Information on Amber

by Manisha G

amber-stoneMillion years ago barks of trees in the forests of some parts of the world began to seep globs of sticky resin. This aromatic resin oozed down the sides of trees, as well as filling internal fissures, trapping debris, such as seeds, leaves, feathers and insects. As geologic time progressed the forests were buried and the resin hardened into a soft, warm, golden gem, known as amber. Amber is the fossilized resin of ancient trees which forms through a natural polymerization of the original organic compounds. Most of the world’s amber is in the range of 30-90 million years old.

Amber is known to mineralogists as succinite, from the Latin succinum, which means amber. Heating amber will soften it and eventually it will burn, a fact that has given rise to the name of bernstein, by which the Germans know amber. Rubbing amber with a cloth will make it electric, attracting bits of paper, may be for that reason the Greek called amber “elektrum”. Amber is a poor conductor of heat and feels warm to the touch. The modern name for amber is thought to come from the Arabic word, amber, meaning ambergris. Ambergris is the waxy sweet smelling substance formed in the intestines of sperm whales and used to make perfumes. Ambergris and amber are only related by the fact that both wash up on beaches.

Geologists and paleontologists are interested in amber because it is a fossil, evidence of prehistoric life. Archeologists look at trade routes and the barter view of amber. Organic chemists investigate the physical and chemical properties. Botanists and entomologists examine the botani­cal sources of amber and embalmed insects and debris. Poets, writers and artists look to amber for sunny inspirations and jewellers desires amber for its ornamental value. Curators and conservationists preserve and archive amber. Gemmologists love amber for it’s rarest of the rare inclu­sions, entrapped billions of years ago and also for the en­chanting beauty and rarity of the fossilized form of the resin.

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