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Amber is
fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, inc ...

fossil
ized tree
resin In polymer chemistry Polymer chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, stru ...

resin
that has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is t ...
times. Much valued from antiquity to the present as a
gemstone A gemstone (also called a fine gem, jewel, precious stone, or semi-precious stone) is a piece of mineral In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chem ...

gemstone
, amber is made into a variety of decorative objects."Amber" (2004). In Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen (eds.) ''Encyclopedia of New Jersey'', Rutgers University Press, . Amber is used in
jewelry Jewellery or jewelry consists of decorative items worn for personal adornment 150px, The principal adornment of these girls from the Bundu tribe in Sierra Leone is the adornment of bodies and faces with markings produced by the smearing on by ...

jewelry
. It has also been used as a healing agent in
folk medicine Traditional medicine (also known as indigenous or folk medicine) comprises medical aspects of traditional knowledge Traditional knowledge, indigenous knowledge and local knowledge generally refer to knowledge systems embedded in the cultura ...
. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents. Because it originates as a soft, sticky tree resin, amber sometimes contains animal and plant material as inclusions. Amber occurring in coal seams is also called resinite, and the term ''ambrite'' is applied to that found specifically within
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...

New Zealand
coal seams.


Etymology

The English word ''amber'' derives from
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
(cognate with
Middle Persian Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its endonym Pārsīk or Pārsīg (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪) in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire. For some time after the Sasan ...
''ambar'') via
Middle Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the p ...
''ambar'' and
Middle French Middle French (french: moyen français) is a historical division of the French language French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from ...
''ambre''. The word was adopted in
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured sys ...
in the 14th century as referring to what is now known as ''
ambergris Ambergris ( or , la, ambra grisea, fro, ambre gris), ''ambergrease'', or ''grey amber'', is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of sperm whale #REDIRECT Sperm whale#REDIRECT Spe ...

ambergris
'' (''ambre gris'' or "grey amber"), a solid waxy substance derived from the
sperm whale #REDIRECT Sperm whale #REDIRECT Sperm whale#REDIRECT Sperm whale The sperm whale or cachalot (''Physeter macrocephalus'') is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator Predation is a biological interaction where ...

sperm whale
. In the
Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of w ...

Romance languages
, the sense of the word had come to be extended to
Baltic amber , Poland. The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite. It dates from 44 million years ago (during the Eocene epoch). It has been estimated that these forests created more than 100,000 tons of ...

Baltic amber
(fossil resin) from as early as the late 13th century. At first called white or yellow amber (''ambre jaune''), this meaning was adopted in English by the early 15th century. As the use of ambergris waned, this became the main sense of the word. and The two substances ("yellow amber" and "grey amber") conceivably became associated or confused because they both were found washed up on beaches. Ambergris is less dense than water and floats, whereas amber is too dense to float, though less dense than stone. The classical names for amber,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
''electrum'' and
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
(''ēlektron''), are connected to a term ἠλέκτωρ (''ēlektōr'') meaning "beaming
Sun The Sun is the star A star is an astronomical object consisting of a luminous spheroid of plasma (physics), plasma held together by its own gravity. The List of nearest stars and brown dwarfs, nearest star to Earth is the Sun. Many othe ...

Sun
".
Homeric Homer (; grc, Ὅμηρος , ''Hómēros'') was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally re ...
(
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Moder ...

Iliad
6.513, 19.398). The feminine being later used as a name of the
Moon The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite. At about one-quarter the diameter of Earth (comparable to the width of Australia (continent), Australia), it is the largest natural satellite in the Solar System relative to the size of its plane ...

Moon
.
According to myth, when Phaëton son of
Helios Helios; Homeric Greek Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language that was used by Homer in the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'' and in the Homeric Hymns. It is a literary dialect of Ancient Greek consisting mainly of Ionic Greek, Ionic and Aeol ...

Helios
(the Sun) was killed, his mourning sisters became trees, and their tears became ''elektron'', amber. The word ''elektron'' gave rise to the words ''electric, electricity'', and their relatives because of amber's ability to bear a charge of
static electricity Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charge Electric charge is the physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when placed in an electromagnetic field. Electric charge can be ''positive'' or ''negative'' (commonl ...

static electricity
.


History

Theophrastus Theophrastus (; grc-gre, Θεόφραστος ; c. 371c. 287 BC), a Greek native of Eresos Eresos (; el, Ερεσός; grc, Ἔρεσος) and its twin beach village Skala Eresou are located in the southwest part of the Greek island of Le ...

Theophrastus
discussed amber in the 4th century BC, as did
Pytheas Pytheas of Massalia (; Ancient Greek: Πυθέας ὁ Μασσαλιώτης ''Pythéas ho Massaliōtēs''; Latin: ''Pytheas Massiliensis''; born 350 BC, 320–306 BC) was a Greeks, Greek List of Graeco-Roman geographers, geographer, explore ...
(c. 330 BC), whose work "On the Ocean" is lost, but was referenced by
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
(23 to 79 AD), according to whose '' The Natural History'' (in what is also the earliest known mention of the name ''
Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum Barbaricum (from the gr, Βαρβαρικόν, "foreign", "barbarian") is a geographical name used by ...

