Amber Gemstone

Amber Gemstone

Amber is a translucent to opaque fossilized resin formed by extinct coniferous trees that were in existence from about 65-50 million years ago during the Tertiary period.

The word Amber is derived from the Middle Persian AMBAR referring to a hardened waxy substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. This waxy substance is also known as Ambergris or Grey Amber. In the 14th century, the name Ambergris was used to refer to Amber the gemstone. They were both confused for each other due to the fact that both could be found on beach shores. Ambergris however can be distinguished from Amber by its density. It is lower than Amber therefore it tends to float in freshwater. Amber's density being higher floats in saltwater.

In Latin the name for Amber is ELECTRUM. Ancient Greeks called Amber ELEKTOR meaning Beaming Sun. From Electron we get electricity and other similar words referring to amber's ability to develop an electric charge when rubbed.

Amber is approximately 78% Carbon, 11% Oxygen, and 10% hydrogen in its chemical composition. It occurs in an amorphous crystal structure.

Amber is formed from ancient evergreen pine trees. It occurs in a range of different colors including golden-yellow, orange, brown, blue, and others such as lemon-yellow, green, red, to nearly black. It is usually hard, transparent, translucent and opaque and resinous.

Usually, amber comes with pockets of air bubbles and many other inclusions of prehistoric materials like insects, furs, feathers or sticks and leaves. Pyrite inclusions give amber a bluish color.

The most sought-after amber is the transparent ones that contain insect, plant or pyrite inclusions. Most desired Amber varieties also include the Baltic amber, bony amber and the blue Dominican amber.

Furthermore, other varieties of amber include:
Resinite that developed in coal seams;
Ambrite that usually comes from New Zealand coal seams;
Cherry Amber that is red-colored;
Bony Amber that comes in a very cloudy clarity caused by various tiny bubbles.

Another variety of Amber is the Blue Amber found in the Dominican Republic. This type of amber is extremely rare and extremely valuable, only about 100 kilograms of blue Dominican Republic amber is sourced per year. This type of amber is also considered younger than other amber varieties. It is also fluorescent.

Amber hardness ranges from 2 - 2.5 on the Mohs scale. It is transparent to opaque with a resinous luster. It gives a bluish white - yellow green fluorescence.

Amber and tree sap is not the same. Sap is a watery fluid from the vascular system that transports nutrients around the tree while resin is semi-solid and acts as a defense response for the plant’s immune system. Often amber contains animal and plant inclusions such as mosquitos and other insect species that were trapped when it was soft and sticky.

Amber is considered an organic gemstone; other organic gemstones include Jet, Pearl, Coral and Ivory.

Amber does not have a crystalline structure and lacks a clearly defined shape or form. Its specific gravity which is very low (1.05-1.09) makes it extremely light thus allowing it to float in salt water. This same low density makes amber difficult to imitate. Making it very light means that a 3-carat amber gemstone will be much bigger than a more denser gemstone type.

A major deposit of amber is found west of Kaliningrad, Russia. Another large source for amber is found in the Baltic region. This latter amber originates from the seabed and is usually found washed ashore. Baltic Amber is recognized for its vivid golden colors.

Deposits of Amber can also be found in Mexico, Canada, United States, Italy, Romania, China, Japan, and Burma or Myanmar.

Amber is almost always cut en cabochon and rarely faceted. It is also cut in oval shapes, rounds, fancy, stars, hexagons, pentagons, trillions and heart shapes.

Amber is not usually treated. However, in some cases it is enhanced. Smaller pieces of amber are pressed with other pieces to assemble a bigger piece. This is done by smearing the surface of the smaller stones with oil, heat and pressure. This particular amber is known and sold as Amberoid or Pressed Amber.

Amber can also be enhanced to become clearer. This is done by an oil bath. Baltic Amber, for instance, is sometimes enhanced to make it brighter.

Amber, too can be imitated using other resins such as Copal or Kauri Gum.

Amber has been used since ancient times not only as a powerful amulet, but also as medicine. It was believed to contain ancient wisdom and was used to ward off evil and as a cure for diseases such as epilepsy, rheumatic diseases and neuralgia. The latter was done through inhaling the smoke of burning amber which has the scent of pine trees. Although it is an organic gemstone, crystal healers use it for its crystal-like healing abilities.

In Scandinavia, women used amber to make spindles for their spinning wheels so that when they weaved and created threads for clothes, they would weave protective healing energy into the clothing.

Amber was also used as a powerful amulet throughout Asia.

Its Latin name connotes energy of the sun. The ancients believed that amber is solidified sunlight. As it is the resin from ancient trees millions of years ago, it contains great lifeforce energy and great power. This sun energy helps get rid off negative energy. It is thought that Amber is able to suck the gloom and dark negative energy away from the body and eliminate negative emotional energy from the wearer. It relieves depression and disconnectedness.

Amber stimulates and balances solar plexus chakra which is our emotional center and sacral chakra which is our sexual and creative energy center. It is an excellent tool to use for grounding as well as lifting of our energy.

Amber jewelry is known to have existed since prehistory. It is one of the first organic gems used in amulet jewelry.

Though it is low in its hardness (rating of only 2 - 2.5 on the Mohs scale), it is nevertheless still very popular today and still used in jewelry. However, due to its hardness, it is recommended that rings should come in protective settings, and is best to be used as earrings, brooches and pendants.

Though Amber has endured intense heat, intense pressure and all types of weather for millions of years, it is sensitive to acid, gasoline, caustic solutions, alcohol and perfume. Amber, too, can easily be burned and release a smoky incense-like pine scent. Prolonged soaking and exposure to water can damage the luster and polish of your beautiful Amber gemstone. Since it is very soft, Amber can be easily be scratched by other jewelry such as their pin stems, and edges.

To cleanse your gorgeous Amber simply use a soft cloth with soapy water; always remember to rinse well in order to remove all soapy residue from your lovely Amber gemstone.

Also, read my article on Kauri Gum or New Zealand Amber: