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Amber

Amber is nature’s time capsule. This fossilized tree resin contains remnants of life on earth millions of years ago.

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Insect Inclusion

This 93.87-gram piece contains a perfectly preserved cricket. It’s from GIA’s collection.

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Free Form

Amber pieces with inclusions are typically polished as free-form cabs.

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Distinctive Luster

Amber is soft and displays resinous to vitreous polish luster.

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Alaskan Beauty

This 8x6x4 cm chunk of Alaskan rough weighs 118.3 grams.

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Trapped in Time

This piece contains numerous insect inclusions, including a mosquito.

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Inclusions Add Value

Pieces with interesting inclusions fetch higher prices than those without.

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Tools

Overview

About Amber

The Greeks called amber elektron, or “made by the sun.” Homer praised its bright glow. The Egyptians buried it in tombs for the afterlife. Today’s scientists value amber too: it provides a three-dimensional window into prehistoric ecosystems through the myriad animal and plant inclusions it contains.

Amber Description

Amber History and Lore


Birthstones & Anniversaries

While amber isn’t a birthstone, it is associated with the astrological sign of Taurus.

320 million

The oldest amber dates to the Upper Carboniferous Period (approximately 320 million years ago).


6 Tons

The Amber Room, a 1716 gift presented to Russia’s Peter the Great, was made from six tons of amber.


Time Capsule

1,000 extinct animal species as well as various types of plant matter have been identified in amber.


Facts 1

  • Organic, not mineral: Fossilized resin
  • Chemistry: C10H16O
  • Color: Yellow, orange, and brown
  • Refractive index: 1.540
  • Specific gravity: 1.08
  • Mohs Hardness: 2.0 to 2.5

Treatments

There are a number of processes used to alter the color, apparent clarity, or improve the durability of gems.

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Synthetics

Some gemstones have synthetic counterparts that have essentially the same chemical, physical, and optical properties, but are grown by man in a laboratory.

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Imitations

Any gem can be imitated—sometimes by manmade materials or by natural materials chosen by man to impersonate a particular gem.

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gem love

Why We Love This Gemstone

1
Interesting Inclusions

With inclusions like insects, lizards, leaves, flowers, and feathers, amber helps scientists study ancient ecosystems.

2
Jurassic Gem

Although the movie Jurassic Park is fiction, scientists extracted DNA from insects enclosed in 120-million year old amber.

3
Fragrant

Amber smells good when you rub it. Although an oil made from burned amber was used in scents in ancient times, it isn’t used in perfume today.

Quality Factors

Assessment of the following characteristics determines amber’s value.

Color

quality factors

Amber comes in more colors than “amber.” Rare pieces can even be blue or green.

Clarity

quality factors

Amber with insect or plant inclusions is much more valuable than amber with none.

Cut

quality factors

Most amber is polished in free-form shapes, cabochons or beads.

Carat Weight

quality factors

Amber is surprisingly light: in fact, it will float in a saturated salt solution.

Amber Quality Factors: The Comprehensive Guide

Research

Explore sources, gemological research, and the role of gems in history.

Tropidogyne flower in amber

Inclusions in Burmese Amber

Victoria Raynaud, Vincent Pardieu, and Wim Vertriest , Aug 3, 2016 Read Article
Blue amber beads from the Dominican Republic

Color Phenomena of Blue Amber

Yan Liu, Guanghai Shi, and Shen Wang , Jul 25, 2014 Read Article
Four types of heated Baltic amber

Experimental Studies on the Heat Treatment of Baltic Amber

Yamei Wang, Mingxing Yang, and Yiping Yang , Jul 25, 2014 Read Article

Composite Amber with an Unusual Structure

Jie Liang, Haibo Li, Taijin Lu, Meidong Shen, and Jun Zhang , Jan 31, 2014 Read Article