Amber is a resin that has hardened over a very long time, and consists mainly of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, with traces of sulfur. The oldest amber recovered dates back to the Carboniferous period about 340 million years ago. Not until the early Cretaceous, about 150 million years ago, have amber deposits become more common due to larger numbers of plant fossils. The oldest amber found with arthropods originates from Lebanon and Jordan. This amber is about 125-135 million years old and is of high scientific value.
Archaeologists have found amber artifacts dating back to 13,000 BC. Amber has also been used as incense, and when you burn it, it gives off a sweet smell. The German word for amber is; Bernstein, which literally means burnt stone.
Amber is best known for its golden brown color, popularly called cognac amber. We also have other colors such as milky white, orange-red, and green. Transparent reddish amber is more valuable than golden brown. Strong fluorescent amber is rare and can give it a bluish tinge. This amber is most often found at mines in the mountain ranges around Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and is valued very highly.
The Baltic Sea region is the world's leading source of amber. Poland, Lithuania, and Russia are major producers of the stone. Amber is mainly extracted in mines, but due to its low specific gravity, it floats in saltwater. When weather and erosion release it into the sea, it often floats up on beaches, near or far.
What has made the amber world famous is its inclusions of insects and reptiles. Millions of years ago, when resin flowed out of trees and plants, it became a sticky trap for insects. Flowers, leaves, and pine needles are also typical inclusions, along with air bubbles. Insects that were trapped in amber were also the start of the film Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993. The film dealt with i.a. cloning of the DNA of dinosaurs found in the blood of prehistoric insects preserved in amber. The film generated a lot of interest in the stone. Amber that contains insects or plants is, as mentioned, of high scientific value.
You can often experience imitations of amber, and the most common imitation is made of plastic. It is also not uncommon for insects and other types of "natural" objects to be embedded in plastic to imitate amber. Glass is also used to mimic amber, but is less used due to its heaviness which makes it easily detectable. If you are unsure whether an item is real amber or plastic, you can find out for yourself by following these steps:
Take a glass/bowl of water and add regular table salt. Add enough salt until the salt no longer dissolves in the water. Pure water has a specific gravity of 1.0g / cm³. By adding the salt, a salt solution with a specific gravity of 1.30 g / cm³ has been created. Amber has a specific gravity of approximately 1.08g / cm³ and plastic has a specific gravity of approximately 1.50g / cm³. This means that genuine amber will float in the salt solution, whilst plastic will sink.
NB! The test may not work if the item tested contains an unnormal amount of inclusions, or is set in metal jewelry.