He eventually sent a sample to the Smithsonian Institution, the American museum and research complex, which identified it as a pectolite. Mr. Méndez said he traveled to the United States to purchase equipment to grind the stone, which is harder than amber, coral and other materials known to Dominican craftsmen at the time. He also famously coined the name for what the locals simply called the ‘blue stone’, combining Larissa, his daughter’s name, with mar, the Spanish word for sea. (Mrs. Méndez died last year at age 51.)
Mr. Méndez said he was surprised by the stone’s growth in popularity. “Larimar is now known all over the world,” he said.
It has certainly become the mainstay of the economy in Bahoruco, a municipal district in Barahona where the country’s thriving tourist industry has largely passed over. The coastal town of Bahoruco, the district seat a few miles from the larimar mine, has more than 60 workshops where artisans shape and polish the stones, according to a government survey.
César Féliz, who has been a lapidary in Bahoruco for about 20 years, described working with larimar as a kind of addiction. In a recent phone interview, he said he was commissioned by a German jewelry designer to create a pair of earrings shaped like ocean waves and cut from a single piece of stone.
“Every time you do a job, you want to invent something new and figure out how to do it,” said Mr. Feliz. (Miguel Féliz, the administrator of the craft school, is his brother.)
Decades ago, the area was largely dependent on agriculture and fishing, but now the economy revolves around larimar, according to Mr Gómez, the larimar producer, who heads the local board. Two years ago, he was elected mayor of the district, which he says has a population of 6,500 to 8,500.