Germania
''):''Natural History'
37.11
.
Earlier Pliny says that Pytheas refers to a large island—three days' sail from the
Scythia Scythia (, ; from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
n coast and called Balcia by Xenophon of Lampsacus (author of a fanciful travel book in Greek)—as ''Basilia''—a name generally equated with ''Abalus''. Given the presence of amber, the island could have been
Heligoland Heligoland (; german: link=no, Helgoland ; Heligolandic Frisian: ''deät Lun'', , Mooring Frisian: ''Hålilönj,'' Danish: ''Helgoland'') is a small archipelago in the North Sea. A part of the Germany, German state of Schleswig-Holstein sin ...
,
Zealand Zealand or Sealand ( da, Sjælland , in English also occasionally), at 7,031 km2, is the largest and most populous island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habita ...
, the shores of Bay of Gdańsk, the
Sambia Peninsula Sambia (russian: Самбийский полуостров, ''Sambiysky poluostrov'', literally the Sambiysky Peninsula) or Samland (russian: Земландский полуостров, ''Zemlandsky poluostrov'', literally the Zemlandsky Peninsul ...
or the
Curonian Lagoon The Curonian Lagoon (or Bay, Gulf; russian: Куршский залив, lt, Kuršių marios, pl, Zalew Kuroński, german: Kurisches Haff, lv, Kuršu joma) is a freshwater lagoon separated from the Baltic Sea by the Curonian Spit. Its surfa ...

Curonian Lagoon
, which were historically the richest sources of amber in northern Europe. It is assumed that there were well-established trade routes for amber connecting the Baltic with the Mediterranean (known as the "
Amber Road File:Baltis amber road.jpg, 250px, The route from the Baltic Sea The Amber Road was an ancient trade route for the transfer of amber from the coastal areas of Sicily and later from the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Prehis ...

Amber Road
"). Pliny states explicitly that the Germans exported amber to
Pannonia Pannonia (, ) was a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as ...

Pannonia
, from where the Veneti distributed it onwards. The ancient Italic peoples of southern Italy used to work amber; the National Archaeological Museum of Siritide (Museo Archeologico Nazionale della Siritide) at
Policoro Policoro ( Lucano: ) is a town and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a basic Administrative division, constituent entity of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides many of the basic civil ...
in the
province of Matera The province of Matera ( it, Provincia di Matera; Materano: ) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territor ...
(
Basilicata it, Lucano (man) it, Lucana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = , demographics1_footnotes = , demographics1_title1 = , demographics1_info1 = ...
) displays important surviving examples. Amber used in antiquity as at
Mycenae Mycenae ( ; grc, Μυκῆναι or , ''Mykē̂nai'' or ''Mykḗnē'') is an archaeological site near Mykines, Greece, Mykines in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese, Greece. It is located about south-west of Athens; north of Argos, Peloponne ...

Mycenae
and in the prehistory of the Mediterranean comes from deposits of
Sicily (man) it, Siciliana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Ethnicity , demographics1_footnotes = , demographi ...

Sicily
. Pliny also cites the opinion of
Nicias Nicias (; Νικίας ''Nikias''; c. 470–413 BC) was an Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the ap ...
( 470–413 BC), according to whom amber Besides the fanciful explanations according to which amber is "produced by the Sun", Pliny cites opinions that are well aware of its origin in tree resin, citing the native Latin name of ''succinum'' (''sūcinum'', from ''sucus'' "juice"). In Book 37, section XI of ''
Natural History Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...
'', Pliny wrote: He also states that amber is also found in Egypt and in India, and he even refers to the
electrostatic Electrostatics is a branch of physics that studies electric charges at Rest (physics), rest (static electricity). Since classical antiquity, classical times, it has been known that some materials, such as amber, attract lightweight particles af ...
properties of amber, by saying that "in Syria the women make the whorls of their spindles of this substance, and give it the name of ''harpax'' rom ἁρπάζω, "to drag"from the circumstance that it attracts leaves towards it, chaff, and the light fringe of tissues". Pliny says that the German name of amber was '' glæsum'', "for which reason the Romans, when Germanicus Caesar commanded the fleet in those parts, gave to one of these islands the name of Glæsaria, which by the barbarians was known as Austeravia". This is confirmed by the recorded
Old High German Old High German (OHG, german: Althochdeutsch, German abbr. ) is the earliest stage of the German language German ( Standard High German: , ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Euro ...
word ''glas'' and by the
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
word '' glær'' for "amber" (compare ''
glass Glass is a non- crystalline, often transparency and translucency, transparent amorphous solid, that has widespread practical, technological, and decorative use in, for example, window panes, tableware, and optics. Glass is most often formed by ...
''). In
Middle Low German Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (autonym: ''Sassisch'', i.e. "Saxon", Standard German, Standard High German: ', Dutch language, Modern Dutch: ') is a developmental stage of Low German. It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle ...
, amber was known as ''berne-, barn-, börnstēn'' (with etymological roots related to "burn" and to "stone"). The Low German term became dominant also in
High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (; not to be confused with Standard High German which is imprecisely also called ''High German''), comprise the varieties Variety may refer to: Science and te ...
by the 18th century, thus modern German ''Bernstein'' besides
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
''barnsteen''. In the
Baltic languages The Baltic languages belong to the Balto-Slavic The Balto-Slavic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It traditionally comprises the Baltic languages, Baltic and Slavic languages. Baltic and Slavic languages sha ...

