"Simojovel, Land of Amber"
Simojovel is a small town in the Chiapas Region of Mexico that is the source of some of the most amazing amber. Most amber that we see here in the United States is Baltic amber. What most people don't know that some of the most incredible and far rarer amber comes from a region just south of us: Chiapas Mexico. Amber is fossilized resin that once exuded from the bark of an ancient tree. Amber is not the same as sap, sap provides nutrients for the tree, resin on the other hand protects the tree. The resins antiseptic properties protected the tree from disease and attacks from wood gnawing and burrowing insects.
As the resin is extruded it drips down the tree trunk, as it drips it traps any insects or plant materials collecting on the trunk. This amber with inclusions is a natural time capsule capturing a moment in time from millions of years ago.
Chiapas Amber has incredibly rich natural color, and is not treated, unlike most Baltic amber, which is commonly treated to bring out the color. Chiapas Amber comes in a deep rich red and orange color. Chiapas Amber is known for its amazing inclusions: trapped plant and insect material. These inclusions make the amber much more desirable and incredible to look at.
Chiapas Amber was originally traded by the Mayan people to the Aztec kings as tribute. It was rediscovered in the 1950's by an archaeologist by the name of Frans Blom who sent samples of Chiapas Amber back to the states. His discovery sparked new interest in the amber. The amber in Simojovel is taken from deep in the ground. Unlike conventional mining that takes out large tunnels, the mine is a simple deep hole in the ground with a narrow tunnel that goes straight down to ancient plant layers from the extinct jungle trees that produce amber.
The amber from the Simojovel area of Chiapas is mined and is hand polished by Mayan Indigenous (Tzotzil). Families do much of the work, husbands and sons mine and cut the stones while the wives and daughters set up small stores in their homes.
In 2011 Wes Barrow the owner of Larc Jewelers took a trip to Chiapas Mexico. He visited Simojovel, straight to the source of some of the most amazing amber in Mexico.
(the town children protecting Wes's car)
It is rare for Americans to come into Simojovel, once a year at the most. Most buyers are content to stop at a road side store and purchase the raw and cut amber there as opposed to driving the rough roads another 60miles into the jungle to Simojovel.
(Wes Barrow the owner of Larc Jewelers)
This store like many in the area is a simple home store. A mother and daughter team set up a store in their living room to sell the amber refined by their family. The refining process takes place just down the street in back of a house.