Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Amber

(Amber image found on

Amber is a beautiful and well-loved stone.  It's classified as an 'organic gemstone' as it is essentially fossilized tree sap.  However, Amber is more than just hardened tree sap, the molecules in the sap resin also has to polymorize (bond together). This polymorization makes the fossilized sap resin a lot more durable and less soluble, so it will not become soft and sticky if gotten wet with alcohol, acetone, or gasoline (although you still should not get any of these on your Amber as it can still damage it). Amber has a hardness of only 2-2.5 so it is very soft and you do need to be careful with how you wear or clean your Amber jewelry.  Most often when you think of Amber, you think about the various shades of yellow, browns, and orange that you commonly see it in, however, Amber may also be green, dark red, purple, and even blue.  This is due to additional minerals that are present in the Amber causing it to turn colours other than its typical colouring.  Among the most collectable, and more valuable, are the pieces of Amber that have bugs or plant pieces (but particularly bugs or other creatures) inside of it.  However, when buying Amber with any object inside it you need to be extremely careful as there are a ton of fakes out there.  Often times and unscrupulous dealer will heat up the Amber until it softens and put the bug inside it and allow the Amber to re-harden, other times they've taken new sap, placed the object inside it, and made the piece harden, but this is not actually Amber at all as the polymorization has not occurred. Amber is really all over the map when it comes to value.  You can get nice pieces of it for only a couple of dollars per carat, while other pieces can be very expensive (I heard of one piece with a lizard trapped inside that sold for $75,000).  On average though you should expect to spend anywhere between $5-200 for Amber (again, prices vary greatly for Amber and be significantly higher than the average mentioned here). Amber is found in: Austria, the Baltic Sea, Burma(Myanmar), Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba), China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, England, Ukraine, and the U.S. (States of: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming).