Amber Gemstone Properties
Amber (pronounced am-bur) is 50-million-year-old, fossilized tree sap (resin) from prehistoric pine forests. The pine trees are thought to have released the sap as a defense against fungus and insect infestation. The molecules in the sap cross-linked, eventually forming the natural ''plastic'' we know today. Often times, amber will contain fossilized insects, mammalian hair and other organic matter. Pieces containing this material are generally considered more valuable than those without, especially when the entire organism is preserved.
Designing with Amber
Why limit this gem to jewelry?
Ignite amber's inner glow by making dangling sun catchers or valance fringe. For sun catchers, hang an amber drop for the base and, using clear Accu-Flex® Professional Quality Beading Wire, string an assortment of amber and other gems (such as amethyst, garnet, and peridot) onto the Accu-Flex®. Loop the top end and hang from a suction hook or lightly nail onto sill. For valance fringe, use white Nymo® beading thread to string 4mm faceted amber rounds in 2- to 3-inch strands. Hang amber teardrops of varying sizes at the base of the strand. Attach jump rings to the top of each strand. Pierce the valance with a large sewing needle and push the jump ring through the hole in the fabric. This faceted fringe will set your ordinary window ablaze in shimmering sunlight!
The Power of the Stone
Amber is thought to help absorb negative energy and to release bright, soothing energy, helping to calm nerves and enliven disposition. The different colors of amber are often used on the chakras with corresponding colors to facilitate opening and cleansing. Yellow amber has been used traditionally by natural healers to alleviate stomach and liver problems.
Amber has also been used, historically, as a talisman for courage and self-confidence, and was thought to bring good luck to warriors in battle. In some cultures, amber symbolizes the renewal of marriage vows and is used to assure promises.
Only 15% of the amber mined today is suitable for jewelry. The remainder is generally used to make ''amberoid,'' a natural-looking pressed form of amber. This material is welded at 284 - 482 degrees fahrenheit and 3000 atmospheres pressure into a substance that can be easily confused with natural amber.
To determine whether amber is natural or has been combined with resin stabilizers, place the gem in a glass of warm salt water. Natural amber will float, whereas synthesized amber will sink. Another technique for distinguishing between natural and synthesized amber is to heat the tip of a sewing needle until it is white hot. Then, insert the needle into the amber (preferably on the backside of the gem). If a pine scent emits, the amber is likely all-natural. Ambroid will emit an aroma of burning plastic.
The largest deposits of natural amber are along the coasts of Poland, Germany and Russia. Ancient rivers carried the resin deposits downstream from the forest regions to the seabeds, where it was buried under hundreds of feet of sand. Other sources of amber are located in Sicily, Romania, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and along the eastern coast of the United States.
Mineral Properties of Amber
|Chemical Composition: Fossilized Resin||C10H16O|
|Appearance||Light yellow to brown, red, nearly colorless, mostly white, blue, black, greenish|
|Hardness||2-2 1/2 (Moh's)|
|Specific Gravity||1.05-1.09 (maximum 1.30)|
To learn more about amber and other gemstones, order your copy of Walter Schumann's revised and expanded edition of GEMSTONES of the World.
For inspirational jewelry design ideas featuring amber, visit the Gallery of Designs.
For the most up-to-date fashion and color forecasts, visit Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® Fashion Spotlight.