Golden Time Capsule... Amber is a delicate, fossilized tree resin that often locks in secrets from the past. Amber is available in a wide array of colors, the most popular ranging from yellow to orange, mimicking the color of honey touched by the setting sun. Other less common colors include red, green, blue, violet and black. Ranging from transparent to opaque, the finest amber is clear with little or no cloudiness.
Amber is one of the few gem materials not technically considered a mineral. Formed from fossilized tree resins 10 million to 100 million years ago, it is classified as an organic gem. Unlike most gemstones, inclusions can add a great deal to the value of amber especially if these inclusions are plants or insects that have been trapped inside. A complete leaf or mushroom is highly desirable. Even more sought-after are pieces of amber containing the completely intact body of an insect. Being a gemstone of organic origins, amber requires some special but simple care and handling. Amber is a rather soft gemstone and can be easily scratched. It lends itself well to earrings and necklaces where contact with hard objects is minimized.
Throughout documented history amber has been washing up on the shores of countries lining the Baltic Sea. One of todays best sources for amber is the Dominican Republic. Secondary sources include Myanmar and Mexico.
Amber is sometimes heated to create deeper colors, or heated in oil to remove cloudiness. Oil-heated amber often contains highly reflective, disc-like inclusions called spangles.
A soft, damp cloth may be used for cleaning amber. Amber should never be submitted to steam or ultrasonic cleaning. Avoid alcohol, bleach and all harsh chemicals. Also avoid prolonged exposure to hot water. The safest and best way to clean a piece of jewelry containing amber is with cool water, a very mild soap and a soft brush. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and allow the amber to dry completely before storing the piece in your jewelry box. Store each piece separately so that other jewelry wont scratch it.
Photo: Robert Weldon, Copyright Professional Jeweler Magazine
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