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It is well known that Baltic amber comes in a wide range of colors. Milky, yellow, orange, cognac or greenish colors are not a surprise. However, blue is still controversial.


Ambiguous colors, light figures and flickering effects of stones arouse admiration, sometimes in combination with suspicions. Where does this rainbow color opal come from? Why do labradorites and moonstones hypnotize with a mysterious glow? Can natural resins have others colors than brown? Blue amber also raises curiosity and considerable doubts.

The fossil resin from the Dominican Republic, mined in mountain mines located near Santiago, generally has a brownish color. However, a small part of the lumps in sunlight surprises with the mysterious blue iridescence. This is due to the reflection of sunlight from the surface of the stone, in which ring hydrocarbons split a beam of light, resulting in a blue color effect (photo No. 1). The color of the resin from the Dominican Republic is due to light effects, it is not the right color. In artificial light, solids with a blue iridescent shade are no different from other specimens of fossil resin, this effect is visible only in sunlight. This resin comes from the extinct species of the Hymenaea protera tree, which was found only in tropical areas of Central America. This effect occurs not only in lumps from the Dominican Republic, although rare, but also found in fossil resin from Mexico.

When it comes to Baltic amber - bluish color is very rare in nature. German geologist John Schlee discovered that a blue hue of amber arises when dark particles of pyrite (iron sulfide FeS2) are dispersed in milky white amber nuggets. This mineral is formed in the anoxic zones of deep parts of the seas and oceans. But where did the pyrite come from in amber? Well, the solution with sulfur and iron ions got into the micro-cracks of amber, lying on the bottom of the sea, where it crystallized in the form of metallic pyrite.

In the case of scattered pyrite in a fine crystalline form in a milky lump - we see a gray-blue color (photo No. 2). Pyrite may also appear in thick-crystalline form in the form of clearly visible veins crystallized in the amber voids (photo No. 3). Baltic amber of this color is extremely rare and very valuable. Sometimes the blue color of Baltic amber results from the modification - covering the amber with blue translucent paint (photo No. 4). Sale of such modified ambers at the Amberif fair organized by the Gdańsk International Fair S.A. was banned in 2018.

To sum up: the blue color of the resin may be the result of natural light effects (as in the case of the Dominican), inclusions (pyrite in amber) or be the result of modification processes.

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The word ‘copal’ comes from the copalli, which in Nahuatl means 'incense'. This fragrant stone has fascinated people since its dawn with its resinous smell and unusual appearance. Nowadays, it is often compared with Baltic amber because of its similar appearance, despite its different properties.


Natural resins are divided by age: older fossil resins (e.g. Baltic amber) and younger called subfossil resins (e.g. Colombian copal). Copals are between 10,000 and 1 million years old, and according to some researchers up to 5 million years [1].

The exact name of the copal usually comes from the place of extraction or from the name of its tree, which they are come from. The most popular copal is resin from Colombia, which is characterized by a yellow-greenish color and high transparency. Its native tree are tropical deciduous trees Leguminosae (similar in appearance to modern acacia).

Resin from Colombia is collected from the ground surface or extracted at small depths. The largest deposits are located in the Andes in the departments of Boyaca and Santander.

Colombian copal is successfully used in jewelry and sculpture. However, due to its softness, it undergoes a thermal process in an autoclave to increase its hardness (and thus enable polishing). Varnishing of the resin surface is also encountered to increase its resistance to mechanical damage and to give it a better gloss [3].

Baltic amber sometimes is replaced by a copal from Colombia, there is nothing wrong with it until the person concerned is notified about it. The Colombian copal has the unfair opinion of being an imitation of amber, although it is a precious and unique stone in itself. Both resins are of natural origin and, when heated, emit a beautiful resinous smell.

What distinguishes Colombian copal and Baltic Amber?

Age – the copal is up to 5 million years old, and Baltic amber is around 40 million;

Native tree – resin from Colombia comes from deciduous trees and Baltic amber from conifers trees;

Plasticizing and melting temperature – much lower in the case of Colombian copal;

Hardness – the "Baltic" is much harder, it does not need autoclaving to be used in jewelry;

Reaction to acetone – the copal is covering with a sticky layer, Baltic amber does not react;

Succinic acid – 0-3% in copal, 3-8% in Baltic amber.

In our Amber Laboratory, we use infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) to distinguish different resins from each other so that the buyer can be certain of what he is purchasing.


Literature:

[1] Kosmowska-Ceranowicz, B., 2012. Amber in Poland and in the world. first edition edited by Warsaw: University of Warsaw Publishing House.

[2] Kosmowska-Ceranowicz, B., 2001a. Amber and other fossil resins of the world. Artificial copals and resins - imitation or forgery of amber. Polish Jeweler, Issue 1 (12), pp. 24-27.

[3] Kosmowska-Ceranowicz, B., 2013. Amber and its imitations. Warsaw: Sadyba Publishing House.

