Amber is the hardened resin of pine trees which has been fossilized
over time. Generally a golden yellow to brown color, it is found in a number of places around the world, but
the oldest deposits are primarily from the Baltic. There is a large supply of Amber lying on the seabed which
often results in pieces being washed up on the beach after a heavy storm. Although the quality of Baltic
Amber is especially good (see picture below), deposits can also be found in Italy, Burma (Myanmar-Burmite),
Rumania (Rumanite), China, Japan, Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico and even the United
Amber's honey-like appearance lends itself nicely to many jewelry applications. It is lighter
than it appears, with almost a plastic like quality. It can be lighted by a match and the resulting odor
smells like incense. Amber can be sensitive to caustic solutions, gasoline, acids, alcohol and perfume. It is
often found to have inclusions of air bubbles, fine hair lines and stress fractures. Occasionally, bugs and
plant materials can be found within, but it's more common to find bugs included in reconstituted
Substandard pieces or small chips of amber are often salvaged by melting them into
larger pieces to create "reconstituted" amber. Unfortunately, some producers of these pieces will put modern
day bugs within them to lend more perceived value. As a result, amber containing bugs are much more likely to
contain some innocent bumble bee that may have recently visited your begonias than any mosquito that used to
dine on dinosaurs.
Amber can be treated by heating which causes it's internal structure to explode, creating what is often referred to
as "Green Amber" (shown above) which can be quite beautiful.
The Columbian Amber pictured above is younger than
other types of amber deposits, but still holds much beauty.
Color: Yellow, brown and other colors
Mohs' Hardness Scale: 2 - 2 1/2
Density: Average 1.05 - 1.09
Transparency: Transparent to opaque