Baltic languages
, the
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
term for amber is ''gintaras'' and the Latvian ''dzintars''. These words, and the ''jantar'' and Hungarian ''gyanta'' ('resin'), are thought to originate from
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...
''jainitar'' ("sea-resin"). Amber has a long history of use in China, with the first written record from 200 BC. Early in the nineteenth century, the first reports of amber found in North America came from discoveries in
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
along
Crosswicks Creek Crosswicks Creek is a U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline dataThe National Map, accessed April 1, 2011 tributary of the Delaware River in Burlington County, New Jersey in the United States The Un ...
near , at
Camden Camden may refer to: People * Camden (surname), a surname of English origin * Camden Joy (born 1964), American writer * Camden Toy (born 1957), American actor Places Australia * Camden, New South Wales * Camden, Rosehill, a heritage-listed ...
, and near Woodbury.


Composition and formation

Amber is
heterogeneous Homogeneity and heterogeneity are concepts often used in the sciences Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally ...
in composition, but consists of several
resin In polymer chemistry Polymer chemistry is a sub-discipline of chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, stru ...

resin
ous bodies more or less soluble in
alcohol In chemistry, alcohol is an organic compound that carries at least one hydroxyl functional group (−OH) bound to a Saturated and unsaturated compounds, saturated carbon atom. The term alcohol originally referred to the primary alcohol ethan ...

alcohol
,
ether Ethers are a class of organic compound In , organic compounds are generally any s that contain - . Due to carbon's ability to (form chains with other carbon s), millions of organic compounds are known. The study of the properties, reaction ...

ether
and
chloroform Chloroform, or trichloromethane, is an organic compound with formula CH Cl3. It is a colorless, strong-smelling, dense liquid that is produced on a large scale as a precursor to PTFE Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic fluoropoly ...

chloroform
, associated with an insoluble
bituminous Asphalt, also known as bitumen (, ), is a sticky, black, highly viscous The viscosity of a fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external ...

bituminous
substance. Amber is a
macromolecule macromolecule A macromolecule is a very large molecule File:Pentacene on Ni(111) STM.jpg, A scanning tunneling microscopy image of pentacene molecules, which consist of linear chains of five carbon rings. A molecule is an electrically neu ...
by free
radical polymerizationFree-radical polymerization (FRP) is a method of polymerization, by which a polymer forms by the successive addition of free-radical building blocks. Free radicals can be formed by a number of different mechanisms, usually involving separate initiato ...
of several precursors in the
labdane Labdane is a natural bicyclic diterpene. It forms the structural core for a wide variety of natural products collectively known as ''labdanes'' or ''labdane diterpenes''. The labdanes were so named because the first members of the class were orig ...

labdane
family, e.g. communic acid, cummunol, and biformene. These labdanes are
diterpene Diterpenes are a class of chemical compounds composed of four isoprene units, often with the molecular formula C20H32. They are biosynthesized by plants, animals and fungi via the HMG-CoA reductase pathway, with geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate being ...
s (C20H32) and trienes, equipping the organic skeleton with three
alkene In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo dur ...

alkene
groups for
polymerization In polymer chemistry, polymerization (American English), or polymerisation (British English), is a process of reacting monomer, monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form polymer chains or three-dimensional networks.Clayden, J ...
. As amber matures over the years, more polymerization takes place as well as
isomerization In chemistry Chemistry is the study of the properties and behavior of . It is a that covers the that make up matter to the composed of s, s and s: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a ...
reactions,
crosslinkingCross-linking may refer to *Cross-link In chemistry and biology a cross-link is a bond that links one polymer A polymer (; Greek '' poly-'', "many" + '' -mer'', "part") is a substance or material consisting of very large molecule F ...
and
cyclization A cyclic compound (''ring compound'') is a term for a chemical compound, compound in the field of chemistry in which one or more series of atoms in the compound is connected to form a Ring (chemistry), ring. Rings may vary in size from three to many ...

cyclization
. Heated above , amber decomposes, yielding an oil of amber, and leaves a black residue which is known as "amber colophony", or "amber pitch"; when dissolved in oil of
turpentine Turpentine (which is also called gum turpentine, spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, wood turpentine, terebenthene, terebinthine and (colloquially) turps) is a fluid obtained by the distillation Distillation, or classical distillation, ...
or in
linseed oil Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil or flax oil (in its edible form), is a colourless to yellowish oil obtained from the dried, ripened seeds of the flax Flax, also known as common flax or linseed, is a flowering plant, ''Linum usitatissimu ...
this forms "amber varnish" or "amber lac".


