Amber ((Succinite) mineralogical name of amber is succinite, a word derived from the Latin succum, juice.)
Chemical formula: C10H16O + (H2S)
Amber is fossilized tree resin. In order to qualify as “amber” it is NOT sufficient for a tree resin merely to harden by losing its volatiles, the molecules have to polymerize, which can take at least 100,000 years. After polymerization, amber becomes significantly less soluble in common organic solvents, and so will not become sticky if wetted with alcohol, acetone or gasoline. Much of the material marketed as “amber” (especially that from Colombia and Madagascar) is far too young to be considered amber, and is in reality just dried tree resin.
The oldest amber recovered dates to the Upper Carboniferous period (320 million years ago).
True amber of lapidary quality comes mainly from the Baltic region (principally Poland and Lithuania), with some production also in Mexico (Chiapas), the Dominican Republic, and Burma. Most so-called “amber” marketed from Colombia and Madagascar is much too young to qualify as true amber.
Amber is mostly drop or nodular shaped with a homogeneous structure, it has yellow and brown color. Inclusions of insects or parts of plants are common.
Amber is an ancient biological gem material. One of the earliest examples of worked amber are beads from Gough’s cave in southern England, dated 11 000–9000 BC.
The Terminology and Definitions of Baltic Amber (Succinite) Gemstones
by International Amber Association
Natural Baltic amber (Succinite) – gemstone which has undergone mechanical treatment only (for instance: grinding, cutting, turning or polishing) without any change to its natural properties.
Modified Baltic amber (Succinite) – gemstone subjected only to thermal or high-pressure treatment, which changed its physical properties, including the degree of transparency and color.
Reconstructed (pressed) Baltic amber (Succinite) – gemstone made of one Baltic amber stone or many pieces pressed in high temperature and under high pressure without additional components.
Bonded Baltic amber (Succinite) (doublet, triplet) – gemstone consisting of two or more parts of natural, modified or reconstructed Baltic amber bonded together with the use of the smallest possible amount of a binding agent necessary to join the pieces.
The following abbreviations can be used to describe gemstone modification degrees:
N – no modification
H – heating
International jewelry and gemology organizations recommend providing customers with exhaustive information on the gemstone modifications applied.
The classification of Baltic amber gemstones was adopted by the Board of the International Amber Association on November 20, 1999, as amended. Last amended on September 05, 2014, unified text.
Some amber is found with organics, plant and animal, still trapped within its mass, where it became entangled within and was subsequently petrified along with the sap.
There are several ways of testing amber to see if it is real or faked;
1 ) UV light- a very good testing method, if you shine the light on the amber the real one will glow pale and the fake will not glow. This is a good sure bet but there are some things to consider, not all ambers will glow a lot, certain colors like red often will not glow but if you move the light around the entire piece you will find a glow spot.
2 ) Salt Water- a good test. Fill a medium size pot with water, put about seven teaspoons of salt in it and stir well, stir again in thirty minutes or so as to mix well. when you drop amber in salt water it will float at the top, most fakes will sink
3 ) Acetone- put some drops of acetone or some type of agent like this, the real amber will not be affected after the acetone evaporates but the fake will be sticky, leave finger prints in the fake. This is also a good test to spot copal and some synthetic resins or plastics. You can even drop muriatic acid on amber and it wont hurt it.
4 ) Hot Needle- heat a needle and push it into the amber, in real amber it will just slightly go in and you will smell a very old pine tree smell, but strong odor. If the needle goes in easy and you smell a fresh smell like pine, its copal and if you small a nasty plastic type smell it’s some kind of fake. You also can burn a piece of amber and test the smell.
5 ) Rub and Smell- You can also rub the specimen vigorously on a soft white cloth, true amber may start to small a little of resinous fragrance where copal begin to soften and the surface become sticky.
Care for amber-
- Apply a wax that’s silicon-based once every four to six months. This wax can also help prevent your piece from oxidizing.
- Do not use a jewelry machine or steam cleaner when you polish or clean your amber, as these machines can damage your piece. Instead, use a warm water solution with a mild soap. Place the solution into a container and drop the amber into it. Leave it to sit for ten minutes, then remove the amber and dry it with a flannel cloth.
- You can also place a drop of olive oil onto the amber and use a soft cloth to polish it.
- Because amber is a not technically a stone, it is also not as stable as other gems you may own. Due to is being softer than most gemstones, amber should be stored separately from your other pieces of jewelry to avoid scratches.
Raw, unpolished stones of amber.
Colors of Baltic amber
Amber jewellery from the excavations of Siris and Herakleia in Magna Graecia. On view in the Museo Nazionale Della Siritide in Policoro in Italy.
Amber room of the Catherine Palace. Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Ant in Baltic amber.
Early Miocene mosquito; Northern Cordillera, Dominican Republic.
Blue amber; Santiago, Dominican Republic. Very rare.
Baltic amber with grass inclusions.