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Juicy red colors of amber have not been delighting with its clarity and saturated color since today. Some people says that it looks like rubies, other that garnets one thing is certain: jewelry with cherry amber looks very elegant. But why are they red? You will find the answer in this article!


The richness of the color varieties and the degrees of transparency of natural succinite make each of the stones different and unique a mysterious amber with inclusions, contaminated with organic matter, or mosaic with pictures that resemble landscapes.

However, in Poland there is still a myth about the fact that amber is not a stone for young people, that jewelry with "Baltic Gold" can not be fashionable and modern. Fortunately, eminent Polish amber artists are refuting this myth with their unique modernist projects.

Producers to attract clientele with an amber make the nuggets more attractive by changing their color or the degree of transparency. Modifications are a response to the needs of the jewelry market. It is worth noting that they do not lower the value of amber, they only make it more attractive to recipients. The nuggets are visually prettier - more clear, with trolls or in intense colors not found in nature.

The most popular colored versions of amber resulting from the modification are red and cherry colors. The change in the color of succinite caused by human influence leads to the formation of amber known as "dyed".

The modification allowing to obtain a red amber color takes place in an autoclave - in a high temperature (up to 250 ° C) and pressure (25-40 atmospheres) conditions and in the presence of oxygen and mixed proportions of inert gases (nitrogen, noble gases), which are process inhibitors [1]. The change in color occurs due to the conditions prevailing in the autoclave on the surface of natural amber. If the modified body was previously pressed (reconstructed), then the change of color takes place in the entire volume of amber [1].

Amber beautifying treatments sometimes change its properties to a small extent (eg, loosing the smell after rubbing or their luminescence), however, it is still Baltic Amber [2].

The leading producer of jewelry with red amber is Progres run by Mr. Janusz Pawlik (company from Gdańsk, whose collections are available in Boruni Gallery on Grodzka Street 60 and at the Amber Museum on St. Jana Street 2.


Sources:

[1] Wagner-Wysiecka,E, 2018.Mid-infrared spectroscopy for characterization of Baltic amber (succinite, Spectrochimica Acta

[2] Kosmowska-Ceranowicz, B., 2012.Bursztyn w Polsce i na świecie.wydanie pierwsze red. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego.

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Inclusions in Baltic amber have always been treated in a special way. Currently, they are sought after, admired, valued. They are also the subject of scientific research. They should be treated with due respect, because they conceal a "life" from many millions of years ago.


Let's start with explaining what are the inclusions in Baltic amber? So, the inclusion in amber is called everything that got to it naturally, when 40 million years ago the resin was abundantly flowing from the trees. They are mainly plants and animals that lived in the amber forest, but not only. They can also be air bubbles, drops of water, dust, sand or pyrite crystals.

Ambers containing inclusions are extremely valuable and provide an invaluable source of information for paleontologists and paleobotanists. When conducting research on inclusions, you can reconstruct the composition of amber forests, identify insects and small animals. The age of inclusion is dated to the age of amber in which they have been preserved. Also noteworthy is the fact that completely different inclusions have been preserved in Baltic amber, others in Dominican or Lebanese amber, and still others in the Colombian copal. First of all, these differences result from the fact that plants or animals existing in the time of the creation of eg Lebanese amber died out until the birth of Baltic amber.

The animal inclusions dominate in the Baltic amber nuggets. First of all, insects are found whose size does not exceed one centimeter. Very rare insects are found. Based on many years of palaeontology research, we can certainly say that birds, reptiles and mammals lived in the burstsy forest. The proof of this are various inclusions, among others Mammal hair, lizards, snail shells or bird feathers. In amber lumps you can also find characteristic dents, which resemble the footprints of animals with their appearance.

Plant inclusions are quite rare and account for only about three percent of all organic inclusions found. Based on the found fragments of bark, wood, flowers and spores, leaves and needles, it was established that about 215 plant species lived in the amber forest. It is impossible to list all of them here, but for example they were sequoias, date palms, oaks, chestnuts, olive and cinnamon trees, maples, wild wine, ferns, grasses, tea bushes, mosses, lichens, fungi and many species of pinewood trees.

Amber inclusions enjoy great popularity, which is why amber with "life trails" achieve much higher prices. Hence? The most common phenomenon is the creation of "artificial" inclusions, from time immemorial, various animals with lizards, including crabs have been embedded in amber. It is a forgery, and the unconscious customer will buy everything. Most often these are inclusions embedded in plastic, but unfortunately there are also perfect counterfeits, more and more difficult to detect. For example, they can be properly crafted contemporary organisms immersed in pressed amber. How not to be deceived? How to protect yourself against this? If you want to buy inclusions, you should have minimal knowledge about amber and the inclusions themselves, and purchase in checked and recommended stores, requesting a certificate of authenticity.

If you want to get to know the subject of inclusion at least, and see for yourself fragments of the world from millions of years ago, we invite you to visit the Amber Museum in Krakow and the exhibition "Amber - its beauty and history". You're welcome!

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