hymenia or Algarroba. Millions of years ago, these trees toppled and were carried by river systems to the coastal areas, their resin became covered with silt. Eventually the sediment hardened to Amber. It takes a minimum of 25 million years for Amber to form, and though the oldest discovered so far is dated at 80 million years, the oldest Dominican Amber dates back between 35 to 40 million years ago. There are three main areas on the island where Amber is mined, but the oldest and hardest comes from La Cumbre in the Central Mountain Range between Santiago and Puerto Plata.
Amber is mainly valued for its inclusion of fossilized insects, plants, worms, vertebrates, feathers, mushroom caps, animal hair, eggs, flowers leaves, etc., - the list is varied and endless. Most inclusions are quite small, however the value raises considerably the larger the piece of Amber and the rarer the inclusion. The colour of Amber varies from various shades of yellow, orange, and even to green, blue and purple.
Blue Amber is especially sought after and is one of the rarest to come by, therefore, it is highly valued. The blue colour is not due to the pigmentation in the sotne, but the fluourescence when exposed to ultra-violet light is why these colours will appear pronounced when reflected in sunlight. Amber can be delicate in that drastic changes in temperature can cause it to fracture and will often change to a darker colour and develop surface cracks after a few years of exposure to light. A variety of substances has been used over the years to make imitation Amber, but true Amber is distinguishable by its melting temperature, burning odour, hardness, fluorescence, among many other factors. A simple test to determine if a piece is counterfeit or real is to add about five tablespoons of salt to a glass of water. True Amber will float but plastic will not.