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Amber with Insect Inclusion

The Gemstone Amber

Amber is an organic gemstone, forming from the hardened resin of ancient pine trees. The hardening process of Amber is known as polymerization, which fossilizes the resin over many centuries and makes it hard and sturdy. Amber is formed from viscous, sticky resin, and therefore commonly contains inclusions that got stuck in the Amber and remained there when it hardened. These inclusions are usually of insects or plants, with the most well-known being mosquitoes. Amber with well-preserved organisms frozen internally are highly prized.

Chemical Formula Amber is composed of complex organic material without any definitive chemical formula. Its inherent substance can also vary depending on its origination.
Color Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Brown
Hardness 2 - 2.5
Crystal System Amorphous
Refractive Index 1.539 - 1.545
SG 1.0 - 1.1
Transparency Transparent to nearly opaque
Luster Resinous
Cleavage None


Amber is an ancient gemstone, and has been valued since early times. The most common color of Amber is the yellow-orange color known as amber. The color is very distinctive, and is named after the gemstone. Amber can also be a deeper orange-red color or a lighter yellow color. A blue-colored Amber known as Blue Amber is found in the Dominican Republic. This rare type of Amber has a unique blue tinge to it caused by fluorescence, and when observed directly through strong light it will have a more typical orange-yellow color.

Amber has a very low specific gravity, and is one of the lightest of gemstones. Although it will not float in water, it may float in saltwater which has a higher density. Baltic Amber is sometimes found with sand on the beach, having been washed ashore from the seabed, especially after storms.

Amber can be completely transparent, though most forms are cloudy and translucent. The cloudiness is usually caused by trapped air bubbles, which are very small and dense, but can cloud up the entire Amber. Amber with clearer transparency is more valuable than cloudy specimens. In general, Dominican Amber is usually more transparent than other Amber, and also frequently contains insect inclusions. Dominican Amber is also strongly fluorescent, both in longwave and shortwave.

Amber is very soft for a gemstone, and is not very durable. Aside from its tendency to easily scratch, it is adversely affected by chemicals and solutions, and should be kept away from alcohol, perfume, gasoline, acids, or any solvents. Amber will also burn if exposed to fire, and can crack under too much heat or pressure.

Amber is used in jewelry as cabochons and beads, and is used mostly for bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Oval shapes and teardrops are also frequently cut from Amber. It is not commonly faceted into gemstone cuts. Ornamental carvings are occasionally also cut from larger Amber pieces.

  • Amberoid  -   Synonym of Pressed Amber
  • Baltic Amber  -  Amber from the vicinity of the Baltic Sea, mainly near the coastline of Latvia, Lithuania, Russia (in Kaliningrad Oblast - an isolated Russian Province in the Baltics), and northern Poland. The world's largest Amber reserves exist in this area, and some of the material washes up directly from the Baltic Sea onto the shore.
  • Blue Amber  -   Rare form of Amber from the Dominican Republic (Dominican Amber) with a characteristic blue and yellow color that changes to all yellow when viewed directly into light.
  • Bony Amber  -  Cloudy, translucent Amber containing dense inclusions of bubbles throughout its interior.
  • Burmite  -   Amber originating from Burma (Myanmar).
  • Copal  -  Hardened resin that has partially gone through the polymerization process to harden it, but is not fully polymerized like Amber.
  • Dominican Amber  -   Amber from the Dominican Republic.
  • Pressed Amber  -  Larger pieces of Amber created by compressing resin pieces or small Amber fragments into a single mass at high temperatures.
  • Simetite  -   Amber from the island of Sicily, Italy.

Amber is generally natural, and not usually treated. However, some Amber gemstones are formed from fusing smaller Amber pieces together by heating and oiling them together. These stones are sometimes called Amberoid or Pressed Amber. The luster of some Amber pieces is sometimes enhanced with an oil bath or synthetic lubricant.

The world's largest Amber deposits are near the Baltic Sea in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, in the historical East Prussia. The nearby Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania are also important producers of Amber. Northern Poland, around the area of Gdansk, also along the Baltic Sea, is another important producer of Amber. Some of the Baltic Amber is extracted directly from the Baltic Sea, either washing up on shore or picked up from the ocean bed.

The Dominican Republic is another significant source of Amber. The enigmatic Blue Amber variety is mined in Santiago Province. Other sources of Amber are Germany, Italy (Sicily), Burma (Myanmar), Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. (Arkansas and New Jersey).

Amber can appear similar to Citrine, Topaz, Fluorite, Golden Beryl, and Grossular, though it is much softer than all these gemstones.

Amber PHOTOS [Click photos for more details]

Amber IN THE ROUGH PHOTOS [Click photos for more details]

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