*Baltic amber - the gold of the North*
Amber is neither a crystal nor a mineral. It is the hardened sap of an ancient tree. It started out as resin secreted to heal a wound. The resin protected the tree from a certain death by making a sticky, protective barrier against fungus. Resin has a similar function in the tree as does blood in humans. It contains nutrients that are vital for the health and longevity of the tree, including vitamins, minerals and sugars, and in some cases hormones and enzymes. When the tree eventually fell and began to decay, the sap remained. Buried under layers of vegetation, earth and, sometimes, water, the sap continued to harden from the pressure and heat that naturally builds up in such conditions. This fossilized resin is the final product of millions of years of slow processing.
In the dense forests of the Middle Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, between 10 and 100 million years ago, these resin-bearing trees fell and were carried by rivers to coastal regions. There, the trees and their resins became covered with sediment, and over millions of years the resin hardened into amber. Although many amber deposits remain in ocean residue, geological events often repositioned the amber elsewhere.
Amber can be found on the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The main producer of amber worldwide is Russia. In fact about 90% of the world’s available amber is located in the Kaliningrad region of Russia, which is located on the Baltic. Here, amber is washed up on the coast after being dislodged from the ocean floor by years of water and ocean currents. Amber can also be found in the forests of Ukraine. Ukranian amber, which is found within the marshy forest floor in the area surrounding the Volhyn-Polesie border, is prized for its wide range of tones and colors.
Amber is still widely used in jewelry and ornament today. Many jewelers who create stately designs enjoy working with amber because such large pieces are available. Furthermore, amber is significantly less expensive than gemstones. Because of the color range within amber, a necklace made of amber beads can include a stunning arrangement of tones and hues.
Word "amber" (the name is derived from the old Arabic word "anbar"), but greek "elektron", that`s the origin of the word electricity. If you rub amber on a cloth it becomes charged with negative electricity.
The Jurassic Park movie made Baltic amber famous. The book and the movie used the idea that amber containing an ancient mosquito might be the key to recreating dinosaurs. The basic goal was to remove blood from the gut of a mosquito that had fed on a dinosaur just before being trapped in tree resin which later became amber.
Amber is used to symbolise power, command and authority. It indicates that rewards come through the productive intellect and the harvest of creative faculties. Wearing amber, either as a stone or as a string of beads, brings victory despite competition and opposition. It counteracts the dangers of loss through law.
Amber jewelry has been made since before the time of Christ; and at the height of the Roman Empire amber was called "Gold of the North". For centuries Amber jewelry was worn only by nobility and not affordable to the masses. Because amber was ascribed many healing properties it came to be used medicinally in many cultures. As centuries passed, more and more of the masses could afford to own treasured amber jewelry. Even today it is thought that wearing amber jewelry will instill confidence in the wearer, balance a person's mood, and lessen depression and anxiety.
Amber is typically found not where it was formed, but where it was transported. In the past, Baltic amber tended to wash up on the shoreline after storms, mostly on the Samland (today's Kaliningrad) Peninsula.
In 1875 the first open pit amber mine was established at Palmnicken, and the million pound mark was reached in 1895. The extraction process had undergone complete mechanization by 1930, and the procedure has changed little since then. Conveyers dump earth containing amber into waiting freight cars, which then transport the earth to spray houses. Next, high-pressure hoses separate the "blue earth," the name which the Germans gave the amber-containing soil, from the amber.
A mineral is a naturally occurring homogeneous solid with a definite chemical composition and ordered crystalline structure. It is usually of an inorganic origin. Amber is not a mineral, because it has an organic origin and amorphous structure (no orderly internal arrangement of atoms).
Can vary greatly depending on the botanical source, though all have terpenes or compounds that are linked as the resin matures. It is thought that Baltic amber, or succinite, contains 3-8% succinic acid (succus is Latin for juice); succinic acid is believed to form from microorganism-induced fermentation of the cellulose contained in the resin. One composition of an amber variety is: oxygenated hydrocarbon (carbon 67-87%, hydrogen 8.5-11%, oxygen 15%, sulfur 0-0.46%). Although this composition was believed to be the hardened tree resin from the genus Pinus, chemical studies show these pines were not the source of Baltic amber.
The average composition of amber leads to the general formula C10H16O.
Hardness: 1-3. Burmese amber, or amber from Myanmar, is the hardest at 3 on the hardness scale; Baltic amber is usually in the range of 2-2.5; Dominican amber is the softest at 1-2. Geologically younger amber tends to be softer than amber that has been buried for a long time.
Ancient Germanic tribes such as the Goths, other Nordic peoples, Celts, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Chinese and other peoples valued amber for it's beauty, protection and healing properties. Amber was also called Electra, Bernstein or Northern Gold due to its electrical properties and golden color and was traded far and wide in the ancient world.