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What is Amber?

What is Amber?

Simply put... Amber is tree resin that has hardened over millions of years. It is not tree sap.


Millions of years ago... 65 to 120 million years ago to be more exact, in the area now called Myanmar, there were large stands of forests containing a now extinct tree, Araucariaceae, also known as araucarians. It is a family of gymnosperms related to present day kauri pines and monkey puzzle trees as described by Lambert and Wu. Sticky globs of aromatic resin flowed down the sides of the trees, filling internal cracks, fissures, and hollows, trapping debris, seeds, leaves, animals, lizards, feathers and insects. As time went on, the forests were buried, the trees and surrounding vegetation rotted, but the resin remained and hardened into the warm, golden gem we now know as amber.


Amber is known to mineralogists as succinite, from the Latin succinum, which means amber. The amber forms through a natural polymerization process from the original organic compounds. Heating amber will soften and melt it. Amber will burn. Rubbing amber with a cloth will give it a static charge of electrons. The Greek name for amber is elektron, or the origin of our word electricity. Amber feels warm to the touch because it is such a poor conductor of heat. Minerals on the other hand feel cool.


Geologists, botanists, entomologists, and paleontologists are interested in amber because of the fossil inclusions and evidence of prehistoric life. Gemologists and jewelers crave amber for its beauty and unique properties.

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