Formation

Molecular polymerization, resulting from high pressures and temperatures produced by overlying sediment, transforms the resin first into
copal Copal is a name given to tree resin In polymer chemistry and materials science, resin is a solid or highly Viscosity, viscous substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically convertible into polymers. Resins are usually mixtures of ...

copal
. Sustained heat and pressure drives off
terpene Terpenes () are a class of natural product A natural product is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance composed of many identical molecules (or molecular entity, molecular entities) composed of atoms from more than ...
s and results in the formation of amber. For this to happen, the resin must be resistant to decay. Many trees produce resin, but in the majority of cases this deposit is broken down by physical and biological processes. Exposure to sunlight, rain, microorganisms (such as
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typ ...

bacteria
and
fungi A fungus (plural The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full ...

fungi
), and extreme temperatures tends to disintegrate the resin. For the resin to survive long enough to become amber, it must be resistant to such forces or be produced under conditions that exclude them.


Botanical origin

Fossil resins from Europe fall into two categories, the famous Baltic ambers and another that resembles the ''
Agathis ''Agathis'', commonly known as kauri or dammara, is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such class ...
'' group. Fossil resins from the Americas and Africa are closely related to the modern genus '' Hymenaea'', while Baltic ambers are thought to be fossil resins from plants of the family
Sciadopityaceae ''Sciadopitys verticillata'', the or Japanese umbrella-pine, is a unique conifer Conifers are a group of cone-bearing seed plants, a subset of gymnosperms. Scientifically, they make up the division Pinophyta (), also known as Coniferophyt ...
that once lived in north Europe.


Physical attributes

Most amber has a hardness between 2.0 and 2.5 on the
Mohs scale The Mohs scale of mineral hardness () is a qualitative ordinal scale Ordinal data is a categorical, statistical data type where the variables have natural, ordered categories and the distances between the categories are not known. These data e ...
, a
refractive index In optics Optics is the branch of physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or ...

refractive index
of 1.5–1.6, a
specific gravity Relative density, or specific gravity, is the ratio In mathematics, a ratio indicates how many times one number contains another. For example, if there are eight oranges and six lemons in a bowl of fruit, then the ratio of oranges to lemon ...
between 1.06 and 1.10, and a melting point of 250–300 °C.


Inclusions

The abnormal development of resin in living trees (''succinosis'') can result in the formation of amber. Impurities are quite often present, especially when the resin dropped onto the ground, so the material may be useless except for varnish-making. Such impure amber is called ''firniss''. Such
inclusion Inclusion or Include may refer to: Sociology * Social inclusion, affirmative action to change the circumstances and habits that leads to social exclusion ** Inclusion (disability rights), including people with and without disabilities, people of ...
of other substances can cause amber to have an unexpected color.
Pyrites The mineral pyrite (), or iron pyrite, also known as fool's gold, is an iron sulfide with the chemical formula Iron, FeSulfur, S2 (iron (II) disulfide). Pyrite is the most abundant sulfide mineral. Pyrite's metallic Luster (mineralogy), luster ...

Pyrites
may give a bluish color. ''Bony amber'' owes its cloudy opacity to numerous tiny bubbles inside the resin. However, so-called ''black amber'' is really only a kind of jet. In darkly clouded and even opaque amber, inclusions can be imaged using high-energy, high-contrast, high-resolution
X-ray An X-ray, or, much less commonly, X-radiation, is a penetrating form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation In physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Moti ...

X-ray
s.


Extraction and processing


Distribution and mining

Amber is globally distributed, mainly in rocks of Cretaceous age or younger. Historically, the coast west of
Königsberg Königsberg (, , ) was the name for the historic Prussian city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement ''Twangste'' by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusade ...

Königsberg
in
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...
was the world's leading source of amber. The first mentions of amber deposits here date back to the 12th century. About 90% of the world's extractable amber is still located in that area, which became the
Kaliningrad Oblast Kaliningrad Oblast (russian: Калинингра́дская о́бласть, translit=Kaliningradskaya oblast') is the westernmost federal subjects of Russia, federal subject of Russia. It is a Enclave and exclave, semi-exclave, and is situ ...

Kaliningrad Oblast
of Russia in 1946. Pieces of amber torn from the seafloor are cast up by the waves and collected by hand, dredging, or diving. Elsewhere, amber is mined, both in open works and underground galleries. Then nodules of ''blue earth'' have to be removed and an opaque crust must be cleaned off, which can be done in revolving barrels containing sand and water. Erosion removes this crust from sea-worn amber.
Dominican amber Dominican amber is amber Amber is fossilized tree resin that has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments th ...
is mined through
bell pit Image:Depression showing where old mine workings were..jpg, A collapsed bell pit, evidence of early coal mining in Middleton, Leeds, Middleton Woods A bell pit is a primitive method of mining coal, iron ore, or other minerals where the coal or ore ...
ting, which is dangerous due to the risk of tunnel collapse. Another important source of amber is
Kachin State Kachin State (Jingpho language, Kachin: ''Jinghpaw Mungdaw''; my, ကချင်ပြည်နယ်) is the northernmost administrative divisions of Myanmar, state of Myanmar. It is bordered by China to the north and east (Tibet Autonomous Re ...
in northern
Myanmar Myanmar, ); UK pronunciations: US pronunciations incl. . Note: Wikipedia's IPA conventions require indicating /r/ even in British English although only some British English speakers pronounce r at the end of syllables. As John C. Wells, John ...

