Our Amber Story
The story of amber and
a very special specimen named Eve.
Why I love Myanmar Amber (otherwise known as Burmite or Burmese amber)
I can look at a diamond and certainly enjoy the light dancing across the facets. The sparkle that catches your eye is the dream that the marketing people at DeBeers have concocted for us to cherish and handsomely pay for this cold stone. Diamonds are forever the saying goes.
Oh how I digress!
Amber on the other hand has many virtues that diamonds just can't offer. Amber is far from being cold.
In fact, it is how amber feels in your hand that catches you off guard. Put amber in one hand and your choice of stone, plastic or glass in the other. You will immediately notice the amber has a warmth to it. It is smooth and has a pleasant feel much like skin lotion but without the mess. Touching it really becomes addictive.
I also need to point out that the feel of Burmite is unlike any other amber. The reason is that Burmite is at least twice the age of most other amber. Burmite is 99 million years old verses 30 to 40 million years old for many others. Burmite is one of the few ambers that can be faceted. It is less likely to crack or chip if knocked. Burmite also has wonderful inclusions that were around at the time of dinosaurs.
Amber comes in a variety of colors that offers you design choices for jewelry and collection interest. Yellow, many shades of brown and orange are the standard colors. Then there is the very rare red,
blue and green tea amber that are unique to Myanmar Burmite.
Smell is an often overlooked feature. Amber has a wonderful earthy pine smell that the locals will make into pillows. They will take small discarded pieces of amber, grind it up and stuff ribbed felt pillow cases. When you lay down on it, you will experience the wonderful smell as you drift off to sleep.
Amber is often noted for it's healing properties. You can find amber balm, amber soap and cream in the market.
What I really love about amber is the inclusions. The spiders, wasps, snails and lizards that make each piece unique.
In today's world, birds come in all sizes from hummingbirds all the way up to eagles with 6-foot wingspan. Insect sizes range from little mites to beetles the size of your hand. Shrew and bats make up the smallest mammal. The largest mammal is a whale.
Now take everything you know about the world around you and throw it out the window. Think about the following for a moment. Go back in time, let's say 200 years ago. There was no electricity, cars, planes or modern medicine. 2,000 years ago is ancient history. The Roman empire and the Han dynasty ruled. 200,000 years ago man was just coming onto the scene.
Meet the Inhabitants
2 million years ago is just plain hard to comprehend. We all have thought about what it would have been like to live during the time of the dinosaurs 65 to 140 million years ago. Certainly Jurassic Park has helped with that image. When we think about life 100 million years ago, huge dinosaurs, just like in Jurassic Park roamed around doing whatever they do.
There was an unimaginable jungle of plants we have never seen before. But we almost never stop to think about all the little things that went on 100 million years ago. So many species have died out millions of years ago only revealed itself through burmite amber. This is the real Jurassic Park as it truly existed, captured in amber.
Here are a few samples of inclusions from our museum
Imagine a tick, similar to today's ticks, sucking the blood of an animal. It finished feeding and fell off into some fresh tree resin. The tick was stuck and could not get out. The resin harden and was buried in time until one day, 100 million years later, a Myanmar miner dug it up from a pit 300 feet deep.
I now present to you a perfectly preserved fossilized insect specimen that quite possibly has actual dinosaur blood.
Tick (Acari) in amber
Now picture holding a specimen of a species that has yet to be described by any scientist. It may be the only known example or at least very, very rare. Then with a sense of awe, you start a Burmite
amber collection. Collecting Burmite amber is unlike most collection hobbies. It is like fossil rock collecting but now with a perfectly preserved specimen that comes with its own little protective case.
Your interests may be wasps so you start collecting every one of the 75,000 species you can find til you have them all. LOL
Are you starting to get the point? There is so much to learn!
As promised, let me tell you: The story of a very special piece of amber.
The journey begins in Yangon, Myanmar.
In the heart of the city is the famous Bogyoke Market offering beautiful handicrafts, gems and Jewelry.
The structure is old without much renovation. It has an ambience that modern malls lack. You just can't replicate the patina of years of wear and tear. If Bogyoke Market goes, so does the old world charm.
The alleys within are still lined with cobblestone dictated by the British when they ruled in the 1920s. In the middle of one of these cobblestone alleys are the gem traders. They sit and drink tea every afternoon and haggle over rubies, sapphire and spinel.
It is in this mass of confusion sit the Myitkyina ladies, as I like to call them where they offer their amber stones and jewelry. They are coming from far up north near the amber mines.
Myitkyina Ladies and Gem Traders
They buy rough, unprocessed amber from the miners, then cut, polish and make into jewelry. If they come across an insect or interesting inclusion, they are happy for the extra income it will bring.
Myanmar amber mines
So it was one afternoon as I was making my way through the crowded alley. A young woman comes up to me, offering a piece of amber, hoping for a quick sale. I am well known in the market. They know I am only interested in amber.
It was not a huge piece of amber, maybe the size of a bottle cap. I could see the inclusion well enough as the amber was very clear. Oh, a plant, I thought. But it was not very distinguishable. I was ready to dismiss it when she offered me a price that was a fair enough and I could always use it for jewelry. So I bought it. I did not even try bargaining with her. Sometimes it is better not to, often because people are more likely to wait until they see you and will show you their offerings first. I paid her and put the amber in my pocket.
It was when I got home, looked at it with a light and loupe, that I started to realize what it was.
Let's just say that scientists are starting to understand just how special the inclusions in Burmite are. How special?
Continue reading and I will reveal the secret inclusion at the end.
And why do I love my amber? My amber collection gives me hours of relaxation, wondering what I will discover next. I do research on an inclusion that I have no idea what it is. I can't wait to get new pieces, turn on my torch and look through my loupe.
My kids are also hooked and what a great way for them to learn about science. Studying amber has opened my eyes to to whole new world. Going on hikes or even just looking around the garden, I start looking for insects, all kinds of insects. Are the insects I see now, the same as a 100 million years ago?
I highly recommend that you start your own collection. You will forever be entertained and have the same love of amber as I do.
And what you have been waiting for... Eve... What is it?
The fact is... there has been no scientific research paper written on this type of inclusion. What Eve represents at this point, we can only speculate.
Could it be a dinosaur in amber?
Could it be a pterosaur in amber?
Could it be a microraptor in amber?
Could it be a proavis in amber?
Could it be a yet to be discovered new transitional species in amber?
Or could it actually be a plant?
Follow us as we study and research this piece of amber. Get the latest news. What better way to learn about amber and the science of paleontology.
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By The Director of
Myanmar Amber Museum