Amber
Overview
 

Amber is fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

ized tree resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

 (not sap
Sap
Sap may refer to:* Plant sap, the fluid transported in xylem cells or phloem sieve tube elements of a plant* Sap , a village in the Dunajská Streda District of Slovakia...

), which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. 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.
Quotations

I feel the need to be naked with you. Take off my pants, my shirt, my socks and my shoes. I need to be naked with you.

"The Need to Be Naked", from Naked (2002).

Your hair shines like gold, says my child. You are pretty old, says my child. And I think to myself how I used to be. There's another wrinkle that I see. Then he takes my hand and smiles at me.

"The Smile of My Child", Naked (2002).

You entered my aura and fell into my arms. I just wrapped around you like a snake that's been charmed.

"You Move Me", My Kind of World (2004).

It's the way that you kiss, the way that you give back, The way you love me like this -- look at the beauty of that. These are the tangled words of our love, that we both do untie -- Same old ways, same old spice, same old paradise.

"Same Old Paradise", My Kind of World (2004).

Ooh, little boy, in between changing fathers. Little girl has to live without Mother. They don't understand why they seem not to need them, Although all they need is a loving hand.

"More Time for a Child" (written by Amber's sister, Anne-Fleur Cremers), My Kind of World (2004). Category:Living people Category:Musicians

Encyclopedia

Amber is fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

ized tree resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

 (not sap
Sap
Sap may refer to:* Plant sap, the fluid transported in xylem cells or phloem sieve tube elements of a plant* Sap , a village in the Dunajská Streda District of Slovakia...

), which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. 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 coal seams.

History and etymology

The English word amber derives from the Arabic anbar, via Medieval Latin ambar and Old French ambre. The word originally referred to a precious oil derived from the Sperm whale
Sperm Whale
The sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, is a marine mammal species, order Cetacea, a toothed whale having the largest brain of any animal. The name comes from the milky-white waxy substance, spermaceti, found in the animal's head. The sperm whale is the only living member of genus Physeter...

 (now called ambergris
Ambergris
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales....

). The sense was extended to fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

 circa 1400, and this became the main sense as the use of ambergris waned. The two substances were confused because they both were found washed up on beaches. Ambergris is less dense than water and floats; whereas amber is less dense than stone, but too dense to float. The word "ambar" was brought to Europe by the Crusaders. In French "ambre gris" was then distinguished from "ambre jaune": ambre gris (gray amber) was ambergris
Ambergris
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales....

; ambre jaune (yellow amber) was the fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

 we now call amber.

Amber is discussed by Theophrastus
Theophrastus
Theophrastus , a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age, and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle. Aristotle bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings, and...

, possibly the first historical mention of the material, in the 4th century BC. The Greek name for amber was ηλεκτρον (electron) and was connected to the Sun God, one of whose titles was Elector or the Awakener. The modern terms "electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

" and "electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

" derive from the Greek word for amber and come from William Gilbert's research showing that amber could attract other substances. The word "electron" was coined in 1891 by the Irish physicist George Stoney
George Johnstone Stoney
George Johnstone Stoney was an Irish physicist most famous for introducing the term electron as the "fundamental unit quantity of electricity"....

 whilst analyzing elementary charges for the first time.

The presence of insects in amber was noticed by Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 in his Naturalis Historia
Naturalis Historia
The Natural History is an encyclopedia published circa AD 77–79 by Pliny the Elder. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover the entire field of ancient knowledge, based on the best authorities available to Pliny...

, and led him to theorize correctly that, at some point, amber had to be in a liquid state to cover the bodies of insects. Hence he gave it the expressive name of succinum or gum-stone, a name that is still in use today to describe succinic acid
Succinic acid
Succinic acid is a dicarboxylic acid. Succinate plays a biochemical role in the citric acid cycle. The name derives from Latin succinum, meaning amber, from which the acid may be obtained....

 as well as succinite, a term given to a particular type of amber by James Dwight Dana
James Dwight Dana
James Dwight Dana was an American geologist, mineralogist and zoologist. He made pioneering studies of mountain-building, volcanic activity, and the origin and structure of continents and oceans around the world.-Early life and career:...

 (see below under Baltic Amber).

