Amber Facts

Amber Facts

by Sheweta Dhanuka

The credit of popularity of this coloured gem is to the movie ‘ Jurassic Park’. As before the release of the movie there was negligible demand of Amber or its jewelry and after the movie release the demand soar very high. It happened so because from the movie billions of people learned that DNA of dinosaur was extracted from the insect trapped in amber.

Amber is a fossilized pine tree sap. It belongs to the family of organic gemstones. It is the only gemstone that helps in knowing our history. Its name is derived from Medieval French and Latin word ‘ambra’ and from Arabic word ‘anbar ambergris’. It is one of the most popular semi precious colored stone in the present time.

The credit of popularity of this colored gem is to the movie ‘ Jurassic Park’. As before the release of the movie there was negligible demand of Amber or its jewelry and after the movie release the demand soar very high. It happened so because from the movie billions of people learned that DNA of dinosaur was extracted from the insect trapped in amber. People then came to know about its beauty and worth.

With the increasing demand of the gemstone, many faulty stones are sold at the price of genuine stones. By looks the true stone and imitation are exactly similar and it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the two. Thus, this article equips with the all purpose information about this valuable gem that would help the buyer in making the right purchase. Further, here are few conducts through which a genuine stone can be identified.

A true Amber is having very less specific gravity thus, would float on the salty water unlike the imitations. It can be burned, under UV light and shall not crumble easily like modern tree resins. To determine the natural amber bead from those that are combined with resin stabilizers, heat the tip of a sewing needle till it is white hot then insert the needle in bland area. The true amber would emit pine-scented aroma while plastic resin would smell off like burnt plastic. Color, clarity, density, toughness, softness and trapped insects etc are also some of the characteristics that help in distinguishing the true stone from the synthetic resins.

Colour – It possess unique golden colour same as that of the colour of honey. The colour varies from deep yellow, orange, red, brown to golden. All these colours offer stunning look to the stone thus, are very much in demand. Other colour possibilities are off white, dark brown, black, blue or green.

Clarity – This striking gem could be clear while some stones might hold few inclusions. Flaws or inclusions for this gemstone are positive feature as it enhances the look and monetary worth of the stone. Some people in many countries adore gas bubbles present within the stone. Sometimes the flaws are especially inserted in the stone through the man made treatments. Through the close look at the inclusions, buyers can differentiate between the original gemstone and imitations.

The most unusual inclusions found are the insects gripped in the stones. Such stones are most in demand in the entire world and per carat price is very high. Females adore the jewelry holding these insect intact gems.

Varieties – Amber is divided into different varieties on the basis of the inclusions present inside the stone. These inclusions can be naturally formed or created through the man made treatments.

Fatty Amber – This variety consists of inclusions in the form of gas bubbles. These bubbles looks like goose fat so it named so. It is also called as Flohmig in German.

Bone Amber – It is white in colour.
Cloudy Amber – When gas bubbles flaws are large it looks like cloud thus it is named as cloudy amber.
Pressed Amber – It is created through the heat treatment. Under mild heat and huge pressure small size stones are pressed together to form pressed amber.
Sun Spangles – It contains inclusions that appear like nasturtium leaves.

Cut – It is a soft stone thus cutting is little difficult. However, with the help of modern techniques it can be given any shape. It has better retention in large sizes thus, cutting in small sizes is preferred less.

Carat Weight – It is a fossil so found as medium and small forms. After initial essential processing, gemstone is made. Depending on the jewelry design the stone has to be selected from the stones of different carat weight. For man’s rings gem more than 2 carat is more suitable whereas gems in female’s rings and pendants can be between 2-5 ctw. Similarly the stud earrings could have stones of the same carat weight. Moreover, stones of high carat weight with insects trapped in it make fascinating jewelry and the wearer look very attractive. The stone used for decorative purpose are certainly more than five carats.

Price – It is priced a little more than the general affordable category. The price is determined on the basis of carat weight, inclusions, and the rarity of inclusions within the stone. Higher the carat weight more shall be the price. Per carat weight further increases when the inclusion present is insects/animals/plant in the stone. The rarity of the trapped insect/animal/plant determines the value of the amber more so than the quality of the gem. The reason being, these are fossils that no more exist today. Amber has greatly amplified the knowledge about the evolution of insects, animals and plants.

Occurrence – It is an amorphous hydrocarbon that came into existence millions of years ago. It is a fossil tree sap that is obtained from different ancient trees viz. pines, deciduous trees and conifers. The tree sap or resin to be Amber has to be tens of millions of years old else a relatively newly hardened tree sap is called as copals. The incredible uniqueness of this fossil given by Mother Nature is the preserved insects, animals and plants in it that are extinct for hundreds of years now. The insects that are enclosed within this gemstone probably got there when they flew or crawled on to the fresh seeping sap of the tree and then got stuck. Later the sap oozed over the trapped animals and perhaps fell to the ground and then was roofed by dirt and trash. The sap later hardened and became a fossil known as Amber.

The insects found mostly are gnats, flies, wasps, bees and ants. Insects trapped sporadically are grasshoppers, preying mantises, beetles, moths, termites, butterflies, etc. The animals found are spiders, centipedes and scorpions. Sometimes even frogs and lizards get trapped in the tree sap. Large animals like mammals or birds are too big to be ensnared in the sap but their feathers and fur could be seen. Invaluable plant remains could also be found such as flowers, mushroom caps, seeds, leaves, stems, pine needles and pine cones.

