Pressed and Clarified
|Unlike other types of fossils, amber fossils are three-dimensional, with life-like colors and patterns. Even the
internal structures of cells may be intact. Often, insects were caught by the resin in active poses, along with their
predators, prey, and internal and external parasites. Many new species of fossilized insects have been
discovered in amber. In some cases, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) can be taken from the entrapped organisms
and studied. Amber with insect inclusions has become a popular material after it was shown as the source of the
“Dinosaur DNA” in the movie “Jurassic Park”.
In about 500 B.C., the Greek philosopher Thales rubbed amber with silk, causing it to attract dust and feathers.
This static electricity was believed to be a unique property of amber until the sixteenth century, when English
scientist William Gilbert demonstrated that it was characteristic of numerous materials. He called it electrification,
after elektron, the Greek word for amber.
Deposits of amber occur all over the world. Amber from the coast of the Baltic Sea (Baltic Amber) is the best-
known. It is called Succinite Amber because it contains a substantial amount of succinic acid. Most Baltic amber
came from pine tree resin. Amber that lacks succinic acid is classified as retinite amber. Baltic Amber is
generally harder and more stable than Dominican Republic Amber
Amber from the Dominican Republic began forming 20-30 million years ago from the resins of extinct species
of Hymenaea or algarrobo trees. These flowering trees thrived in the extensive tropical rain forests. They
produced large amounts of resin that eventually hardened into amber. Heavy rains washed the amber to deltas
where it was covered with silt. As sea levels changed, the amber settled on the sea floor and the sediment over it
hardened into rock. Tectonic plate movement later formed mountains, pushing up the rocks. Dominican Amber is
generally naturally clearer than Baltic Amber and is more sought after for insect inclusion specimens due to its
natural clarity. It currently brings a higher price than the Baltic Amber.
Amber is retrieved in different ways, depending on its location. Baltic amber washes up along the shores of the
Baltic Sea and as far away as Denmark, Norway, and England. The largest deposits of North American amber
are found on the surface of open pit clay mines in Arkansas. In New Jersey, Cretaceous amber is dug from the
sand and clay of abandoned pit mines. In Asia, amber is found in coal mines. Until about 1950, premium amber
was mined from excavated pits in northern Burma (Myanmar).
Amber is also known as; Agdsten, Ambar, Amber, Ambra, Ambre, Bernstein, Elektron, Freja's Tears, Fossil
Resin, Fuling, Gintaras, Glessum, Hardened Honey, Harpaks, Lyncurum, Nordic Gold, Retinite, Succinite,
Succinum, Sun Tears, Tears of the Heliades, Tiger's Soul and Yantar.
A copal is usually distinguishable from real amber by its lighter color and softness. Copal will hold a polish for a
short period, and is sometimes sold as "amber". Africa, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic, Mexico and
Columbia all produce Copal. True amber is also found in these areas.
Reconstituted amber, also known as “Ambroid”, “Processed”, “Pressed” or “Reconstructed Amber”, is made
by fusing small pieces of amber under high pressure. There is nothing particularly wrong with reconstituted amber,
but it is worth less than genuine amber. Reconstituted amber is characterized by either flow lines or somewhat
artificial color. When gradually heated in an oil-bath, amber becomes soft and flexible. Two pieces of amber may
be united by coating the surfaces with linseed oil, heating them, and then pressing them together while hot. Small
fragments, formerly thrown away are now used in the formation of "ambroid" or "pressed amber". Pressed amber
and "ambroid" (pieces of amber embedded in a plastic) are commonly found for sale as amber. Pressed amber
is generally very even in color and is often found in commercially available Baltic amber jewelry. Natural amber is
never as even colored as pressed amber. Reputable sellers will list whether amber is natural or reconstituted.
Amber specimens are often treated and stabilized to bring out luster and character. Amber is heated to change
water bubbles to disc-oid fractures called "sun spangles". Cloudy amber, with tiny gas bubbles, may be clarified
in a vacuum chamber by heating while it is immersed in oil.
If you are interested in learning more about amber here are a few recommended books;
" Amber: The Golden Gem of the Ages", Patty C. Rice, The Kosciusko Foundation, 1980.
(A very comprehensive reference book on amber)
" Amber: Window to the Past", David A. Grimaldi, American Museum of Natural History/H.N. Abrams 1996
(A good scientific reference with excellent photos)
Natural Baltic Amber
with Diptera (gnat) inclusion
|Item # AMB0308002
Natural Baltic Amber
with Multiple insect
|Item # AMB0208002
Natural Baltic Amber
with caddis fly inclusion
Kaliningrad region, Russia