Heating amber will soften it and eventually it will burn, which is why in Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 the word for amber is a literal translation of burn-Stone (nl.
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 barnsteen, de.
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Bernstein, the latter of which the Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 word bursztyn derives from). Heated above 200°C, amber suffers decomposition, yielding an "oil of amber", and leaving a black residue which is known as "amber colophony", or "amber pitch"; when dissolved in oil of turpentine
Turpentine
Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene...

 or in linseed oil
Linseed oil
Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, is a clear to yellowish oil obtained from the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant . The oil is obtained by cold pressing, sometimes followed by solvent extraction...

 this forms "amber varnish" or "amber lac".

Amber from the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 has been extensively traded since antiquity and in the main land, from where amber was traded 2000 years ago, the natives called it glaes (referring to its see-through similarity to glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

).

The Baltic
Baltic languages
The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe...

 Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 term for amber is Gintaras and Latvian
Latvian language
Latvian is the official state language of Latvia. It is also sometimes referred to as Lettish. There are about 1.4 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad. The Latvian language has a relatively large number of non-native speakers, atypical for a small language...

 Dzintars. They and the Slavic
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

 jantar are thought to originate from Phoenician jainitar (sea-resin). However, while most Slavic languages, such as Russian and Czech, retain the old Slavic word, in the Polish language, despite still being correct, jantar is used very rarely (even considered archaic
Archaism
In language, an archaism is the use of a form of speech or writing that is no longer current. This can either be done deliberately or as part of a specific jargon or formula...

) and was replaced by the word bursztyn deriving from the German analogue.

Composition and formation

Amber is heterogeneous in composition, but consists of several resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

ous bodies more or less soluble in alcohol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, ether
Diethyl ether
Diethyl ether, also known as ethyl ether, simply ether, or ethoxyethane, is an organic compound in the ether class with the formula . It is a colorless, highly volatile flammable liquid with a characteristic odor...

 and chloroform
Chloroform
Chloroform is an organic compound with formula CHCl3. It is one of the four chloromethanes. The colorless, sweet-smelling, dense liquid is a trihalomethane, and is considered somewhat hazardous...

, associated with an insoluble bituminous substance. Amber is a macromolecule
Macromolecule
A macromolecule is a very large molecule commonly created by some form of polymerization. In biochemistry, the term is applied to the four conventional biopolymers , as well as non-polymeric molecules with large molecular mass such as macrocycles...

 by free radical polymerization
Radical polymerization
Free radical polymerization is a method of polymerization by which a polymer forms by the successive addition of free radical building blocks. Free radicals can be formed via a number of different mechanisms usually involving separate initiator molecules...

 of several precursors in the labdane
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...

 family, e.g. communic acid, cummunol, and biformene. These labdanes are diterpene
Diterpene
Diterpenes are a type of terpenes composed of four isoprene units. They derive from geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate. Diterpenes form the basis for biologically important compounds such as retinol, retinal, and phytol...

s (C20H32) and trienes, equipping the organic skeleton with three alkene
Alkene
In organic chemistry, an alkene, olefin, or olefine is an unsaturated chemical compound containing at least one carbon-to-carbon double bond...

 groups for polymerization
Polymerization
In polymer chemistry, polymerization is a process of reacting monomer molecules together in a chemical reaction to form three-dimensional networks or polymer chains...

. As amber matures over the years, more polymerization takes place as well as isomerization reactions, crosslinking
Cross-link
Cross-links are bonds that link one polymer chain to another. They can be covalent bonds or ionic bonds. "Polymer chains" can refer to synthetic polymers or natural polymers . When the term "cross-linking" is used in the synthetic polymer science field, it usually refers to the use of...

 and cyclization.

The average composition of amber leads to the general formula C
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

10H
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

16O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

.

Formation

Molecular polymerization, resulting from high pressures and temperatures produced by overlying sediment, transforms the resin first into copal
Copal
Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes...

. Sustained heat and pressure drives off terpenes and results in the formation of amber.

Botanical origin

Fossil resins from Europe fall into two categories, the famous Baltic ambers and another that resembles the Agathis
Agathis
The genus Agathis, commonly known as kauri or dammar, is a relatively small genus of 21 species of evergreen tree. The genus is part of the ancient Araucariaceae family of conifers, a group once widespread during the Jurassic period, but now largely restricted to the Southern Hemisphere except for...

 group. Fossil resins from the Americas and Africa are closely related to the modern genus Hymenaea
Hymenaea
Hymenaea L. is a genus in the flowering plant family Fabaceae . Of fourteen living species in the genus, all but one are native to the tropics of the Americas, with one additional species on the east coast of Africa. Some authors place the African species in a separate monotypic genus, Trachylobium...

