Natural Amber Information

Natural Amber Information

Natural Amber, what is it, where to buy
About the Author
I want to tell you the truth! Born and raised in the southern part of Germany, I never even dreamed that there was amber in the Caribbean. After traveling around the world a couple of times due to my...
New World Amber
Amber has been found in North and Central America (mainly Mexico) and in the Dominican Republic. The beauty of Dominican amber is not only skin deep. It is not only the looks, it is the...
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About the Author

I want to tell you the truth! My beautiful picture Born and raised in the southern part of Germany, I never even dreamed that there was amber in the Caribbean. After traveling around the world a couple of times due to my import-export business, living within the Hispano-American culture on and off the South-American continent, I finally settled down in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic. And I fell in love with it. With the Caribbean and with the Natural Amber I found here. I defend the idea that the best amber comes the way Mother Nature offers it, without being boiled, heated, colored, melted,  pressed,  autoclaved or changed in any way. But, I am also aware that this is being done (not in the Dominican Republic, mind you). Some people even have developed an art in handling this substance and it’s kind of interesting what they make.  For some it had been considered a culture and even an art - if you want to call it that way. That's fine with me. But I feel that the public definitely has the right to know what they are buying, wouldn’t you agree? On top of it, hiding this information takes away the merit from the artisans who accomplish it. Arbeitskreis Bernstein IAA International Amber Association To share my enthusiasm about amber with the world, I started this and other web sites for natural amber lovers like myself, and made it a fun place to visit with lots of useful information about the REAL natural amber and related subjects. I don't know everything about amber and am learning every day. Therefore, if you have comments, suggestions, or concrete information to help our readers, please contact me. And if you would like to see your link on our web site, let me know.

New World Amber

Amber has been found in North and Central America (mainly Mexico) and in the Dominican Republic. The beauty of Dominican amber is not only skin deep. It is not only the looks, it is the preciousness and the knowledge that it was not human hand and industriousness that created the unique colors of natural amber. It was nature itself, it was storms, earthquakes, shifting continents, rising sea levels, pressure, heat and almost 40 million years that made Dominican amber what it is. This is what happened and this is what accounts for the blue, the green the purple and other shades, besides the yellow and brown. Dominican amber is not heat treated to reproduce the colors. It is not clarified and all inclusions are natural. Mother Nature took care of it. Of all natural Dominican color variations, blue is the most precious, and is highly sought-after by collectors and high-end jewelers. Alas, only about 50 kilos of top quality blue amber are found per year. And even of the lower grades probably only 300 kilos are found each year. If that number is compared to the 26 tons of gem grade diamonds that are mined per year, this makes blue amber one of the rarest and most exclusive gemstones around. It is closely followed by the natural green amber.  
Natural Colors of Dominican amber
Natural Colors of Dominican amber
 

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History of Natural Amber ​

Natural amber is considered an organic gem stone. Amber has been traded since earliest times and was considered a mystic and religious material. Over the “amber routes”, it was distributed throughout Europe and all of the know ancient world. Already the Phoenicians traded amber as a prime commodity with the ancient Baltic peoples. Since about 3000 B.C., Baltic amber was exchanged for goods from southern Europe and there were even ‘amber highways’ or amber trade routes crossing Europe and leading into the Far East.

Olmec Head
Olmec Head

Meanwhile, in Central America, the Olmec civilization also was mining amber around 3000 B.C. There are legends in Mexico that mention the use of amber in adorning, consuming and using it for stress reduction as a natural remedy.

For thousands of years amber was regarded as a precious substance, and for its mysterious origin considered as a divine protection from harm to the bearer of amber jewelry. As such, it also became to be used as an ingredient in medicines and for religious purposes by “pagans” and “Christians”.

Around 58 A.D., the Roman Emperor Nero sent a Roman knight on a search for this “Gold of the North” and brought hundreds of pounds of amber to Rome.

Amber fishers hanging
Amber fishers hanging

In later days, from 1283 on, the Teutonic Knights, after returning from the crusades, became absolute rulers of Prussia and the Baltic sources of amber, as well as the manufacture of objects made of amber, punishing transgressors with death by hanging.

