WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AMBER
Million years ago large stands of forests in some parts of the world began to seep globs of sticky resin! This aromatic resin oozed down the sides of trees, as well as filling internal fissures, trapping debris, such as seeds, leaves, feathers and insects. As geologic time progressed the forests were buried and the resin hardened into a soft, warm, golden gem, known as amber
. Amber is the fossilized resin of ancient trees which forms through a natural polymerization of the original organic compounds. Most of the world's amber is in the range of 30-90 million years old
Amber is known to mineralogists as succinite, from the Latin succinum, which means amber. Heating amber will soften her and eventually she will burn
, a fact that has given rise to the name of bernstein, by which the Germans know amber. Rubbing amber with a cloth will make her electric!
, attracting bits of paper. The Greek name for amber is elektron, or the origin of our word electricity. Amber is a poor conductor of heat and feels warm to the touch
(minerals feel cool). The modern name for amber is thought to come from the Arabic word, amber, meaning ambergris. Ambergris is the waxy aromatic substance created in the intestines of sperm whales
. The substance is related to cholesterol and is formed to protect the sperm whale from the sharp beaks and stings of its major food source, the giant squid. Ambergris was used to make perfumes. Ambergris and amber are only related by the fact that both wash up on beaches.
Amber studies are truly interdisciplinary. Geologists and paleontologists are interested in amber because she is a fossil
, evidence of prehistoric life. Archeologists look at trade routes and the barter view of amber. Organic chemists investigate the physical and chemical properties. Botanists and entomologists examine the botanical sources of amber and embalmed insects and debris. Poets, writers, and artists look to amber for sunny inspirations
. Gemologists and jewelers desire amber for her beauty and rarity
. Curators and conservationists preserve and archive amber, as does a nice single malt whisky at the end of a busy day.
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