Amber Properties

Properties of Amber

(FACTS AND MYTHS)

  • Amber is light, its density is comparable to that of sea water and amounts to between 0.96 and 1.096 g/cm3. It is a significant utility advantage, as big amber accessories, e.g. necklaces, pendants, earrings, can be produced and worn.
  • Amber is the only among fossil resins to contain 3–8% amber acid – a healing substance with multiple effects; the most can be found in the bark, that is in the outer surface.
  • Ambers flow in salt water, while in fresh water most of them drown.
  • Raw amber can be found in various non-accidental forms (e.g. drops, icicle-shaped forms, so-called streams) and lumps of different sizes, which are a testimony of its formation and dislocation.
  • Amber is characterized by great variety in color: from the most valued in the previous centuries white, through all the hues of yellow and brown to specific red. One can also encounter amber of bluish, greenish or even black color. One can differentiate between the original and secondary colors of amber.
  • Amber frequently contains organic inclusions: insects, arachnids, myriapoda, small amphibians, plant remains, sand grains and gas bubbles. They are a source of knowledge about the time when amber was created, the animals living close to tapping trees or those active during the period of tapping. An exceptional inclusion is a lizard in a lump of natural Baltic amber, the “Gierłowska lizard” in the Amber Museum in Gdańsk.
  • Value of amber generally depends the size of the lumps, but the most important is the rule known to amber craftsmen arguing about buying the material centuries ago, saying that “the lumps of equal weight do not have the same price, which depends on the clearness, transparence, rarity and color excellence.”
  • Lumps of amber are warmer than other stones and once they are rubbed, they attract specks of dry grass and small pieces of paper, as amber has the capacity of getting electric charge in this way. It charges negatively (beneficially for a human).
  • Lumps of amber set on fire burn with a yellow, bright flame, at the same time spreading a pleasant, resin scent.
  • Scratching the surface of an amber creates a light scratch and small chips.
  • Amber is subject to the process of weathering, which takes place both in the deposit as well as outside it after amber has been extracted. In the past amber was kept in brines in order to protect it from weathering. At present protective substances of synthetic wax, saturation with dammar resin or amber rosin in balsamic turpentine solutions are used.
  • Amber changes also due to the effects of daylight. Initially, its surface gets darker and amber loses its lucence and transparence. As the exposition continues, the surface becomes rough. The next stage entails creation of small cracks and fragments chipping off even with light movements and a loss of this surface.
  • Amber can be easily shaped: grinded, cut, sculpted, engraved; one can create intaglios and cameos.
  • Amber boiled in vegetable oil (almond or rape-seed oil) gets softer and it can be bent.
  • Rapidly heated up, amber cracks. It gets soft in the temperature of about 150°C and melts in about 300°C.
  • According to gemological and jeweler studies, amber is characterized by a greasy, waxen shine. After the processes of amendment amber has a glassy shine.
  • The refractive index in amber hovers from 1.539 to 1.542. Compare: for glass of which the first imitations of amber were made the index amounts to 1.420–1.960.
  • Examining and identifying amber is difficult, since it cannot be fully dissolved in any of currently known solvents. An effective and reliable process is absorptive spectroscopy in the IR, where the diagnostic indication is a characteristic segment of the curve, called the Baltic arm, which is created within the range of the 1,200–1,260 cm -1 strips.
  • Natural amber – not affected by any procedures, only grinded off its bark and polished – is alive, as the process of its internal changes is still on and thus it is beneficial for people.