Columbus and Tainos
Columbus and Tainos

For the next 500 years, amber was used again for mainly a religious purpose: Rosary beads, used by Catholics and Moslems alike. When they arrived in 1492 at the Caribbean island of “La Hispaniola”, Columbus and his men were not interested in amber, but in gold and for this reason the existence of amber from the Dominican Republic was little known for a long time. But history tells us that Columbus received from a young Taino prince a pair of shoes, decorated with Dominican amber, in exchange for a strand of Baltic amber beads that he had offered.

The amber occurrences in the Dominican Republic are generally from the same time period as Baltic amber, give or take 10 million years. But Dominican amber has much more fossil inclusions of plants and small animals and for this reason is highly appreciated by scientists and collectors alike. More information.

At few places in the Dominican Republic, a kind of amber can be found that has a blue glow even in daylight: The famous Blue Dominican Amber. More information.

Blue Amber Beads
Dominican Blue Amber Beads

 

Old World Amber

Natural Baltic amber is very attractive, when it is kept as natural amber. There is radiant honey color, yellow, deep brown, red, lemon, cream and even a wonderful white.  Natural Amber from the Baltic countries was and is beautiful and extraordinary, full of folklore and history. It still has the fame of the mystic, sacred material of ancient times that carries on. There definitely are still many craftsmen in Baltic countries who keep up this old, honorable tradition. The Poland Chamber of Commerce writes: “Natural Baltic Amber – Amber as it comes from nature. It is generally uneven in color. And it is almost always uneven in shape. It comes from the Baltic Region. Natural Baltic amber is used in high quality fashion jewelry and art creations. It is asymmetrical, not always uniformly colored, sometimes has imperfections and looks like something that would have been shaped by nature and not man.” Some Baltic amber associations even disqualify manufactures who use approved methods of enhancement but do not declare it. The International Amber Association (http://amber.org.pl) keeps up a struggle for a fair and clear business practice. Baltic amber is not the oldest amber in the world, nor is it the only one. Amber from Northumberland USA is considered to be up to 345 million years old. Baltic amber is "just" about 50 million years old. Baltic amber is "succinite", from resin of coniferous trees. It contains succinic acid, therefore the name. Whether this is important is not proven, but of course it is a commercial argument and some swear that it has healing powers. Nevertheless, according to some scientists even this is not very important, but just a result of degradation: Y.Shashoua, National Museum, Denmark, 2002 Fact is, it is a beautiful and old material. Just look a the beautiful natural amber from the Baltic.
Natural Baltic Amber Colors
Natural Baltic Amber Colors
Also know, whatever does not look like this and is declared as “Natural Amber” is fraudulent because it has been artificially altered. ​ Already thousands of years ago, amber craftsmen in Baltic countries learned how to make it transparent by boiling it in the fat of a suckling pig. (Don’t laugh. But just imagine: selling beads boiled in “unclean” pig’s fat to a muslim country for prayer beads where they are proudly collected. Not funny at all.) Today, in view of the pressure of a world market based more on competitive prices than on truth, still more sophisticated methods are used. There is nothing against it, as long as it is declared as what it is. Unfortunately, most amber dealers and much less their customers know what is going on. Amber is heated and pressed into beads and cabochons. That’s still OK. It is clarified in rapeseed oil. Fine.
Fraudulent Amber Colors
Fraudulent Baltic Amber Colors and Inclusions
Amber meal and powder as well as not suitable pieces are melted down and pressed into blocks for  production. Often a certain paint is applied to the backs of the amber cabochons, to cause the beholder’s perception of green amber, which naturally are not or not often found in those places. Heated up and cooled down it produces the “sun spangles” (flints) and transformed in vacuum and pressure chambers (autoclave, equipped with a microprocessor control ) will clarify, produce rare colors and effects. In order to underscore or change the natural colour of amber, it is permissible to use foil or flakes made of precious metals and colour backdrops made of enamel or paint in jewellery products decorated with Baltic amber gemstones. Autoclaves are working in many jewelery companies in Poland and abroad. Modern hydraulic presses, equipped with electronic temperature control heaters, and automatic hydraulic units replace Mother Nature. Some even mix copal (young amber) from other countries with the precious melted resin. And sell it as genuine Baltic amber. Where will it end?