Information: Amber, Genuine Baltic
Common Names: Agdsten; Ambar; Amber; Ambra; Ambre; Bernstein; Elektron; Freja's Tears; Fossil Resin; Fuling; Gintaras; Glessum; Hardend Honey; Harpaks; Lyncurum; Nordic Gold; Retinite; Succinite; Succinum; Sun Tears; Tears of the Heliades; Tiger's Soul; Yantar Uses: Mediums and varnishes Specific Gravity: 1.05-1.10 Hardness: 1.5-2.5 Refractive Index: 1.54
Amber is not a mineral, but a natural plastic that has no consistent chemical formula, because its chemical composition varies and is not reliably quantifiable. Three elements -- carbon, oxygen and hydrogen -- are present in the following proportions: 67-87% carbon, 15% oxygen, 8.5-11% hydrogen. Sulfur is also present in small quantities from 0.26% to 0.34% together with 0.5% of inorganic matter, but the latter can vary in direct proportion to flora or fauna inclusions that may be present in the amber. The name amber relates specifically to fossilized resin that has succinic acid present. Succinic acid can be present in Baltic amber between 3 to 8%. Amber that is clear has lower levels of succinic acid, which increases as the amber becomes more opaque.
Characteristics: The color of amber usually varies from a transparent golden yellow to dark reddish yellow and finally to an opaque white. Turbidity in amber -- a milky appearance until it finally becomes white -- denotes the presence of tiny air bubbles trapped inside the amber. The color of amber also changes over time due to oxidation. Pieces of translucent yellow amber will gradually darken upon exposure, becoming red and eventually completely dark.
Source: We have hand selected genuine pieces of the Succinite species of amber from a Baltic source in Lithuania. Our amber is a gem-grade that ranges in color from a clear, golden yellow to reddish yellow with few inclusions or impurities.
Origin: Amber is the ancient resin of trees changed over millions of years. The result of this metamorphosis is a gem with extraordinary properties. Probably from the Carboniferous period onwards, about 360 million to 20 million years ago, various land-based tree species produced resin which subsequently turned into amber.
When the resin is initially exuded it is soft and tacky. The molecular structure consists of unlinked complex organic compounds. The resin then goes through two significant phases in order to become amber. The first change that takes place within the fossilizing resin is the partial polymerization of the molecular structure. The resin becomes harder when the molecules cross chain link to form stronger bonds. When rubbed vigorously a strong smell of resin is still prevalent as the resin still contains many volatile oils in the form of turpenes. This process of polymerization may take thousands of years before the resultant material can be called copal. The second stage involves the evaporation of volatile oils trapped within the resin. The length of time needed for the majority of turpenes to escape varies, but can take millions of years.
Another factor that must be present for the transformation of resin into amber is an anaerobic environment. An anaerobic environment is usually achieved through immersion in water, frequently seawater. The Baltic and Dominican Republic amber sites both show evidence of long-term immersion in seawater. Sediment in which the resin is trapped may also play a significant role in the process. Evidence shows that specimens from sandstone beds are dark and true amber (there is no reaction with alcohol), however specimens from clay beds of the same age are yellow and are copal (that is, they react with alcohol).
History of Use: Amber from the Baltic region has been found as far away as Greece, Egypt, Ireland and Mesopotamia. Egyptian amber has been dated to approximately 3200 B.C. Since that time amber has been used to make jewelry and many other articles of the applied arts, for medicinal purposes, and to make oils and varnishes for painting mediums and wood finishing.
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