Amber is an organic gem. Organic gems are the products of living or once-living organisms and biological processes. Amber formed tens of millions of years ago, when sap from ancient trees hardened and fossilised.
Amber comes in a variety of colours. The most familiar ones are yellow to orange, while a reddish colour is rare. This group includes cloudy amber, reddish amber from Myanmar, amber with stress fractures, and pale, almost opaque, amber. - Alan Jobbins
Scientists and collectors treasure amber that contains suspended animal or plant fragments. These fossilised bits of once-living things were trapped in the hardening amber, creating a fascinating time capsule.
Some types of amber are found in the ground. Other types have been freed and carried by tides, ending up on beaches or near-shore areas. The Baltic coast bordering Germany, Poland and Russia is still an important source of amber.
Gas bubbles are very common amber inclusions. If there are a lot of them, they can give the material a cloudy appearance.
Amber is sometimes called the “gold of the north”. Its warm lustre is featured in beads, carvings, pendants and cabochons, as well as decorative items like cups, bowls, snuff boxes and umbrella handles.
A related material, called copal, is also fossilised tree resin, but it’s far younger than amber, at less than a million years old.
Like amber, copal is fossilised tree resin, but it is not as old. Amber must be over a million years old, while copal is younger—often around a hundred thousand years old.