Hottest gemstone larimar & how to spot fakes
Due to its unique beauty and rarity, blue larimar (pectolite) has become one of the hottest new gemstones on the market. As of few years ago, its value increased several times over, and unfortunately, that brings in the shady dealers. During my recent check, almost half of the “genuine larimar” gemstones were something else!
Sky blue larimar comes from only from one destination as beautiful as it is, Caribbean in the Dominican Republic. It perfectly symbolizes its origin, a gentle blue gradations fading into creamy white soft streaks, the most valuable stones showing the characteristic structure of large, soft blue masses that look like they’ve been painted in watercolors. The color ranges from the light, sky blue to darker, vibrant blue hues with some blue-green overtones in parts. It’s normal for it to have occasional small dark brown or black inclusions here and there, with the most perfect pieces without inclusions usually fairly small (and insanely expensive, alas) due to its nature.
Due to its beautiful blue color, it has also been called Mermaid stone or Atlantis stone, but its original name came from its discoverer, who combined the name of his daughter Larissa with the word Mar (sea). Locals call it “piedra del amor” (stone of love), in honor of a long tradition of giving a larimar ring to a loved one as an engagement gift.
No one knows how much larimar is left in the world, as the surveys have not been done, and the mine is difficult to reach as well as closed for a good part of the year due to the hurricane season. A perfect setup for a larimar craze!
How to recognize true larimar
This is true larimar, one from my jewelry making stash that didn’t make it into a lovely piece yet:
It’s somewhat softer than many other gemstones used in jewelry (Mohs 4.5 – 5), so it can be checked by carefully scratching the unpolished back of the piece with, for example, a piece of quartz. If it doesn’t scratch, it’s not larimar!
True larimar has creamy white veins and streaks that are milky opaque, similar in depth to white jade, and there are no visible small transparent crystals similar to sugar crystals you’d see in, for example, dyed quartz being sold as larimar. Note the “watercolor” fades between the white streaks and the blur, as well as the flaring structure of the blue areas that looks a little like pineapple texture.
Most common fake is “larimar quartz”. While some sellers are labeling it honestly, many are not. It’s dyed quartz which is more transparent, it includes small “sugar” crystals, and lacks the gorgeous white-to-blue fades and white streaks framing the blue masses, as well as the occasional green and grayish tones. There are also lot of lab created “larimars” which are more or less successful imitations, some quite close, the others not even trying while cashing in on the larimar craze. See some examples below.
Larimar bead fakes are probably the hardest to figure out, partially because of the size, partially because they’re often cut from ends and mixed pieces of gemstone, the most characteristic parts often being reserved for pendant flats or larger spheres. I’ve run into all of these while shopping for larimar recently. While the general larimar market is about 50-50 real gemstone from what I saw, beads are sadly close to 90% fake. Buy from a reputable source (no, great reviews on the Internet don’t count), and look to make sure that at least a few beads you see in the strand have the only-larimar texture.
Here’s a set I just made with genuine larimar beads. The arrow points at the most easily recognized pattern, soft fades and darker blue “starbursts”. You can see more photos and check it out here: Larimar and sterling set