Myanmar
, which has been a major source of amber in China for at least 1800 years. Contemporary mining of this deposit has attracted attention for unsafe working conditions and its role in funding
internal conflictAn internal conflict is the struggle occurring within a character's mind. Things such as the character views for, but can't quite reach. As opposed to external conflict, in which a character is grappling some force ahaahaaa of themself, such as wars ...
in the country. Amber from the
Rivne Oblast Rivne Oblast ( uk, Рівненська область, translit. ''Rivnenska oblast'') is an oblast (province) of Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraina, ) is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the List of European countries by are ...
of Ukraine, referred to as
Rovno amber Rovno amber, occasionally called Ukrainian amber, is amber Amber is fossilized tree resin that has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with ...
, is mined illegally by organised crime groups, who deforest the surrounding areas and pump water into the sediments to extract the amber, causing severe environmental deterioration.


Treatment

The Vienna amber factories, which use pale amber to manufacture pipes and other smoking tools, turn it on a Lathe (tool), lathe and polish it with whitening and water or with rotten stone and oil. The final luster is given by friction with flannel. When gradually heated in an oil-bath, amber becomes soft and flexible. Two pieces of amber may be united by smearing the surfaces with
linseed oil Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil or flax oil (in its edible form), is a colourless to yellowish oil obtained from the dried, ripened seeds of the flax Flax, also known as common flax or linseed, is a flowering plant, ''Linum usitatissimu ...
, heating them, and then pressing them together while hot. Cloudy amber may be clarified in an oil-bath, as the oil fills the numerous pores to which the turbidity is due. Small fragments, formerly thrown away or used only for varnish, are now used on a large scale in the formation of "ambroid" or "pressed amber". The pieces are carefully heated with exclusion of air and then compressed into a uniform mass by intense hydraulic pressure, the softened amber being forced through holes in a metal plate. The product is extensively used for the production of cheap jewelry and articles for smoking. This pressed amber yields brilliant interference colors in polarized light. Amber has often been imitated by other resins like
copal Copal is a name given to tree resin In polymer chemistry and materials science, resin is a solid or highly Viscosity, viscous substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically convertible into polymers. Resins are usually mixtures of ...

copal
and kauri gum, as well as by celluloid and even glass. Baltic amber is sometimes colored artificially, but also called "true amber".


Appearance

Amber occurs in a range of different colors. As well as the usual yellow-orange-brown that is associated with the color "amber", amber itself can range from a whitish color through a pale lemon yellow, to brown and almost black. Other uncommon colors include red amber (sometimes known as "cherry amber"), green amber, and even blue amber, which is rare and highly sought after. Yellow amber is a hard fossil resin from evergreen trees, and despite the name it can be translucent, yellow, orange, or brown colored. Known to the Iranians by the Pahlavi compound word kah-ruba (from kah "straw" plus rubay "attract, snatch", referring to its electrical properties), which entered Arabic as kahraba' or kahraba (which later became the Arabic word for electricity, كهرباء ''kahrabā'''), it too was called amber in Europe (Old French and Middle English ambre). Found along the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, yellow amber reached the Middle East and western Europe via trade. Its coastal acquisition may have been one reason yellow amber came to be designated by the same term as ambergris. Moreover, like ambergris, the resin could be burned as an incense. The resin's most popular use was, however, for ornamentation—easily cut and polished, it could be transformed into beautiful jewelry. Much of the most highly prized amber is transparent, in contrast to the very common cloudy amber and opaque amber. Opaque amber contains numerous minute bubbles. This kind of amber is known as "bony amber". Although all
Dominican amber Dominican amber is amber Amber is fossilized tree resin that has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments th ...
is fluorescent, the rarest Dominican amber is blue amber. It turns blue in natural sunlight and any other partially or wholly ultraviolet light source. In long-wave UV light it has a very strong reflection, almost white. Only about is found per year, which makes it valuable and expensive. Sometimes amber retains the form of drops and stalactites, just as it exuded from the ducts and receptacles of the injured trees. It is thought that, in addition to exuding onto the surface of the tree, amber resin also originally flowed into hollow cavities or cracks within trees, thereby leading to the development of large lumps of amber of irregular form.


Classification

Amber can be classified into several forms. Most fundamentally, there are two types of plant resin with the potential for fossilization. Terpenoids, produced by conifers and angiosperms, consist of ring structures formed of isoprene (C5H8) units. Phenolic resins are today only produced by angiosperms, and tend to serve functional uses. The extinct Medullosales, medullosans produced a third type of resin, which is often found as amber within their veins. The composition of resins is highly variable; each species produces a unique blend of chemicals which can be identified by the use of pyrolysis–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The overall chemical and structural composition is used to divide ambers into five classes. There is also a separate classification of amber gemstones, according to the way of production.


