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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Amber is Fossilized Tree Resin

Amber with a spider inclusion that came from the Baltic Sea area.
Photo by Elizabeth from Holland 

Although not a gemstone in the proper sense Amber in reality is fossilized tree resin that is several million years old. It is one of the oldest gems known to man where it is mentioned in the Bible and also by Pliny the Elder, who lived during the Roman Empire. Pliny was killed by the eruption of Vesuvius on August 24, 79 A.D.

Although amber is found in many parts of the world its earliest occurrence was when Amber was found around the Baltic Sea where it is still mined to this day.  Other places in the world where amber is found include the United States, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand and Indonesia.  In truth amber enjoys a worldwide occurrence.

Blue amber from the Dominican Republic
Photo by Vassil 

Mankind has admired amber for thousands of years where he appreciated its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times.  Amber is still used as an ingredient in perfumes; it has also been used as a healing agent in folk medicine.  Amber however finds its major use in Jewelry.

Amber pendents with inclusions
Photo by Adrian Pingstone

Geologically there are five recognized classes of amber that are defined according to their chemical composition.  Amber comes from a sticky tree resin that over time hardens by the loss of volatile chemicals it can contain various animal and plant remains as inclusions.  Some amber occurs in coal seams that are called resinite.  The term ambrite is specifically applied to amber that found in the coal seams of New Zealand.

Amber rough from the Baltic Sea where it is washed up after heavy storms.
This amber is waiting to be processed.
Photo by Lanzi

One of the rarest members of the amber family is found in the Dominican Republic that is blue and flouresis under ultraviolet light.  Amber is found in several parts of the eastern United States most notably on Martha’s Vineyard where it is found on Gayhead.  The stone is also found in the marl deposits of New Jersey.  

1 comment:

  1. This is cool stuff John! I was not aware there was blue amber or varieties that fluoresce! Interesting!