,
while Baltic ambers are thought to be fossil resins from Sciadopityaceae
Sciadopitys
The Koyamaki , or Japanese Umbrella-pine, is a unique conifer endemic to Japan. It is the sole member of the family Sciadopityaceae and genus Sciadopitys, a living fossil with no close relatives, and known in the fossil record for about 230 million years.Its genus name comes from the Greek prefix...

 family plants that used to live in north Europe.

Inclusions

The abnormal development of resin has been called succinosis. Impurities are quite often present, especially when the resin dropped on to the ground, so that the material may be useless except for varnish-making, whence the impure amber is called firniss. Enclosures of pyrites may give a bluish color to amber. The so-called black amber is only a kind of jet
Jet (lignite)
Jet is a geological material and is considered to be a minor gemstone. Jet is not considered a true mineral, but rather a mineraloid as it has an organic origin, being derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure....

. Bony amber owes its cloudy opacity to minute bubbles in the interior of the resin.

In darkly clouded and even opaque amber, inclusions can be imaged using high-energy, high-contrast, high-resolution X-ray
X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

s.

Distribution and mining

Amber is globally distributed, mainly in rocks of Cretaceous age or younger.
Historically, the coast around Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

 in Prussia
Prussia (region)
Prussia is a historical region in Central Europe extending from the south-eastern coast of the Baltic Sea to the Masurian Lake District. It is now divided between Poland, Russia, and Lithuania...

 was the world's leading source of amber. About 90% of the world's extractable amber is still located in the Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

 of Russia on the Baltic Sea (which was previously Königsberg in Prussia, before World War II).

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, especially Dominican blue amber, is mined through bell pit
Bell pit
A bell pit is a primitive method of mining coal, iron ore or other minerals where the coal or ore lies near the surface.. A shaft is sunk to reach the mineral which is excavated by miners transported to the surface by a winch and removed by means of a bucket, much like a well. It gets its name...

ting, which is dangerous due to the risk of tunnel collapse.

Treatment

The Vienna amber factories, which use pale amber to manufacture pipes and other smoking tools, turn it on a lathe and polish it with whitening and water or with rotten stone
Rotten stone
Rotten stone, sometimes spelled as rottenstone, also known as tripoli, is fine powdered rock used as a polishing abrasive in woodworking. It is usually weathered limestone mixed with diatomaceous, amorphous, or crystalline silica...

 and oil. The final lustre 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
Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, is a clear to yellowish oil obtained from the dried ripe seeds of the flax plant . The oil is obtained by cold pressing, sometimes followed by solvent extraction...

, 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 "amberoid" 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
Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes...

 and kauri, as well as by celluloid
Celluloid
Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1862 and as Xylonite in 1869, before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is...

 and even glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

. 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 more uncommon colors include red amber (sometimes known as "cherry amber"), green amber, and even blue amber
Blue Amber
Blue amber is amber exhibiting a rare coloration. It is most commonly found in the amber mines in the mountain ranges around Santiago, Dominican Republic...

, which is rare and highly sought after.

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
Dominican amber is amber from the Dominican Republic. Resin from the extinct species Hymenaea protera is the source of Dominican amber and probably of most amber found in the tropics....

 is fluorescent, the rarest Dominican amber is blue amber
Blue Amber
Blue amber is amber exhibiting a rare coloration. It is most commonly found in the amber mines in the mountain ranges around Santiago, Dominican Republic...

. It turns blue in natural sunlight and any other partially or wholly ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 light source. In long-wave UV light it has a very strong reflection, almost white. Only about 100 kg 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. Terpenoid
Terpenoid
The terpenoids , sometimes called isoprenoids, are a large and diverse class of naturally occurring organic chemicals similar to terpenes, derived from five-carbon isoprene units assembled and modified in thousands of ways. Most are multicyclic structures that differ from one another not only in...

s, produced by conifers and angiosperms, consist of ring structures formed of isoprene
Isoprene
Isoprene , or 2-methyl-1,3-butadiene, is a common organic compound with the formula CH2=CCH=CH2. Under standard conditions it is a colorless liquid...