Class I

This class is by far the most abundant. It comprises labdatriene carboxylic acids such as communic or ozic acids. It is further split into three sub-classes. Classes Ia and Ib utilize regular labdanoid diterpenes (e.g. communic acid, communol, biformenes), while Ic uses ''enantio'' labdanoids (ozic acid, ozol, ''enantio'' biformenes).


Ia

Class Ia includes ''Succinite'' (= 'normal' Baltic amber) and ''Glessite''. They have a communic acid base, and they also include much succinic acid.
Baltic amber , Poland. The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite. It dates from 44 million years ago (during the Eocene epoch). It has been estimated that these forests created more than 100,000 tons of ...

Baltic amber
yields on dry distillation succinic acid, the proportion varying from about 3% to 8%, and being greatest in the pale opaque or ''bony'' varieties. The aromatic and irritating fumes emitted by burning amber are mainly due to this acid. Baltic amber is distinguished by its yield of succinic acid, hence the name ''succinite''. Succinite has a hardness between 2 and 3, which is rather greater than that of many other fossil resins. Its specific gravity varies from 1.05 to 1.10. It can be distinguished from other ambers via IR spectroscopy due to a specific carbonyl absorption peak. IR spectroscopy can detect the relative age of an amber sample. Succinic acid may not be an original component of amber, but rather a degradation product of abietic acid.


Ib

Like class Ia ambers, these are based on communic acid; however, they lack succinic acid.


Ic

This class is mainly based on ''enantio''-labdatrienonic acids, such as ozic and zanzibaric acids. Its most familiar representative is Dominican amber. Dominican amber differentiates itself from
Baltic amber , Poland. The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite. It dates from 44 million years ago (during the Eocene epoch). It has been estimated that these forests created more than 100,000 tons of ...

Baltic amber
by being mostly transparent and often containing a higher number of
fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, inc ...

fossil
inclusions. This has enabled the detailed reconstruction of the ecosystem of a long-vanished tropical forest. Resin from the extinct species ''Hymenaea protera'' is the source of Dominican amber and probably of most amber found in the tropics. It is not "succinite" but "retinite".


Class II

These ambers are formed from resins with a sesquiterpenoid base, such as cadinene.


Class III

These ambers are polystyrenes.


Class IV

Class IV is something of a Wastebasket taxon, catch-all: its ambers are not polymerized, but mainly consist of cedrene-based sesquiterpenoids.


Class V

Class V resins are considered to be produced by a pine or pine relative. They comprise a mixture of diterpinoid resins and ''n''-alkyl compounds. Their main variety is ''Copaline, Highgate copalite''.


Geological record

The oldest amber recovered dates to the Carboniferous, Upper Carboniferous period (). Its chemical composition makes it difficult to match the amber to its producers – it is most similar to the resins produced by flowering plants; however, there are no flowering plant fossils known from before the Cretaceous, and they were not common until the Late Cretaceous. Amber becomes abundant long after the Carboniferous, in the Early Cretaceous, , when it is found in association with Prehistoric insects, insects. The oldest amber with arthropod inclusions comes from the Late Triassic (late Carnian c. 230 Ma) of Italy, where two microscopic (0.2-0.1 mm) mites, ''Triasacarus'' and ''Ampezzoa'' and a poorly preserved nematoceran fly were found in mm sized droplets of amber. The oldest amber with significant numbers of arthropod inclusions comes from Lebanon. This amber, referred to as Lebanese amber, is roughly 125–135 million years old, is considered of high scientific value, providing evidence of some of the oldest sampled ecosystems.Poinar, P.O., Jr., and R.K. Milki (2001) ''Lebanese Amber: The Oldest Insect Ecosystem in Fossilized Resin.'' Oregon State University Press, Corvallis. . In Lebanon, more than 450 outcrops of Lower Cretaceous amber were discovered by Dany Azar, a Lebanese paleontologist and entomologist. Among these outcrops, 20 have yielded biological inclusions comprising the oldest representatives of several recent families of terrestrial arthropods. Even older, Jurassic amber has been found recently in Lebanon as well. Many remarkable insects and spiders were recently discovered in the amber of Jordan including the oldest zorapterans, Cleridae, clerid beetles, Umenocoleidae, umenocoleid cockroach, roaches, and achiliid planthoppers. The most important amber from the Cretaceous is the Burmese amber from the Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, and the only commercially exploited Cretaceous amber. Uranium–lead dating of zircon crystals associated with the deposit have given an estimated depositional age of approximately 99 Ma. Over 1300 species have been described from the amber, with over 300 in 2019 alone. Baltic amber or succinite (historically documented as Prussian amber) is found as irregular Nodule (geology), nodules in marine Glauconite, glauconitic sand, known as ''blue earth'', occurring in Upper Eocene strata of Sambia Peninsula, Sambia in Prussia (in historical sources also referred to as ''Glaesaria''). After 1945, this territory around
Königsberg Königsberg (, , ) was the name for the historic Prussian city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement ''Twangste'' by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusade ...

