History of Amber
Amber is a fossil resin which comes from trees that flourished along the shores of the Baltic Sea as long as 40 - 60 million years ago. Amber has achieved a stable state through the loss of volatile constituents and chemical change after having been burried in the ground.
Recent scientific studies indicate the probable existence of several resin producing coniferous trees that may account for the variations seen in the colour of amber. Amber is commonly yellow or honey coloured, but hues range from light yellow to dark brown and include lemon yellow, orange, reddish brown, greenish and almost white. Some are so pale that the amber seems colourless. Rare are white pieces with a slight yellow tinge but rarest are reddish, bluish and greenish hues.
Amber can be absolutely transparent or completely cloudy. It is brittle and breaks with a conchoidal fracture surface. The turbidity of some amber is caused by the inclusion of many minute air bubbles. Resin flowing downward entraps insects and plant pieces which are now of great interest to paleobotanists.
Amber has been worn as an amulet in Baltic as well as Mediterranean cultures. The Romans believed that amber cured problems of the eye, ear, and throat, as well as headaches and coughs.
In Europe it is commonly known that amber helps people suffering from arthritis, asthma and thyroid problems. During the Roman Empire there was an amber route from the Baltic Sea to Aquile and Fratta Polesine in Italy.
“For ages an amber necklace was the very best present for a bride” – says Alfredo Ferri of Milan, Italy.
Baltic amber is a fossil resin originating in the Tertiary period. Between 40 and 50 million years ago, sub-tropical forests grew in the area of the present Baltic Sea and southern Scandinavia. A type of conifer, which extruded substantial amounts of resin even when slightly damaged, also grew in this region. Under favourable conditions, particularly the exclusion of air, the resin became amber.
In the course of the Earth’s history, the amber was redeposited. The most important secondary deposit for Baltic amber is the Samland peninsula where there is a earth layer containing amber, the “blue earth”, worked by opencast methods.
The Ice Age glaciers and the streams of melting water transported the amber as far as the lower mountainous areas in middle Germany and the coasts of Denmark and England. When amber is mentioned, it is usually Baltic amber which is meant. This represents approximately 90% of the worlds production and is the most important type. There are, however, about 300 types of amber in the world.