 (C5H8) units. Phenol
Phenol
Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, phenic acid, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5OH. It is a white crystalline solid. The molecule consists of a phenyl , bonded to a hydroxyl group. It is produced on a large scale as a precursor to many materials and useful compounds...

ic resins are today only produced by angiosperms, and tend to serve functional uses. The extinct medullosan
Medullosales
The Medullosales is an order of pteridospermous seed plants characterised by large radiospermic ovules with a vascularised nucellus, complex pollen-organs, stems and rachises with a dissected stele, and frond-like leaves. Their nearest still-living relatives are probably the cycads.Most...

s 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 classifications 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 utilise regular labdanoid diterpenes (e.g. communic acid, communol, biformenes), whilst Ic uses enantio labdanoids (ozic acid, ozol, enantio biformenes).

Ia

Includes Succinite (= 'normal' Baltic amber) and Glessite. Have a communic acid base. They also include much succinic acid.

Baltic amber
Baltic amber
The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite, with about 80% of the world's known amber found there. It dates from 44 million years ago...

 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
Carbonyl
In organic chemistry, a carbonyl group is a functional group composed of a carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom: C=O. It is common to several classes of organic compounds, as part of many larger functional groups....

 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
Succinic acid
Succinic acid is a dicarboxylic acid. Succinate plays a biochemical role in the citric acid cycle. The name derives from Latin succinum, meaning amber, from which the acid may be obtained....

.

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
Baltic amber
The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite, with about 80% of the world's known amber found there. It dates from 44 million years ago...

 by being mostly transparent and often containing a higher number of fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 inclusions. This has enabled the detailed reconstruction of the ecosystem of a long-vanished tropical forest. Resin from the extinct species Hymenaea protera
Hymenaea protera
Hymenaea protera is an extinct prehistoric leguminous tree, the probable ancestor of present-day Hymenaea species. Most neotropical ambers come from its fossilized resin, including the famous Dominican amber.H...

is the source of Dominican amber and probably of most amber found in the tropics. It is not "succinite" but "retinite
Retinite
Retinite is a general name applied to various resins, particularly those from beds of brown coal, which are near amber in appearance, but contain little or no succinic acid. It may conveniently serve as a generic name, since no two independent occurrences prove to be alike, and the indefinite...

".

Class II

These ambers are formed from resins with a sesquiterpenoid base, such as cadinene
Cadinene
Cadinene is the trivial chemical name of a number of isomeric hydrocarbons that occur in a wide variety of essential oil-producing plants. The name is derived from that of the Cade juniper , the wood of which yields an oil from which cadinene isomers were first isolated.Chemically, the cadinenes...

.

Class IV

This class is something of a wastebasket; its ambers are not polymerized, but mainly consist of cedrane-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 type mineral is highgate copalite.

Classification of Baltic amber (succinite) gemstones by the International Amber Association

  • Natural Baltic amber – gemstone which has undergone mechanical treatment only (for instance: grinding, cutting, turning or polishing) without any change to its natural properties

  • Modified Baltic amber – gemstone subjected only to thermal or high-pressure treatment, which changed its physical properties, including the degree of transparency and color, or shaped under similar conditions out of one nugget, previously cut to the required size.

  • Reconstructed (pressed) Baltic amber – gemstone made of Baltic amber pieces pressed in high temperature and under high pressure without additional components.

  • Bonded Baltic amber – gemstone consisting of two or more parts of natural, modified or reconstructed Baltic amber bonded together with the use of the smallest possible amount of a colorless binding agent necessary to join the pieces.

Geological record

The oldest amber recovered dates to the Upper Carboniferous
Carboniferous
The Carboniferous is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Devonian Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Permian Period, about 299.0 ± 0.8 Mya . The name is derived from the Latin word for coal, carbo. Carboniferous means "coal-bearing"...

 period . Its chemical composition makes it difficult to match the amber to its producers – it is most similar to the resins produced by flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s. Amber becomes abundant long afterwards, in the Early Cretaceous
Early Cretaceous
The Early Cretaceous or the Lower Cretaceous , is the earlier or lower of the two major divisions of the Cretaceous...

, , when it is found in association with insects. The oldest amber with arthropod inclusions comes from the Middle East from Lebanon and Jordan (Kaddumi, 2007; Azar, 2000). This amber is roughly 125–135 million years old and is considered of high scientific value. In Lebanon more than 450 outcrops of Lower Cretaceous amber have been recovered recently, among which about 20 outcrops have led to intensive biological inclusions comprising the oldest representatives of several recent families of terrestrial arthropods. Jurassic amber has been found recently in Lebanon as well. Many remarkable insects and spiders were recently discovered in the amber of Jordan (Kaddumi, 2007) including the oldest zorapterans, clerid beetles, umenocoleid roaches, and achiliid planthoppers.