Königsberg
was turned into
Kaliningrad Oblast Kaliningrad Oblast (russian: Калинингра́дская о́бласть, translit=Kaliningradskaya oblast') is the westernmost federal subjects of Russia, federal subject of Russia. It is a Enclave and exclave, semi-exclave, and is situ ...

Kaliningrad Oblast
, Russia, where amber is now systematically mined. It appears, however, to have been partly derived from older Eocene deposits and it occurs also as a derivative phase in later formations, such as glacial drift. Relics of an abundant flora occur as inclusions trapped within the amber while the resin was yet fresh, suggesting relations with the flora of Eastern Asia and the southern part of North America. Heinrich Göppert named the common amber-yielding pine of the Baltic forests ''Pinites succiniter'', but as the wood does not seem to differ from that of the existing genus it has been also called ''Pinus succinifera''. It is improbable, however, that the production of amber was limited to a single species; and indeed a large number of conifers belonging to different genera are represented in the amber-flora.


Paleontological significance

Amber is a unique Fossil, preservational mode, preserving otherwise unfossilizable parts of organisms; as such it is helpful in the reconstruction of ecosystems as well as organisms; the chemical composition of the resin, however, is of limited utility in reconstructing the phylogenetic affinity of the resin producer. Amber sometimes contains animals or plant matter that became caught in the resin as it was secreted. Insects, spiders and even their webs, annelids, frogs, crustaceans,
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typ ...

bacteria
and amoebae, marine microfossils, wood, flowers and fruit, hair, feathers and other small organisms have been recovered in Cretaceous ambers (deposited c. ). The preservation of prehistoric organisms in amber forms a key plot point in Michael Crichton's 1990 novel ''Jurassic Park (novel), Jurassic Park'' and the Jurassic Park (film), 1993 movie adaptation by Steven Spielberg. In the story, scientists are able to extract the preserved blood of dinosaurs from prehistoric mosquitoes trapped in amber, from which they genetically clone living dinosaurs. Scientifically this is as yet impossible, since no amber with fossilized mosquitoes has ever yielded preserved blood. Amber is, however, conducive to preserving DNA, since it dehydrates and thus stabilizes organisms trapped inside. One projection in 1999 estimated that DNA trapped in amber could last up to 100 million years, far beyond most estimates of around 1 million years in the most ideal conditions, although a later 2013 study was unable to extract DNA from insects trapped in much more recent Holocene
copal Copal is a name given to tree resin In polymer chemistry and materials science, resin is a solid or highly Viscosity, viscous substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically convertible into polymers. Resins are usually mixtures of ...

copal
.


Use

Amber has been used since prehistory (Solutrean) in the manufacture of jewelry and ornaments, and also in
folk medicine Traditional medicine (also known as indigenous or folk medicine) comprises medical aspects of traditional knowledge Traditional knowledge, indigenous knowledge and local knowledge generally refer to knowledge systems embedded in the cultura ...
.


Jewelry

Amber has been used as jewelry since the Stone Age, from 13,000 years ago. Amber ornaments have been found in
Mycenae Mycenae ( ; grc, Μυκῆναι or , ''Mykē̂nai'' or ''Mykḗnē'') is an archaeological site near Mykines, Greece, Mykines in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese, Greece. It is located about south-west of Athens; north of Argos, Peloponne ...

Mycenae
an tombs and elsewhere across Europe. To this day it is used in the manufacture of smoking and glassblowing mouthpieces. Amber's place in culture and tradition lends it a tourism value; Palanga Amber Museum is dedicated to the fossilized resin.


Historic medicinal uses

Amber has long been used in
folk medicine Traditional medicine (also known as indigenous or folk medicine) comprises medical aspects of traditional knowledge Traditional knowledge, indigenous knowledge and local knowledge generally refer to knowledge systems embedded in the cultura ...
for its purported healing properties. Amber and extracts were used from the time of Hippocrates in ancient Greece for a wide variety of treatments through the Middle Ages and up until the early twentieth century. Traditional Chinese medicine uses amber to "tranquilize the mind".


With children

Amber necklaces are a traditional European remedy for Baby colic, colic or Teething, teething pain due to the purported analgesic properties of succinic acid, although there is no evidence that this is an effective remedy or delivery method. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration, FDA have warned strongly against their use, as they present both a choking and a strangulation hazard.


