Karolina Drąg

Karolina Drąg

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.

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.

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.

Storm of colors, Art Nouveau composition and elaborate decorations - just a few words about the collection dedicated to plant species devoted to the extinction from the Podlasie region prepared by the Bondarowski brand to celebrate the centenary of Poland's regaining of Independence.


The latest collection depicting Podlasie flora is a kind of tribute to Polish nature. In spite of presented species are "ours" they seem to be exotic because of the fairy-tale colors of enamel on a surface of silver, multicolored natural stones and unique fragments of amber intricately woven into product compositions.

The exhibition of jewellery inspired by the Podlasie flora was graced by the celebration of regaining Independence organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Prague. The musical celebration of this important anniversary was a concert at the Czech National Philharmonic - Rudolfinum perfectly complementing the exhibition "Natural heritage of Podlasie - endangered species of animals and plants in  art". In this collection, next to the gold of the Baltic Sea, we meet a whole range of colourful stones: lemon quartz, amethyst, garnets, olivines and flickering moon stones.

Eliza and Krzysztof Bondaruk are an excellent duo of goldsmith artists. In their works, they use traditional jewellery techniques -  filigree and enamelware. This second decorative technique was used even by the most famous goldsmiths such as Benvenuto Cellini and Karl Faberge. A enamel  is a glassy surface obtained from powdered quartz mixed with metal oxides, which give it the color.

Until now, the artists in their products presented exotic flora and fauna as well as human figures carved in a crystal or amber. Nature is an endless source of inspiration for them. Many works decorate the sunny stones of Baltic amber, which undoubtedly inspire artists.

Podlasie treasures from the aforementioned collection are available in the collections of the Gallery on Św. Jana 2 Street (at Amber Museum) and Galeria Boruni at 60 Grodzka Street.

62nd International Exhibition and Trade of minerals, fossils and jewellery at AGH

Date: 30.11-01.12/2019

Place: Cracow, Geological Museum, Department GGiOŚ AGH, Mickiewicza 30 Avenue

Trade of minerals, fosils and jewellery "Nature and Art"

Date: 14-15/09/2019

Place: Cracow, Cultural Centre in Nowa Huta, 232 Jana Pawła II Avenue

One of the folk tales says that the ambers are fossilized tears of Heliad, the sisters of Phaeton, who was the son of the Sun God. Harald Popkiewicz, inspired by mythical history and sunny stone, created a unique object that can be admired in our Museum.


Spring came to the Amber Museum, thanks to the solar chariot by Harald Popkiewicz. "Chariot" was created in 2006. For 12 years he was a part of exhibition in the Amber Museum in Gdańsk. Now you can admire it in the Amber Museum in Cracow.

In times when it was not possible to explain scientifically the origin of amber, the bothering question were sought in religion and folk tales.

Greek mythology tries to explain the issue of the origin of amber in the myth of Phaeton, the mortal son of Helios and the sea nymph Klimene. Phaeton grew up in the kingdom of mortal Merops, her mother's husband. He doubted that the divine blood was flowing in his veins. To prove to himself that he is son of Helios, he asked him for one wish: he wanted to ride a solar chariot. Helios could not withdraw his word - he agreed to Phaeton's dangerous ride.

The son of the sun lacked the skill of driving the pegasus pulling chariot. In spite of his father's warnings he left the route marked on the blue vault - the horses were horrified by the Sagittarius's taut arc and were too close to the surface of the Earth, which threatened the fire of heaven and earth. Helios could not help his son, he did not want to expose himself to the wrath of other gods. To avoid the catastrophe, Zeus threw down Phaeton by a thunderbolt which is why the young mortal man fell into the Eridan River. His sisters, Heliada, lamented their brother on the bank of the mythical river until the gods took pity on them, turning them into poplars and their tears turn into amber drops.

The silver chariot is an elaborate fitting for the magnificent milk amber lump symbolizing the Sun. Inspirations for the creation of the car were given to the artist by his sons, who are archaeologists. Articles about ritual carts from the Bronze Age, discovered in northern Europe, inspiring the artist. The ox pulling a mythical cart was made of a piece of black oak found on the beach in Mikoszewo, then was impregnated with beeswax. The silhouette of an ox resembles rock paintings from thousands of years ago. Maybe this ox is a reference to the sacred cows living on Tryteria, the island of Helios mentioned in Homer's "Odyssey"?

Harald Popkiewicz is one of the most recognizable Polish jeweller. The natural shapes of succinite have been inspiring the artist to create interesting sculptures in silver and amber since 1973. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Eryk and Olaf Popkiewicz have shared the  passion of their father. You can learn more about the family fascination from thearticle: http://ambermuseum.eu/muzeum-bursztynu/co-mozna-zobaczyc/item/140-popkiewicz-rodzinna-fascynacja-bursztynem .

Fair of Jewellery GOLDEXPO 2019

Date: 03-05.10.2019

Place: Warsaw, Centrum Expo XXI

Check if your amber is real! Research on amber products using the reliable infrared spectroscopy method!

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