Amber

Big Photo

Poland
16.09 carats
© gemselect.com

Amber is the fossilized, hardened resin of trees, ranging in age from less than a million to more than 300 million years old. Tree resin, initially a sticky semi-liquid, first hardens by losing volatile components, which evaporate into the air over periods from a few days to a few years. This is followed by a second stage of hardening in which the resin molecules polymerize (link with each other to form larger molecules), a process which can take anywhere from several tens of thousands of years to millions of years. After polymerization the amber becomes insoluble (or much less soluble) in organic solvents like acetone, toluene, alcohol, or gasoline. Young tree resins (sometimes known as "copal") are often misleadingly marketed as "amber", or euphemistically as "young amber", but the term Amber should properly be limited to the ancient polymerized resins that do not become sticky again when a drop of organic solvent is applied. On the other hand, the most ancient ambers (early Cretaceous or older) tend to become too brittle to use in jewelry.

True amber of lapidary quality comes mainly from the Baltic region (principally Poland and Lithuania), with some production also in Mexico (Chiapas), the Dominican Republic, and Burma. Most so-called "amber" marketed from Colombia and Madagascar is much too young to qualify as true amber.

Amber is mostly drop or nodular shaped with a homogeneous structure, it has yellow and brown colour. Inclusions of insects or parts of plants are common.

Amber is an ancient biological gem material. One of the earliest examples of worked amber are beads from Gough’s cave in southern England, dated 11 000–9000 BC.

Amber Gemstones by Colour

This table shows the variety of hues this gemstone can be found in. Click on a photo for more information.
 
 
 
 
 

Amber Gemstones by Size

This table shows distribution of Amber gemstone sizes that are listed on this site. This can give a good indication as to the general availability of this gemstone in different sizes.
Contributed photos
Lightest:0.94 cts
Heaviest:32.57 cts
Average:8.95 cts
Total photos:35
Do you have a larger Amber? Why not upload a photo?
0.94ct to 4.10ct4.10ct to 7.27ct7.27ct to 10.43ct10.43ct to 13.59ct13.59ct to 16.76ct16.76ct to 19.92ct19.92ct to 23.08ct23.08ct to 26.24ct26.24ct to 29.41ct29.41ct to 32.57ct
Photos of natural/un-cut material from mindat.org
Amber Treatments
Heated in oil to improve clarity, disc-like fractures: "sun spangles". Heated in nitrogen-rich atmosphere to create a darker shallow surface coloration. At darker color, higher RI, lower and darker fluorescence: LW - inert to weak yellowish-orange to dark brownish-orange. Magnification: clouds of tiny gas bubbles below surface. Coloration may fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight. Green color may be created by heat-treatment in autoclave.
Reconstructed small amber pieces warmed and compressed together: immersion in alcohol reveals hazy outline and different hue of individual pieces, elongated and flattened gas bubbles. LW: strong patchy chalky blue - Blue Chart Gem Identification, Herve Nicolas Lazzarelli, 2010, p 7
Amber Simulants
Newly created resins (copal), other synthetic resins and yellow glass. Ambroid is made from smaller pieces of the genuine amber, which are welded at 140-250 degrees C (284-482 degrees F) and 3000 atmospheres pressure into a substance that is easily mistaken for natural amber. - Gemstones of the world, Walter Schumann, 2001, p 228
Physical Properties of Amber
Mohs Hardness2 to 2.5
Walter Schumann, Gemstones of the world (2001)
More from other references
Specific Gravity1.05 to 1.10
Herve Nicolas Lazzarelli, Blue Chart Gem Identification (2010)
More from other references
TenacityBrittle
Walter Schumann, Gemstones of the world (2001)
Cleavage QualityNone
Walter Schumann, Gemstones of the world (2001)
FractureConchoidal
Arthur Thomas, Gemstones (2009)
Optical Properties of Amber
Refractive Index1.539 to 1.545
Herve Nicolas Lazzarelli, Blue Chart Gem Identification (2010)
More from other references
Optical CharacterIsotropic
Ulrich Henn and Claudio C. Milisenda, Gemmological Tables (2004)
BirefringenceNone
Walter Schumann, Gemstones of the world (2001)
PleochroismAbsent
Walter Schumann, Gemstones of the world (2001)
ChatoyancyYes
Ulrich Henn and Claudio C. Milisenda, Gemmological Tables (2004)
Colour
Colour (General)Yellow, white, red, green, blue, brown, black
Ulrich Henn and Claudio C. Milisenda, Gemmological Tables (2004)
More from other references
Causes of ColourBlue to green, yellow to orange to red to brown, Fluorescence under visible light in Dominican amber; blue is due to light (Rayleigh) scattering in Baltic amber Charge-transfer processes in large organic molecules
W. William Hanneman, Pragmatic Spectroscopy For Gemologists (2011)
TransparencyTransparent,Translucent,Opaque
Ulrich Henn and Claudio C. Milisenda, Gemmological Tables (2004)
More from other references
LustreResinous
Arthur Thomas, Gemstones (2009)
Fluorescence & other light emissions
Fluorescence (General)Bluish-white to yellow-green
Walter Schumann, Gemstones of the world (2001)
More from other references
Fluorescence (Long-Wave UV)Common moderate to strong (chalky)-blue to yellow-(green)
Herve Nicolas Lazzarelli, Blue Chart Gem Identification (2010)
Crystallography of Amber
Crystal SystemAmorphous
Herve Nicolas Lazzarelli, Blue Chart Gem Identification (2010)
Inclusions in Amber
Flow lines, gas bubbles, small organisms, parts of plants trapped - Blue Chart Gem Identification, Herve Nicolas Lazzarelli, 2010, p 7
Insects and pieces of plants, bubbles, discoidal stress spangles with radiating lines - Gemmological Tables, Ulrich Henn and Claudio C. Milisenda, 2004, p 8
Further Information
Mineral information:Amber information at mindat.org
Significant Gem Localities
Baltic Sea
 
Dominican Republic
 
  • Santiago Province
Italy
 
Myanmar
 
  • Kachin State
    • Myitkyina District
Peru
 
  • Amazonas Department
Russia
 
  • North-Western Region
    • Kaliningradskaya Oblast'
      • Yantarny (Jantarny; Palmnicken)
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