Baltic amber or succinite (historically documented as Prussian amber) is found as irregular nodule
Nodule (geology)
A nodule in petrology or mineralogy is a secondary structure, generally spherical or irregularly rounded in shape. Nodules are typically solid replacement bodies of chert or iron oxides formed during diagenesis of a sedimentary rock...

s in marine glauconitic
Glauconite
Glauconite is an iron potassium phyllosilicate mineral of characteristic green color with very low weathering resistance and very friable.It crystallizes with a monoclinic geometry...

 sand, known as blue earth, occurring in the Lower Oligocene
Oligocene
The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 34 million to 23 million years before the present . As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the period are slightly...

 strata of Samland in Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 (Latin: Sambia
Sambia
Sambia or Samland is a peninsula in the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, on the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea. The Curonian Lagoon and the Vistula Lagoon demarcate the peninsula. Prior to 1945 it formed an important part of East Prussia.-Names:Sambia is named after the Sambians, an extinct...

), in historical sources also referred to as Glaesaria. After 1945 this territory around Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

 was turned into Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia situated on the Baltic coast. It has a population of The oblast forms the westernmost part of the Russian Federation, but it has no land connection to the rest of Russia. Since its creation it has been an exclave of the Russian SFSR and then the...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, where it is now systematically mined. It appears, however, to have been partly derived from yet earlier Tertiary
Tertiary
The Tertiary is a deprecated term for a geologic period 65 million to 2.6 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary...

 deposits (Eocene
Eocene
The Eocene Epoch, lasting from about 56 to 34 million years ago , is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the...

); 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
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and the southern part of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. Heinrich Göppert
Heinrich Göppert
' was a German botanist and paleontologist. He was born in Sprottau, Lower Silesia, and died at Breslau. In 1831 he became a professor of botany, as well as curator of the botanical gardens in Breslau...

 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 preservational mode, preserving otherwise unfossilizable parts of organisms; as such it is helpful in the reconstruction of ecosystems and organisms.

The chemical composition of the resin 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 their webs, annelids, frogs, crustaceans, bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 and amoebae, marine microfossils, wood, flowers and fruit, hair, feathers and other small organisms have been recovered in ambers dating to .

Use

Amber has been used since antiquity in the manufacture of jewelry and ornaments, and also in folk medicine
Folk medicine
-Description:Refers to healing practices and ideas of body physiology and health preservation known to a limited segment of the population in a culture, transmitted informally as general knowledge, and practiced or applied by anyone in the culture having prior experience.All cultures and societies...

. Amber also forms the flavoring for akvavit
Akvavit
Akvavit or aquavit is a traditional flavoured spirit that is principally produced in Scandinavia, where it has been produced since the 15th century....

 liquor. Amber has been used as an ingredient in perfumes.

Jewelry

Amber has been used since the stone age, from 13,000 years ago. Amber ornaments have been found in Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

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
Palanga Amber Museum
The Palanga Amber Museum , near the Baltic Sea in Palanga, Lithuania, is a branch of the Lithuanian Art Museum. It is housed in the restored 19th-century Tiškevičiai Palace and is surrounded by the Palanga Botanical Garden. The museum's collection of amber comprises about 28,000 pieces, of which...

 is dedicated to the mineral.

Historic medicinal uses

Amber has long been used in folk medicine
Folk medicine
-Description:Refers to healing practices and ideas of body physiology and health preservation known to a limited segment of the population in a culture, transmitted informally as general knowledge, and practiced or applied by anyone in the culture having prior experience.All cultures and societies...

 for its purported healing properties. Amber and extracts were used from the time of Hippocrates
Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

 in ancient Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 for a wide variety of treatments through the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and up until the early twentieth century.

