Kauri Gum derives its name from the Maori People of New Zealand referring to the "Kauri" Tree which is the second largest tree in the world.

Kauri Gum is formed when resin from Kauri Trees leaks out through fractures or cracks in the bark and hardens upon exposure to air. It can also leak from forked or damaged trees.

Over time, these semi-solid pieces fall to the ground and continue to harden as they become compressed by the weight of the soil above. Insects and plant material may be included in the gums. During the petrification process the gums oxidise upon contact with air and also absorb chemicals from the soil, both of which affect the color.

The gum varies in color depending on the condition of the original tree. It also depends on where the gum has formed and how long it has been buried. Colors can range from chalky-white, through red-brown to black. Dark red and green pieces of Kauri gum have also been found. The most prized is pale gold as it is hard and translucent but the better grade is transparent; "chalk" is the least valuable.

The age of the gum varies significantly from a few hundreds of years to thousands of years. It has a hardness of only 2-2.5 on the Mohs scale. Therefore, only those that have been buried and hardened over thousands and millions of years can be made into fine jewelry pieces.

Some Kauri Gum located in the Otago in the South Island (of New Zealand) has been estimated to be over 175 million years old. These Kauri resins are classified as Amber. Amber has a fluorescence of bluish white-yellow green.

The Maori people used Kauri Gum as a chewing gum. It is also used for lighting fires and for tattooing. The gum has also been carved and shaped into extraordinary sculptures and ornaments. From 1840s, Kauri Gum was exported to Britain and America to make varnish. Later it was used in linoleum, a floor covering.

From 1850 to 1900, Kauri Gum was Auckland's main export. By the 1940s, demand for the gum declined just as the supplies had dwindled.

There are three stages and types of Kauri Gum:

Kauri Gum – when is not petrified yet: it is very soft, even a fingernail can leave a mark on it. It is often cloudy. This type of Kauri Gum is not suitable for quality jewelry.

Kauri Copal – this is the nearly petrified Kauri Gum. It is used the same way as the Mexican incense (which is also a resin) known as Copal. Kauri Copal has a pleasant pine aroma. It is harder than Kauri hardened liquid resin. Kauri Copal can be easily polished and is referred to as the "sub-fossilized resin". Only the harder, older forms of Kauri Copal are good for jewelry or ornaments

New Zealand Amber – This is the petrified form of Kauri Gum and is rare. This type of Kauri Gum must be mined. It is millions of years old compared to Kauri Copal which is thousands of years old. New Zealand Amber is what is used as a gem. Because amber is not made up of crystals but is organic, it is considered a gem and not a gemstone (other examples of gems are Pearls, Corals, Jet and Ivory). The difference between Kauri Amber and Kauri Copal besides its age is that the latter will melt if put near an open flame whereas the Amber will stay undamaged.

I'm now using the name Kauri Gum and Kauri Amber interchangeably as both exhibit the same metaphysical uses.

Kauri Amber is one of those magical gems used to cure throat sicknesses such as asthma, hay fever and glandular swellings.

And Amber, per se, has been used to cure rheumatism, jaundice and asthma. It was also reputed to relieve any eye and ear ailments.

Kauri Gum resonates a very peaceful yet powerful energy. It helps to develop motivation and tenacity. It gives you the self-confidence to stand on your own.

One final note: how can you tell whether it is real Amber or plastic?

A simple test is to use salt water: if it is amber, it will float in salt water; and, if it is plastic, it will remain at the bottom.