Amber is nature’s time capsule. This fossilized tree resin contains remnants of life on earth millions of years ago.
Amber is an organic gem. Organic gems are the products of living or once-living organisms and biological processes. Amber formed tens of millions of years ago, when sap from ancient trees hardened and fossilized.
Scientists and collectors treasure amber that contains suspended animal or plant fragments. These fossilized bits of once-living things were trapped in the hardening amber, creating a fascinating time capsule.
Some types of amber are found in the ground. Other types have been freed and carried by tides, ending up on beaches or near-shore areas. The Baltic coast bordering Germany, Poland, and Russia is still an important source of amber.
Amber is sometimes called “gold of the North.” It’s warm luster is featured in beads,
- Organic, not mineral: Fossilized resin
- Chemistry: C10H16O
- Color: Yellow, orange, and brown
- Refractive index: 1.540
- Specific gravity: 1.08
- Mohs Hardness: 2.0 to 2.5
Birthstones and Anniversaries
While amber isn’t a birthstone, it is associated with the astrological sign of Taurus.
Amber Gemstone as rough
carvings, pendants, and cabochons, as well as decorative items like cups, bowls, snuff boxes, and umbrella handles. A related material, called copal, is also fossilized tree resin, but it’s far younger than amber, at less than a million years old.
Amber History and Lore
Amber is probably best known for its insect and other types of inclusions. Millions of years ago, when amber oozed from countless plants, the substance acted as a sticky trap for ants, bees, termites, and other insects.
Flower parts, leaves, and pine needles are also typical amber inclusions, along with gas bubbles.
Amber containing larger animals like scorpions, snails, frogs, and lizards can be very valuable—especially if the animal “inclusions” are preserved intact.
Insects embedded in amber formed the basis of the movie “Jurassic Park.” The story centered around the cloning of dinosaurs from DNA found in dinosaur blood sucked up by prehistoric mosquitoes that were subsequently preserved in amber. The movie generated great interest in the gem.
Facts about Amber Gemstone
With inclusions like insects, lizards, leaves, flowers, and feathers, amber helps scientists study ancient ecosystems.
Although the movie Jurassic Park is fiction, scientists extracted DNA from insects enclosed in 120-million year old amber.
Amber smells good when you rub it. Although an oil made from burned amber was used in scents in ancient times, it isn’t used in perfume today.
Amber comes in more colors than “amber.” Rare pieces can even be blue or green.
Amber with insect or plant inclusions is much more valuable than amber with none.
Most amber is polished in free-form shapes, cabochons or beads.
Amber is surprisingly light: in fact, it will float in a saturated salt solution.