In 1974 Miguel Mendez, a Dominican artisan, heard reports of unusual blue stones being found along the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. Out of curiosity he took the long trip south from Santo Domingo along with an American Peace Corps volunteer geologist, Norman Rilling. Local fishermen had been finding the blue stones along the beach and had assumed that it came from the sea. Miguel and Norman explored the area more thoroughly and deduced that the stones had actually been carried down the mountain by the Sito river that empties into Caribbean sea at the town of Bahoruco. They told the locals that the source was somewhere upstream, not along the beach, and sure enough, the mine was discovered about 10km up in the rugged mountains that line the coast. Miguel named the mineral Larimar, which is a combination of his daughter’s name, Larissa, and the Spanish word, “mar,” meaning ocean.
The Gemological Institute of America has identified Larimar as a blue pectolite found nowhere else in the world. The color of the stones ranges from light blue with touches of aquamarine to strong, deep, electric blues. Natural white veined patterns make each piece unique. While pectolite is found in other places throughout the world, unique volcanic circumstances on the island created the exquisite blues exhibited in the Larimar variety, which is very unique, with only one known mine in the world. Its lovely color is very reminiscent of the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea .
Miners use primitive mining methods, mostly picks and shovels and more recently pneumatic hammers to extract the deposits of this unique gemstone. By the 1980’s the Dominican government assigned the mining rights for Larimar to the local community of Bahoruco, La Cienaga, and Los Checheses ensuring that only local residents can establish a mining claim. Outside investors, whether Dominican or foreign, must be accepted as partners by the local claim holders in order to be involved, which results in a much wider distribution of profits throughout the local community.