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Dominican Treasure

Thanks to larimar, a sky-blue pectolite found only in the Dominican Republic, my path and actor Brad Pitt’s have crossed for a second time. Well, not exactly crossed. Both meetings were among the tens of thousands he declines. But let the record show this writer formally requested interviews with Pitt on two matters of some importance.

Five years ago, when I was researching a book on the pink conch pearl, I learned that Pitt had given his wife of the time, actress Jennifer Aniston, some conch pearl jewelry as an engagement gift. Despite repeated appeals to his agent, I was not allowed to show the jewelry (for which I had pictures) or to interview the actor. “Brad,” a Hollywood contact told me, “is already being asked for his opinions about a million more important things. The conch pearl will have to find another celebrity spokesman.”

Little did I expect that I would have to petition for a second interview. This time I was researching larimar. Pitt, reported People in its January 16, 2006, issue, had given his second wife actress Angelina Jolie a larimar ring while shopping in a Santa Domingo jewelry store. I called my Hollywood go-between, who, much to my amazement, remembered me kindly as “the pink pearl person.” Nevertheless, there was no way on earth he would serve as an intermediary this time around. “Even People called that ring a bauble,” he said. “There is no way I’m going to go through what I went through before to get you a quote about a tchotchke [Yiddish for trinket].”

“But larimar isn’t a bauble,” I protested. “It’s a gem.” “Then I’m sure you can find someone else to praise it,” the agent said.

So here I am shamelessly name-dropping to get your attention for a Caribbean volcanic rock that is both a unique beauty and great bargain. I wish there were records of other celebrity purchases of this acid silicate hydrate of calcium and sodium in its relatively unpopulated annals. But this gem, which typically resembles a high, vast cloud-streaked powder-blue sky, will have to make the case for itself. There is no better place than Tucson next month where the uncanny resemblance between this gem and the Arizona sky will provide the perfect setting.


Larimar is found in one remote, foreboding, densely-forested mountainous area in the southwestern Dominican Republic. The location of the mine in a highly inaccessible area explains why production didn’t begin until 34 years ago. First discovered in 1916 on a beach by a Spanish priest, Miguel Domingo Fuertes Loren, the stone wasn’t actively mined until 1975, the year after Dominican Miguel Mendez found its mountain motherlode and named it Larimar—a combination of Larissa, his daughter’s name, and mar for ocean. In the meantime, the local people were known to gather pebbles of the material off of beaches and sell them strung into bracelets and necklaces.

Larimar mining is a pretty haphazard affair. During the long rainy season, as many as 2,000 miners dig makeshift tunnels and trenches which frequently capsize as hills turn into mud. Yet despite the highly risky nature of larimar mining, people keep prospecting for it. “There is little else for them to do,” says one importer who wishes to remain anonymous because he is facing criticism from peers for selling a gem whose miners, they charge, are exploited.

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