Gemstone Reference Library

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Amber

 

Source: Baltic Sea Region and the Dominican Republic, although other sources are reported. Specifically Romania, the Unites States, Sicily, Myanmar and Mexico.

Chemical: Mainly a fossilized resin of the ancient pine tree called Pinus Succinifera.
Chemical is basically C10H18O.

Formation: Sedimentary deposits of ancient trees up to 50 million years in age or greater. Amber is the fossilized resin of tress and is often found to contain small plants and insects from the periods of Jurassic to Cretaceus. Amber should not be confused with copal resin which has essentially the same source but is nowhere near as old as amber, and is therefore not as hardened or long wearing.

Crystal System: None. Organic

Unusual Properties: Amber with identifiable insects and plants are quite rare and valuable. However, care should be take when buying expensive amber pieces with insects or plants inside. There are numerous reports of amber being heated and softened, and these items being pushed inside an amber piece by the bad guys.

Colors: Light yellow, green, dark reddish orange, and many variations of these as well.

Image_010Wearability: Will be damaged by jeweler’s torch. Will burn/melt if subjected to heat. Amber has been into many different types of jewelry items for centuries.

Gemological Information: You should aware that there are treatments being done to amber that significantly impact the colors. Both green and red amber has been found on the market that is due to HPHT or high pressure and high heat treatment. Some is irradiated. Most of these can be identified using a spectrometer, based on the research by the ISG working in conjunction to the treated amber producers. Below are graphs of the spectroscope reactions to the treated red and green amber. Green treated amber results as below, red treated amber results follows.

Crystal System: None. Amorphous RI: 1.54

Birefringence: None

Optic Character: None

Absorption Spectra: None

Specific Gravity: 1.03 – 1.10

Hardness: 2 – 2.5

Transparency: Opaque to translucent

Special Identifying Properties and Tests: Several. A hot point will not react quickly with true amber, where it will react very quickly with plastic or copal resin. Amber will also develop static electricity when rubbed with a cloth, and pick up small particles of dust. Additional test to separate from plastic imitations is to weigh it in water and add salt to the mix. As the mixture becomes saturated with salt, the SG of the water will increase past the SG of amber and the amber will float. The only plastic that is close is Polystyrene but this is used for a pearl imitation and not amber. So this test should be diagnostic to separate amber from plastic imitations.

Created: No true amber can be synthesized for the obvious reason that amber, by definition, is very old tree sap. However, it should be carefully noted that there are many imitations on the market that are sold as natural.

Imitations: Occasionally confused with jade. Most often imitated by copal resin and plastic.