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Amber Facts, Myths, Lore and Healing Properties

Amber deposits have been found that range between 360 and one million years old and belong between the Carboniferous and Pleistocene geological periods.   As sticky resin oozed from ancient pine trees, small insects, plant material, feathers and other small objects in the path of the flow became entrapped.  Over time, the resin was encased in dirt and debris and through a process of heat and pressure it fossilized to become amber.  

Amber increases in value with the rarity and perfection of the entrapped object.  Complete insect specimens are rare though and command top price.

Copal, is also a tree resin that hasn't yet fully fossilized to amber. It can be up 3-4 million years old. Debate still rages in the UK about certain Kenyan deposits as to whether they should be called copal or amber.

Amber can range in color from dark brown to a light almost clear lemon yellow.  Most amber that has been used in jewelry is from the region of the Baltic Sea, although since large deposits of Dominican Republic amber were discovered it is used extensively.

Amber is very soft, between 2 1/2-3 on the Mohs' scale and can be scratched easily.  Bracelets and rings with amber cabochons should be worn with care to prevent marring the stone.  However, much of the amber used in commercial jewelry is  actually reconstituted which makes it harder and less prone to scratching;  this type of processed amber usually doesn't have natural inclusions.

There are many tests that can be performed to determine if the piece is natural amber or man-made. Of these, only the flotation test is recommended for the novice. Make a saturated solution of regular table salt and water and place the piece of amber in this mixture. If it floats, it is amber. If it sinks it is man-made (some natural copals will also sink and you would need to make more scientific tests to make a determination).

pieces of amber

Folklore:

Powers attributed to amber include love, strength, luck, healing, and protection, calming for hyperactivity and stressed nerves, finds humor and joy.  Amber was also believed to provide magicians and sorcerers with special enhanced powers.

 

Amber Jewelry and Cabochons

Jewelry made with amber.  A selection of freeform cabochons and rough available for custom jewelry design.

 

 

 

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November 27, 2002 2:41