Carmen Gift Shop (amber and larimar jewellery)
We visited Carmen Gift Shop as part of a city tour of Puerto Plata in November 2012.
First of all, we were shown down the side of the shop where we were able to watch a couple of jewellery makers working away in a tiny workshop. They were producing jewellery from amber and a light blue rock, larimar, that is found only in the Dominican Republic.
Next, we were treated to a demonstration on how to recognise the difference between genuine amber and the many (plastic) fake amber products that are sold in most souvenir shops. Real amber floats when placed in saltwater, while the imitation amber products sink. This was demonstrated to us as we were shown a variety of amber stones, necklaces and rings and asked to guess whether they would float or sink. In fairness, many of the fake products looked authentic to the untrained eye.
Having been suitably warned of the dangers of purchasing cut price imitation amber products from the many souvenir shops in town, we were invited inside the Carmen Gift Shop to purchase the genuine article. As well as numerous display cabinets showcasing amber and larimar jewellery at ridiculous (to me at least!) prices, there was the usual selection of souvenirs available (bottles of rum, boxes of cigars, wooden ornaments, fridge magnets, ceramic goods, t-shirts...).
As the rest of our tour group (and another bus load of tourists that had been escorted there) filled their baskets with jewellery, Emma and I excused ourselves and went for a walk around the surrounding fruit and veg market and local shops.
We were given around 45 minutes to browse the gift shop...considerably more time than we were given to explore Parque Central, San Felipe Fortress or the summit of Pico Isabel de Torres. This is the thing that frustrates me most about guided tours!!
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