Source – The prime source of this wonderful gemstone is the mine in Baltic region at Russia, west of Kaliningrad. It is also found in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. It is even procured from the Baltic coast at Dominican Republic, Myanmar, Norway, Denmark and the east coast of United Kingdom. Furthermore, it is found in some parts of Romania, Lebanon, Sicily, Mexico, Germany, Canada and Untied States of America.

Enhancements – It is enhanced in varied ways in order to improvise the look of the stone. The stones consisting gas bubbles inclusions are treated with rapeseed oil under heat so that oil penetrated in the bubbles and increases the transparency. This stone is also dyed or stained to augment the colour.

Imitations – Buyers have to be careful from the poor quality synthetic stones sold as amber. These are artificially created stones from plastics and glass sold under the fancy names at the price of a genuine stone. It could be even a modern tree resin treated to give the old fossil look. The imitations are colored in bright colour to lure the innocent buyers under the misleading names. To know the genuineness of the stone check for the

hardness – the true stone would never be hard like the imitations.

Use – It is cut and polished into cabochon or beads to make exquisite jewelry items. Shapes like oval, round, baroque are quite common. The size could vary between 4mm to 10mm. These beads can be when mixed with wooden beads in the string for making necklace and choker, ideal for casual or professional wear. It is a very soft stone and light in weight therefore, large stones are preferred as smaller stones are difficult to create. It is used in rings, pendants, bracelets, earrings and broaches. It gets very well paired with other semi precious gemstones like aventurine, jasper and black onyx etc. Jewelry designers design striking jewelry using the innovative combinations with other gems. Metal used for making these jewelry pieces is mostly silver. Yellow gold and platinum is used seldom. For the ornamental purpose, it is widely used for making mouthpieces, cigar, cigarette holders, pipes and many other small decorative pieces.

Stones having vanished insects and plant material within it are important evidence for geologists and zoologists. These used as precious research and study material. It helps paleontologists recreate life on earth in its primal phases from the extinct species of insects trapped in amber. Entomologist treasure this gem a lot as from it they are able to know about the oldest ants, moths, bees, caterpillars, termites, mushrooms and pollen grains existing tens of millions of years. Within this fossil gemstone the specimens of extinct species are perfectly preserved with all vital features encapsulated unlike other ordinary fossils that are unfinished rock consisting molds of prehistoric life forms.

Precautions – It is a soft stone, rated between 2-2.5 Mohs on the hardness scale. It requires lot of care and precautions. It is very sensitive towards chemicals and alcohol present in cleaning agents and cosmetics respectively thus, should be protected from any direct contact with these solutions. It can be easily ignited with a direct flame so its jewelry should never be cleaned in ultrasonic home cleaners, steamers and hot water. Once in a while it should be wiped off with a damp soft cloth. It is very soft and can easily be scratched even with the fingers so one must be extra careful while using or cleaning it. Its jewelry should always be kept in a separate jewelry box lined with a soft cloth/velvet/cotton.

Beliefs – Ancient man associated this amazing gem with super natural powers thus, used for worship and wore as amulet to safeguard them from dangers. There are many different stories about its origin but one similarity is – it is related to sun in some or the other way. When it is rubbed with a soft cloth or between the palms it becomes electrically charged and attracts small particles. Due to, this attribute Greeks referred it as elektron or sun-made. Germans burned it as incense thus, called it bernstein or burn stone. Egyptians used it in the mummification process while Romans solved the neck and head diseases by the medicine made up of this startling gemstone. It was used extensively for making jewelry and ornaments.

Today, it is used to cure problems related to eyes, throat, stomach, liver, lungs and digestive system. It is believed to bring good luck for the wearer. Astrologers relate it with healing energy and balancing the belligerent behavior. It also helps in attaining bravery and self-confidence.
It is a fossil revealing the past but it is also a fine-looking gemstone bright in colour that makes the female more gorgeous and elegant. Scientists and researchers might treasure it for knowing about extinct insects/animals/plant trapped inside it but women across the world value it for the dazzling look they get after wearing its jewelry. So acquire the Amber jewelry soon and get the privilege of being addressed as the ‘most beautiful lady in the party today’ where ever you go !!

Amber Facts

Chemical CompositionThe chemical formula is C10H16O and known also as Succinic acid.
ColoursDeep yellow, orange, red, brown to golden. Sometimes also found in off white, dark brown, black, blue or green.
Refractive Index1.54
Specific Gravity1.1 (extremely light and can float in salty water).
LusterGreasy to resinous.
Solid StateTransparent to translucent.
Crystal SystemNo crystal system. Being amorphous in nature so does not have an ordered structure.
Hardness2-2.5 Mohs.
EnhancementOften enhanced in varied ways.
SourceRussia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Baltic coast at Dominican Republic, Myanmar, Norway, Denmark, the east coast of UK, Romania, Lebanon, Sicily, Mexico, Germany, Canada and USA.
PrecautionsApart from general gemstone precautions, it can be easily ignited so should be kept away from the flame or hot liquids.