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
Oil of amber
Oil of amber is a transparent, yellow oil, procured from succinic acid by increasing the heating temperature. It was produced by repeated distillation. It is very fluid and penetrative and was once used as an antihysteric and emmenagogue....

 is produced, and in past times this was combined carefully with nitric acid
Nitric acid
Nitric acid , also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre, is a highly corrosive and toxic strong acid.Colorless when pure, older samples tend to acquire a yellow cast due to the accumulation of oxides of nitrogen. If the solution contains more than 86% nitric acid, it is referred to as fuming...

 to create "artificial musk" – a resin with a peculiar musk
Musk
Musk is a class of aromatic substances commonly used as base notes in perfumery. They include glandular secretions from animals such as the musk deer, numerous plants emitting similar fragrances, and artificial substances with similar odors. Musk was a name originally given to a substance with a...

y odor. Although when burned, amber does give off a characteristic "pinewood" fragrance, modern products, such as perfume, do not normally use actual amber. This is 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 word, ambar, meaning ambergris
Ambergris
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales....

. Ambergris is the waxy aromatic substance created in the intestines of sperm whales 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
Ambergris
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull gray or blackish color produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or secreted by sperm whales....

 and/or labdanum
Labdanum
Labdanum is a sticky brown resin obtained from the shrubs Cistus ladanifer and Cistus creticus , species of rockrose. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine and as a perfume ingredient.-History:...

 but due to the endangered status of the sperm whale the scent of amber is now largely derived from labdanum
Labdanum
Labdanum is a sticky brown resin obtained from the shrubs Cistus ladanifer and Cistus creticus , species of rockrose. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine and as a perfume ingredient.-History:...

. The term “amber” is loosely used to describe a scent that is warm, musky, rich and honey-like, and also somewhat oriental and 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
Benzoin
Benzoin is an organic compound with the formula PhCHCPh. It is a hydroxy ketone attached to two phenyl groups. It appears as off-white crystals, with a light camphor-like odor. Benzoin is synthesized from benzaldehyde in the benzoin condensation...

 is usually part of the recipe. Vanilla
Vanilla
Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, Flat-leaved Vanilla . The word vanilla derives from the Spanish word "", little pod...

 and clove
Clove
Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisines all over the world...

s are sometimes used to enhance the aroma.

"Amber" perfumes may be created using combinations of labdanum
Labdanum
Labdanum is a sticky brown resin obtained from the shrubs Cistus ladanifer and Cistus creticus , species of rockrose. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine and as a perfume ingredient.-History:...

, benzoin resin
Benzoin resin
Benzoin resin or styrax resin is a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of several species of trees in the genus Styrax. It is used in perfumes, some kinds of incense, as a flavoring, and medicine . Its principal component is benzoic acid...

, copal
Copal
Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes...

 (itself a type of tree resin used in incense manufacture), vanilla
Vanilla
Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, Flat-leaved Vanilla . The word vanilla derives from the Spanish word "", little pod...

, Dammara resin and/or synthetic materials.

See also

  • List of types of amber
  • Ammolite
    Ammolite
    Ammolite is a rare and valuable opal-like organic gemstone found primarily along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains of North America. It is made of the fossilized shells of ammonites, which in turn are composed primarily of aragonite, the same mineral that makes up nacreous pearls...

  • Copal
    Copal
    Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes...

  • Oil of amber
    Oil of amber
    Oil of amber is a transparent, yellow oil, procured from succinic acid by increasing the heating temperature. It was produced by repeated distillation. It is very fluid and penetrative and was once used as an antihysteric and emmenagogue....

  • Amber Road
    Amber Road
    The Amber Road was an ancient trade route for the transfer of amber. As one of the waterways and ancient highways, for centuries the road led from Europe to Asia and back, and from northern Africa to the Baltic Sea....

  • Amber Room
    Amber Room
    The Amber Room in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg is a complete chamber decoration of amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors...

  • Pearl
    Pearl
    A pearl is a hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other...

  • Precious coral

External links

  • Farlang many full text historical references on Amber Theophrastus
    Theophrastus
    Theophrastus , a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age, and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle. Aristotle bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings, and...

    , George Frederick Kunz
    George Frederick Kunz
    George Frederick Kunz was an American mineralogist and mineral collector.- Overview :Kunz was born in New York City, USA, and began an interest in minerals at a very young age. By his teens, he had amassed a collection of over four thousand items, which he sold for four hundred dollars to the...

    , and special on Baltic amber
    Baltic amber
    The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite, with about 80% of the world's known amber found there. It dates from 44 million years ago...

    .
  • IPS Publications on amber inclusions International Paleoentomological Society: Scientific Articles on amber and its inclusions
  • Webmineral on Amber Physical properties and mineralogical information
  • Mindat Amber Image and locality information on amber
  • NY Times 40 million year old extinct bee in Dominican amber
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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