A Farsi (Persian) term for transparent to translucent to opaque fossil resin of hydrocarbons, from extinct varieties of certain pines which flourished more than 60 million years ago. Chemically amber is an isoprene unit (C5H8) which is found in natural resins. Amber is warm to the touch, light in weight, and induces negative static electricity when rubbed. Sometimes embedded in it are remains of some extinct insects, plants, or other organic or inorganic material, from prehistoric times and/or stress marks, which resemble cracking. Opaque or cloudy amber can be clarified and changed in color, when boiled in capable oils, such as colza oil or rape oil. After treatment frequently some crack-like marks resembling nasturtium leaves and known as sun spangled can be seen. Pressed or reconstructed, amber is made by melting small fragments of the material and compressing it into blocks by hydraulic pressure.
Since the Bronze age, it has been used as ornament and talisman cut cabochon, for beads, rosaries, and carved objects. Rarely is it faceted. Sea amber occurs along certain shores, while pit amber (distinguished it from sea amber) is mined from Oligocene gravels in Myanmar (Burma) and Sicily. A variety is called muntenite from Rumania, and the variety gedanite from Poland and Mexico. Imitations are made from kauri gum, copal, ambroid, glasses, and plastics. Found from southern shores of the Baltic Sea in Poland, shores of East Germany, Mediterranean Sea of Sicily, Upper Myanmar (Burma), Canada, Mexico, and Rumania.
Mexican Amber, is often called 'Chiapas amber' (from the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico. Amber is a very transparent, brilliant fossil resin found in Mesoamerica only in the northern and central highlands of Chiapas. From pre-hispanic times, amber has been highly valued for making ornaments, and archaeological evidence, historical sources show that trade spread it to far-off regions like the central highlands of Oaxaca, the Gulf Coast, the Zoque region of western Chiapas and the Mayan areas. The Spanish conquestadors tell of the Aztec emperor, Montezuma stirring his chocolate with an amber spoon. Mexican amber first became known to the modern world through Frans Blom, an archaeologist and authority on Mayan culture. This meant he spent much time in the jungle and isolated areas of Chiapas. Blom, an ex oil surveyor became aware of amber deposits in the Simojovel area of Chiapas. Blom sent samples with insect inclusions to the University of California. This sparked off such interest that soon after in 1953 a group of scientists from California's Museum of Paleontology Berkeley arranged with Blom to visit the amber deposits in Simojovel. The most significant collection of Mexican amber is at the University of California Museum of Berkeley.
All of our amber specimens were mined before 2011. Since then prices have skyrocketed and all the good quality amber is now sold exclusively to wealthy Chinese businesses by drug Cartels who have taken control of the mines enslaving the farmers(miners)and their families in Chiapas the past few years.
The area around Simojovel and San Cristobol has also become very dangerous as more people are being robbed of their amber, money and cars on the highway to and from the Amber Mercados (markets).
For further information:
Chinese Enterpreneurs Exploit Mexican Children for Amber Extraction.
Business people from Korea, China and Taiwan invade Simojovel, Chiapas, to buy Red and Honey Amber.
Chinese Businesses are Working with Cartels to Drain Mexico of All of her Amber Resources.
Amber Aging; by heating at low temperature amber can be aged artificially.
Amber Care; for stringing of amber beads use silk or lined thread with a knot between two beads. Amber pieces should not be stored with other gemstones or metal objects, but in soft velvet or flannel cloths or pouches. Do not bring amber in contact with hot water, soap, detergents, perfumes, kitchen substances, hairspray, or ammonias. For cleaning and removing dust, wipe with soft flannel cloth moistened with clean lukewarm water. Stroked with clear olive oil, then cleaned with a soft cloth to remove excess the oil.
Amber Classification; classification of amber is based on degrees of transparency and color shades. Generally, ambers are classified in two categories: (a) clear or transparent amber, (b) cloudy amber that is subdivided in several degrees from semitransparent to opaque.
Amber Fluorescence; amber has blue, green, yellow, orange, and frequently white fluorescence.
Amber Forest; a forest whose trees; such as cedars, pines, palms, oaks, sequoia, redwoods, olives, chestnuts, camellias, cypress, magnolias, cinnamon trees, and thuja occidentales yield the resin that fossilizes into amber.
Testing for Authenticity
There are a number of simple tests which can be used to check the authenticity of amber. When examining a specimen you should try at least 2 or 3 of the following methods. If the item in question fails any one of the tests, it could well mean the piece is not true amber.
Amber has a hardness on Mohs scale in the region of 2 - 3. Using scratch sticks it should be reasonably straight forward to test the sample under question.
Heat a needle point in a flame until glowing red and then push the point into the sample for testing. If the amber is really copal the needle melts the material quicker than amber and emits a light fragrant odor. Amber when tested does not melt as quickly and emits a sooty fume odor.
Copal will dissolve in acetone. Dispense the acetone from an eye dropper onto a clean surface of the test specimen. Place one drop on the surface of the test piece and allow to evaporate, then place a second drop on the same area. Copal will become tacky and sticky to the touch, while amber remains unaffected by contact with acetone.
Copal under a short-wave UV light shows hardly any color change, while amber produces a pale fluorescent shade of blue.
Rub the specimen vigorously on a soft cloth. True amber may emit a faint resinous fragrance but copal may actual begin to soften and become sticky. Amber will also become heavily charged with static electricity and will easily pick up small pieces of loose paper.
Flotation (specific gravity)
Mix 24 grams of standard table salt with 200 milliliters of luke warm water. Stir until completely dissolved. Amber should float in such a mixture and copal should sink.
Frequently amber contains Flora or Fauna inclusions. Correctly identifying the trapped insect or plant should be an excellent indicator of a pieces authenticity. Most inclusions from ancient amber are of species which are now extinct or have significantly changed from evolution.
Imitation Amber; transparent amber imitation made from kauri gum (formerly kauri pine), copal resin, ambroid, glasses, acrylic, styrene, celluloid, polyesterresin, and plastics, which contains plant and or insect inclusions or sun-spangle fissures similar to natural amber.
Amber in Astrology; from ancient times till today, amber is believed to have magical properties, which are related to celestial bodies, where the bodies impart their power to amber, such as its golden color being an association with the sign of Leo. Used as birthstone, as amulet bringing good future and giving protection to its wearer.
Amber Incense; amber emits a pleasant resinous odor of pine, because of this, amber was burnt as incense in temples in Middle and Far East.
Amber in Medicine; amber was thought to possess curative power, therefore, powdered amber was mixed with honey and oil of rose for curing ear problems or dimming eyesight. Amber powder or amber oil was used in medicine in ancient times. Powder of amber was used for curing stomach diseases. Amber oil, resembling turpentine, was used against asthma and whooping cough. White powder of amber was used in cordial medicine, which is known as Gascion’s powder. Bezoar or bozoar stone is mixed with white powder as an ingredient with other materials. Syrup of amber is a mixture of succinic acid and opium and was used in China as a sedative, an anodyne, etc.
Amber Oil; a reddish-brownish oil, distilled from small pieces of amber. Also called oil of amber.
Amber Pouch; a basket attached to the chest of amber fishermen for stowing amber. Also called amber cuirasse.
Amber Resins; there are more than 20 fossil amber resins, similar to succinite with different geological age, some of them are used as gems.
Ambar; the Spanish term for Amber in México.