Amber is one of the most amazing antiques ever discovered. It is not actually a stone but rather fossilized tree sap.

Amber dates back some 300-400 million years. The trees that the resin came from are called "Conifers", which is an evergreen species that is extinct now, but grew in the great forests. It is found all over the world dating back 1.5 million - 300 million years old. The oldest amber recovered dates back to the late Carboniferous period which is about 320 million years ago.

oozing amber resin

Many evergreens ooze resin as a self healing mechanism. Often times you'll see this when they are stressed, have an injury or are simply unhealthy. In prehistoric times, scientists believe that an intense climate change occured at some point and conifers at that time went into a medical overdrive and 'wept' massive lumps of amber; oozing under the bark, resin hanging from branches like candied apples and spilling onto the forest floor in honeyed pools of amber. 


Because of this oozing and dripping of resin to the soil over 40 million years ago, this is where the longest process of fossilization began. Life in the rest of the forest continued on as usual but some of the life was suffocating in the resin, giving us a 3-D view to what the amber forest looked like or even better "a window to the past".

One of the largest preserved creatures ever to be found in Baltic amber are lizards. Pictured above is a gecko mummified in amber on view at the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum.

Today, much of the worlds amber comes from the Baltic Sea area or Northern Europe. Baltic amber is about 40-60 million years old and most geologists regard it as the purist amber because of it's high succinic acid level. Amber is also found in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon. Austria, Manitoba Canada, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Ecuador and Columbia.  
Because of its low density, amber floats on saltwater. Often found in small amounts every year washed up on the Eastern English beaches.
Amber is classified into several forms based on its chemical make up, what region it came from and what plant it was produced from. Because of these factors and its several chemical make ups, amber can range in a variety of colors, not just the amber orange color that is most popularly seen. 

Amber can often range from an off white color through a pale lemon yellow, to brown and almost black. Some uncommon colors include red amber (sometimes known as "cherry amber"), green and even blue, which is rare and highly sought after. 

blue amber from Dominican Republic
Blue amber from Dominican Republic

Blue amber has been most commonly found in Dominican Republic, especially in the amber mines around the city of Santiago.


Today, amber is often seen as a poor cousin compared to the other treasures in a jewelry box. It's soft, light weight and affordable to purchase almost anywhere.

However long ago, it was valued more highly than gold and actually used as currency.

This leads us to the famous Russian Amber Room.

Originally commissioned by King Friedrich 1st of Prussia in 1701, the Russian Amber Room, consisting of a series of richly carved amber panels adorned with semiprecious stones and Florentine mosaics, was collaborated by German sculptor Andreas Schluter and Danish amber specialist Gottfried Wolfram.

The ceiling of the amber room | © jeanyfan / WikiCommons

The construction of the room began in 1701. It was origanlly installed at the Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich the 1st, first King of Prussia. In 1716, the room was presented to Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, while on a visit. The King of Prussia presented the room to Peter the Great as a gift, cementing an alliance against Sweden. The amber room was then shipped to Russia and installed the panels in St. Petersburg at the Winter House as part of an art collection where they remained until 1755. 

Czarina Elizabeth ordered the room to be installed at the Catherine Palace and had the room enlarged and redesigned by Italian designer Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. After other 18th Century renovations, the room glowed with approximately 6 tons of amber and other precious stones and metals including gold leafing and mosaics. Historians estimated at that time the room was worth about $142 million of today's dollars. The Amber Room was used as a meditation chamber for Czarina Elizabeth, a gathering room for Catherine the Great and a trophy space for the amber connoisseur Alexander II. It remained a prized possession of the Russian state until the tragedy of WWll, when looting German forces dismantled and tore down the room in less than 36 hours. 

Packed and shipped to Königsberg, Germany (present-day Kaliningrad). The room was reinstalled in Königsberg's castle museum on the Baltic Coast and was on view for two years. In 1943, with the end of the war in sight, the museum director Alfred Rohde was ordered to dismantle the room. In late August of the following year, allied bombings destroyed the city and turned the museum to ruin. With that, the trail of the room was lost. There have been many myths and legends regarding the room and where it may be but none have been proved unfortunately.

Mr. Hammond in Jurassic Park  

In 1993, the popularity of amber suddenly soared due to the most iconic movie of my generation; Jurassic Park, on the theory that scientists could reconstruct dinosaurs from DNA preserved in blood sucking insects (mosquitos) found in amber, mined from the Dominican Republic.

As cool (and scary) as this sounds, it is highly impossible for a few reasons.

First, one of the main reasons would be because the only species of mosquitos ever found in amber from that time period are called "Toxorhynchites Rutilus" and are the only species that do not feed on blood.

Second, the Jurassic era ended about 144 million years ago and true baltic amber from the Dominican Republic is from 30-40 million years ago. 

Also, I know its a movie but just incase any of you were thinking it could be possible.. 

Fun Fact:
Mr. Hammond's 'Jurassic Park' mosquito amber tipped and dinosaur bone cane which, if you've seen the movie, is the key component in bringing dinosaurs to life, sold at auction for $32,000. Unfortunately it was a replica made for the movie and was not real amber or dinosaur bones. Definatley would have been amazing if it was real. 

That would conclude the gem lesson on Amber. Thank you for reading.



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