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Articles from GEMSTONES - LOOSE (254 Articles), GEMSTONES - SYNTHETIC (54 Articles), GEMSTONES - CHRYSOPRASE (40 Articles)

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The brilliant burn of amber

Amber is a fossilised resin containing succinic acid, volatile oil and hydrogen sulphide along with carbon and oxygen. It is not considered a mineral and is instead classified as a natural plastic.
The substance is formed from the sap of pine trees that grew approximately 30 to 90 million years ago. As a sticky liquid, amber dripped from these trees, trapping moss, leaves, seeds and pine needles as it did so. For this reason, much of the amber one sees today is impregnated with some sort of natural debris. The most prized amber specimen, however, is one that’s clear and envelops a single insect.

Amber is typically envisioned as a warm, honey-yellow colour. Surprisingly, amber is also available in a rainbow of colours. Blue and green shades are the most valuable.

The appearance of amber is graded in relation to its turbidity and hue. While hue refers to the colour of the stone, turbidity describes how clear the specimen is. The more clouded the amber, the more turbidity it has and the closer to white it appears. Air bubbles that become trapped in the amber as it sets are the causes of turbidity; the larger and more frequently occurring these bubbles are, the murkier the stone.

The name is said to have originated from the Arabic word ‘ambergris’, which refers to a  waxy substance formed as a lining in the intestines of sperm whales to protect them from stings from the animals they ingest.

Well entrenched in folklore, amber is believed to aid in many illnesses. When powdered and mixed with honey or rosewater, it was used to ease the symptoms of asthma, gout, ear infections and the Black Plague. Roman physicians believed that powdered amber could be ingested to improve eyesight. The stone was also said to aid urination, fasten loose teeth and induce childbirth. Pendants carved from the stone would preserve one’s chastity, and amber rosary beads were believed to ward off evil.

Despite its popularity, amber is very soft and brittle, with a rating of only 2.5 on Moh’s scale. This means that it should be treated with a degree of care. Wearers should ensure their amber jewellery does not come into contact with commercial jewellery-cleaning solutions, soaps, detergents, hairspray or perfume. This may cause a whitish coating on the stone that can be difficult to remove.

Amber should be separated from other jewellery and kept protected in a soft cloth to avoid chipping. Amber should never be placed in an ultrasonic machine for cleaning as the vibration will shatter the soft stone. Instead, it should be cleaned using a cloth dampened with warm water. To restore the shine to the stone, amber can be polished with olive oil.

fact sheet

Hardness: 2.5
Variety of: Resin
Found in: Myanmar, Sicily, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Canada, Dominican Republic and USA


Modern birthstone: Pearl, Moonstone,
Traditional Alexandrite
Mystical: Moonstone, Ayurvedic Pearl

Zodiac birthstones

Gemini: (May 21 – June 20) Citrine/Tiger’s Eye
Cancer: (June 21 – July 20) Emerald/Chrysoprase

Ellendale Diamonds Australia

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