Scent of amber and amber perfumery

In ancient China, it was customary to burn amber during large festivities. If amber is heated under the right conditions, oil of amber is produced, and in past times this was combined carefully with nitric acid to create "artificial musk" – a resin with a peculiar musky odor.. Although when burned, amber does give off a characteristic "pinewood" fragrance, modern products, such as perfume, do not normally use actual amber due to the fact that fossilized amber produces very little scent. In perfumery, scents referred to as "amber" are often created and patented to emulate the opulent golden warmth of the fossil. The modern name for amber is thought to come from the Arabic language, Arabic word, ambar, meaning
ambergris Ambergris ( or , la, ambra grisea, fro, ambre gris), ''ambergrease'', or ''grey amber'', is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of sperm whale #REDIRECT Sperm whale#REDIRECT Spe ...

ambergris
. Ambergris is the waxy aromatic substance created in the intestines of
sperm whale #REDIRECT Sperm whale #REDIRECT Sperm whale#REDIRECT Sperm whale The sperm whale or cachalot (''Physeter macrocephalus'') is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator Predation is a biological interaction where ...

sperm whale
s and was used in making perfumes both in ancient times as well as modern. The scent of amber was originally derived from emulating the scent of ambergris and/or the plant resin labdanum, but due to the endangered species status of the sperm whale the scent of amber is now largely derived from labdanum. The term "amber" is loosely used to describe a scent that is warm, musky, rich and honey-like, and also somewhat earthy. It can be synthetically created or derived from natural resins. When derived from natural resins it is most often created out of labdanum. Benzoin (organic compound), Benzoin is usually part of the recipe. Vanilla and cloves are sometimes used to enhance the aroma. "Amber" perfumes may be created using combinations of labdanum, benzoin resin,
copal Copal is a name given to tree resin In polymer chemistry and materials science, resin is a solid or highly Viscosity, viscous substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically convertible into polymers. Resins are usually mixtures of ...

copal
(itself a type of tree resin used in incense manufacture), vanilla, Dammara resin and/or synthetic materials.


Imitation


Imitation made in natural resins

Young resins, these are used as imitations: * Kauri resin from ''Agathis australis'' trees in New Zealand. * The
copal Copal is a name given to tree resin In polymer chemistry and materials science, resin is a solid or highly Viscosity, viscous substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically convertible into polymers. Resins are usually mixtures of ...

copal
s (subfossil resins). The African and American (Colombia) copals from ''Fabaceae, Leguminosae'' trees family (genus '' Hymenaea''). Dominican amber, Amber of the Dominican or Mexican type (#Class I, Class I of fossil resins). Copals from Manilia (Indonesia) and from New Zealand from trees of the genus ''
Agathis ''Agathis'', commonly known as kauri or dammara, is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such class ...
'' (family Araucariaceae) * Other fossil resins: burmite in Burma, rumenite in Romania, simetite in Sicilia. * Other natural resins — cellulose or chitin, etc.


Imitations made of plastics

Plastics, these are used as imitations: * Stained glass (inorganic material) and other Ceramic, ceramic materials * Celluloid * Nitrocellulose, Cellulose nitrate (first obtained in 1833) — a product of treatment of cellulose with nitration mixture. * Acetylcellulose (not in the use at present) * Galalith or "artificial horn" (condensation product of casein and formaldehyde), other trade names: Alladinite, Erinoid, Lactoid. * Casein — a conjugated protein forming from the casein precursor – caseinogen. * Resolane (phenolic resins or phenoplasts, not in the use at present) * Bakelite resine (resol, phenolic resins), product from Africa are known under the misleading name "African amber". * Urea, Carbamide resins — Melamine resin, melamine, formaldehyde and urea-formaldehyde resins. * Epoxy Phenol formaldehyde resin, novolac (phenolic resins), unofficial name "antique amber", not in the use at present * Polyesters (Polish amber imitation) with styrene. For example, unsaturated polyester resins (polymals) are produced by Chemical Industrial Works "Organika" in Sarzyna, Poland; estomal are produced by Laminopol firm. Polybern or sticked amber is artificial resins the curled chips are obtained, whereas in the case of amber – small scraps. "African amber" (polyester, synacryl is then probably other name of the same resine) are produced by Reichhold firm; Styresol trade mark or alkid resin (used in Russia, Reichhold, Inc. patent, 1948. * Polyethylene * Epoxy resins * Polystyrene and polystyrene-like polymers (vinyl polymers). * The Acrylic resin, resins of acrylic type (vinyl polymers), especially Poly(methyl methacrylate), polymethyl methacrylate PMMA (trade mark Plexiglass, metaplex).


See also

* Ammolite * List of types of amber * Pearl * Poly(methyl methacrylate)#Acrylate resin casting, Poly(methyl methacrylate) * Precious coral


References

*


Bibliography

* * *


External links


Farlang many full text historical references on Amber
Theophrastus Theophrastus (; grc-gre, Θεόφραστος ; c. 371c. 287 BC), a Greek native of Eresos Eresos (; el, Ερεσός; grc, Ἔρεσος) and its twin beach village Skala Eresou are located in the southwest part of the Greek island of Le ...

Theophrastus
, George Frederick Kunz, and special on
Baltic amber , Poland. The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite. It dates from 44 million years ago (during the Eocene epoch). It has been estimated that these forests created more than 100,000 tons of ...

Baltic amber
.
IPS Publications on amber inclusions
International Paleoentomological Society: Scientific Articles on amber and its inclusions
Webmineral on Amber
Physical properties and mineralogical information

Image and locality information on amber

40 million year old extinct bee in Dominican amber {{Authority control Amber, Fossil resins Amorphous solids Traditional medicine