What is Amber?
Amber is an organic gem that is formed over two to ten million years. Amber begins as tree sap that merely collected over a point. Usually, these collection points on trees have small animals or bugs on them. So unlike mineral gems, the internal characteristics of amber are defined by impurities like insects, which are exceedingly common, as insects and small animals take refuge on trees, especially tree barks, which are adjacent to the pores that release tree resin in the first place.
How is Amber Made?
Amber represents the fossilization of organic matter (in this case, tree resin), which makes the amber harder than freshly exuded tree resin and other organic materials. Unbeknownst to many, amber is not the product of tree sap, but of the plant resin that is denser and more likely to survive the process of fossilization.
Many people are also curious as to how tree resin is capable of preserving small insects and small animals. The answer is in the resin itself: resin is impermeable and rejects moisture and air. When plant resin covers a small animal like a spider or a tiny scorpion, moisture and air are locked out, which allows for the near-perfect preservation of the small animals in an airtight environment throughout millions of years.
The small animals in amber are usually termed “odd inclusions,” and they make amber more appealing and charming to some people because minerals like rubies and sapphires, because they are made from geological activities, cannot have the same inclusions.
If a spider would be present while lava was experiencing so much pressure 90 miles beneath the earth, then that spider would likely turn to ash and be unrecognizable. The only things that can survive in such conditions would be the inorganic components of mineralization – the elemental components of minerals and crystals.
Amber resin is not homogenous. Despite the seemingly uniform appearance of resin, a single specimen may be comprised of several types of adhesive materials that can all be dissolved by alcohol. So keep this in mind when wearing amber jewelry; it is never okay for the amber resin to be exposed to household cleaners, perfumes, colognes, rubbing alcohol, and other stuff that we usually use on ourselves or around the house. Even mineral gems are susceptible to damage when exposed to such things because many crystals are porous or semi-porous and can absorb the solvents in personal care products and household cleaners.
Where is Amber Found?
Amber can be found anywhere in the world, but the most notable finds have been in countries like the United States in Wyoming, Russia, Venezuela, Burma, and Romania. Burmese amber is usually traded in China, where the amber is transformed into ornamental products and jewelry. For one, the Baltic region is known as the largest and most important location for harvesting amber resin. The amber harvested here is called succinite, or otherwise known as the Baltic amber. Baltic amber that has yet to be cut and polished has a characteristically reddish or orange hue that is a far cry from the golden amber appearance that we associate this organic gem to.
How Many Amber Types Are There?
Since amber is organic, you can expect a lot of variety in its appearance once it has been collected.
- Green amber – This accounts for just two percent of the annual harvest of amber around the world. It is one of the most sought-after kinds of amber around, and green amber is often made into jewelry for high-end design lines. The value of green amber depends on the depth and perfection of its color.
Lighter color variants will cost less, especially those specimens with a slightly yellow-green color instead of moss green, which is preferred by collectors and jewelry enthusiasts. Take note also that some manufacturing firms strategically heat another variant (yellow amber) to produce green amber, which is more in demand.
- Red amber – Red amber or cherry amber is just as rare as green amber. Raw amber beads are often pre-treated to enhance the natural red color of red amber. Historically, red amber was used as a setting on the rings of wealthy people or the nobility in antiquity.
- Blue amber – Blue amber is the rarest amber of all, and the total blue resin collection around the world is less than one percent of the whole. Usually, blue amber has to be exposed to light at a certain angle to reveal its natural blue shade. If the lighting is poor, you may see another color like yellow or brown. Again, the amber resin is comprised of different adhesive materials, so color saturation is sometimes going to vary.
- Black amber – Black amber is the second most of all amber resin types and accounts for fifteen percent of the global annual yield of natural resin. Black amber is thought to have occurred when amber combined with impurities like soil, which changes the natural color of the plant resins.
- Yellow amber – Yellow amber is the global favorite and the most common form of amber. Yellow amber can either have a golden appearance or brownish one, depending on the number of resins that produce the yellow appearance. The darkness or lightness of yellow amber will depend on the inclusions of gas bubbles in the resin. The higher the number of trapped gas bubbles, the lighter the glow of the yellow resin when struck by light.
What is Amber Value?
There are no fixed indices for amber, but the regional differences have always increased prices. Amber from the Dominican Republic and Russia are always priced more, with amber prayer beads cost $100 or more per item. Unlike mineral crystals, amber products are more affordable and are graded (value-wise) per item and not by a piece of amber.
Which is Amber is the Most Valuable?
The most valuable specimens of amber have highly visible insect inclusions, have lighter colors (which look beautiful with the presence of light), and a high level of clarity. Like mineral gems, organic gems like amber also need considerable clarity to be considered valuable to gem societies. Plant inclusions reduce the value of amber, even though they are valuable to the scientific community. The price of amber rises with its sizes, much like how diamonds and rubies are graded via carat weight. In terms of regional differences in price, Baltic amber or succinite takes the lead.