An Eco-sustainable World
Ecological Glossary



The term amber refers to a fossil resin of various extinct conifers, containing succinic acid.
Amber is ultimately a resin originating from the secretions of plants belonging to extinct species, which has undergone a process of fossilization. It is therefore a material of organic origin and composition.
Amber varies in color from light yellow to dark yellow tending to red or brown, it may have inclusions of gaseous bubbles, small insects, etc. and some varieties are fluorescent.
The term amber comes from the Arabic anbar and has been used since ancient times for ornaments, amulets, small objects of use.
The name anbar, initially, meant a waxy substance produced by the stomach of the sperm whale, which has no affinity with amber other than weight. The Greeks, on the other hand, called it electron (from where the term electricity derives) for the property of accumulating static electricity by means of rubbing. Thales of Miletus in 600 BC he realized that by rubbing a piece of amber against a woolen cloth it acquired the property of attracting tiny pieces of cloth to itself.
The largest amber sample was mined in Sweden and weighs around 10.5 kg.
Amber is found mainly along the Baltic coasts.

Genesis –
Amber originates, as mentioned, from plants dating back to remote geological eras.
The first traces of resin-producing plants (ancestors of today’s conifers) date back to the Mesozoic about 250 million years ago.
The resin, once deposited on the ground, begins to fossilize through a polymerization process, which consists in the union of small molecules, called monomers in a single “macromolecule” called polymer. This process gives the resin physical and chemical characteristics that are very different from the original resin.
The semi-fossil resin, which has therefore not reached complete polymerization, is indicated by the name of Copal.
From in-depth studies it has been ascertained that the complete fossilization of the substance occurs after at least 5 million years.

Chemical composition –
The chemical composition of amber is complex and variable, however it is a complex mixture of organic compounds such as terpenoids, acids and alcohols. In general, the chemical composition consists on average of Carbon (78.8-78.6%), Hydrogen (10.5-10.2%), Oxygen (11-10.5) and a minimum percentage of Sulfur.

Extraction –
Amber is found and extracted in some particular deposits. The main deposits known today are:
– Baltic regions. Baltic Amber is also called Succinite as it contains 3% to 8% succinic acid. It is rarely transparent due to the presence of numerous gas bubbles. It comes in the colors: yellow, orange-brown, red-brown, rare yellow-green. Beautiful pieces of Amber are found along the coasts of the Samland Peninsula, near Kaliningrad in Russia and in the Palmniken quarries where it is extracted from a layer of glauconite sand (Blue Earth). Age: 35-40 million years.
– Santo Domingo. It is more recent than Baltic amber (15-25 million years) and is also more tender. It does not contain succinic acid. Colors: yellow, brownish yellow, red (by superficial oxidation), red-brown, often has a blue-green color due to fluorescence.
– Mexico (Chiapas). The pieces of amber are often transparent with colors ranging from yellow to brownish yellow, rarely red-brown. Mexican amber can also appear blue-green due to fluorescence. The age ranges from 23 to 26 million years.
– Burma. It is also called Burmite. Contains succinic acid and has a higher hardness than other types of amber. It is generally red-brown in color with frequent white inclusions of calcite. Age 45 million years.
– Sicily. It was found along the banks of the Simeto river and therefore called Simetite. It has an extraordinary red-purplish color but sometimes also red-brown or red-orange. Sicilian amber dates back about 20 million years.
Inclusions –
During the formation phase of this resin, particles of plants or animals may have incorporated, if not, in some cases, entire organisms.
The inclusions, especially if clearly visible, make amber one of the most fascinating and appreciated gems; they were a very important element for the study of the living organisms that populated the prehistoric forests. They are due to the fact that the resin during the deposition on the ground has captured animals (insects, arachnids, small reptiles and their traces), plants (leaves, flowers, pollen) preserving them from decomposition and in some cases preserving them in a surprising way.
Not all inclusions of Amber are of organic origin, in fact you can also find perfectly cubic crystals of Pyrite, clearly formed later.

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