Look closely at the pieces of amber that the sea carried ashore – you will not find two identical, they all differ in shape and color. But you’ve probably heard that amber is not only 50 shades of yellow, but also green, blue, red or black. Haven’t you? Have you ever wondered what color is amber? If so, let’s begin.
As we already told you in our previous post What Is Amber, amber is the fossilized resin of prehistoric trees. Check our previous post, if you want to know why is that in more detail.
When it comes to color of amber, we must say that natural amber is really very rich in color. Nowadays, specialists differentiate about 400 different shades that amber can have. Without any doubts, it confirms: amber can accept almost all the colors known to us.
In this post you will find
- 1 Amber Shape
- 2 What color is amber?
- 3 How to Classify Amber?
- 4 Succinite – Yellow, Golden and Brownish Amber Colors
- 5 Gedanite – Creamy or Rotten Amber Colors
- 6 Stantinite – Black Amber Colors
- 7 Bekkerite – Green Amber Colors
- 8 Canzite – Bone or Milky-White Amber Colors
- 9 Royal Amber – Blue Amber Colors
- 10 Red or Dragon Blood Amber Colors
- 11 Amber exposed to Ultraviolet light
The shape of amber depends on what happened to the tree, i.e. how it was damaged. If the branch of the amber pine was broken, then amber solidified in the form of a drop. If the resin flowed down the trunk, it turned out to be flowing and icicles. If the tree was cracked or formed voids between the annual rings, which filled the resin, then amber could solidify in the form of a lens.
There are interesting samples of amber with prints – for example, leaves, needles, grass, cortex of amber pine, – or with holes that formed if resin stiffened around a twig or knot. If you want to learn more about it, check our post abour Amber Inclusions.
[Oregon State University]
But the largest pieces of amber were obtained, if the resin has long drained to the roots of the tree, formed a resin puddle, and then it froze. Such pieces of amber are called “Ground clusters”. The largest piece of Baltic amber in the world weighs almost ten kilograms! Can you imagine that?
Pieces that are 2, 3 and even 5 kg in weight are perfect for decorative watches, lamps, statuettes and etc. Picture above shows a big piece of raw amber that weights only 3 kg (6.6 lbs). Imagine the size of 10 kg amber!
What color is amber?
There are primary and secondary colors of amber. Primary depends on three factors:
- dispersion of light in amber,
- different inclusions.
The secondary color depends on the processes of amber erosion.
Yellow amber has a rich range of hues, especially honey, cognac and golden. Different colors and combinations of shades of yellow in one piece depend on the initial composition of the gum, as well as the subsequent conditions of its burial and transformation. This, as well as the mechanical admixture of pyrite, explain the appearance of green shades in amber.
The appearance of pink shade is associated with differences in oxygen regime during amberisation process.
In our previous post – How old is amber, we were explaining all issues related to the age of amber. However, i still think that it would be good for you to learn more about amberisation process now. So, how much time does it took for buried resin to become a real amber? And here we should explain that the amberisation process is a continuum from freshly hardened resins to those that are rockie and as David Grimaldi, famous entomologist and author of the book called “Amber: Window to the Past” states: “No single feature identifies at what age along continuum the substance becomes amber”.
Transformation of resin into amber depends on the prevailing geologic conditions as well as composition of the resin and is usually a result of geothermal stress as chemical changes in the resin accelerate at higher temperatures.
Ions of ferric iron contribute to the appearance of a greenish-yellow color. In white with a bluish tint of amber, the amount of titanium is increased.
Moreover, the color of amber is influenced by the conditions under which amber was formed: where the resin fell, whether the tree was burning, even from which side the resin was draining, from the northern, southern, western or eastern. Everything affects the formula of amber, and therefore, the color.
How to Classify Amber?
Scientists distinguish more than three hundred shades of sun stone – from light yellow to dark-brown.
So, how to clasify amber? There are different types of amber, which are systematized in different classifications. Some use a classification that is based on the level of transparency of the stone. The more bubbles inside, the darker it turns out. Another use the colour classification. Among other things, there is a separate classification of amber, which takes as its basis the color of the stone, its transparency and compliance in the process of processing. Let’s talk about each one separately.
Based on the degree of transparency amber can range from completely transparent, through which you can look no worse than through the glass, to a completely opaque, white, bone-like. Such opaque amber is very light – it contains a lot of air, which makes it opaque.
Depending on the color of the stone, its transparency and compliance in the process of processing, there are following types of amber due to its transparency:
- Transparent is a gem with a high level of transparency, obviously, which can be easily polished. The color of amber varies from lemon (almost transparent) to dark brown. It is highly appreciated, because of its beauty.
- Translucent – a stone of yellow or dark yellow color. Sometimes it can be red or bluish. The color is slightly opaque, but has translucent layers. Can be polished without problems.
- Bastard – opaque stone, which on some thin layers has some transparency. Has an unusual yellowish hue, on the whole surface there are spots of dark color. More or less transparent. Can be polished without problems.
- Layered – the color is white. Usually is not polished.
- Foamy – outwardly the stone differs from ordinary amber. Its name came from the large amount of frozen foam. Has a white opaque hue. It is very porous, due to which it is very light. Is not polished typically.
- Contaminated – it is black or gray. Usually do not polish. Transparency is extremely low.
- Overburden – it differs a large crust from oxidation, has a red tint. Can be polished, but can not be polished badly. Can shine through.
- Landscape – Combined in one stone, different types of amber can make real landscapes. That’s why such amber is called landscape.
It is interesting that in nature you can find even such variants of amber, which combine all the above-mentioned groups. Depending on the region, you can find different types of amber. Some of them may be more common on the territory of particular country, some can be considered quite rare.
Of course, the stones of some shades are more common, others are truly unique and rare. Leading positions in the ranking of the most popular keep orange and yellow stones. Interestingly, thanks to such popularity, a separate color appeared – amber. Amber is often called a “sunny stone,” since it seems that it radiates a warm and bright color.
Masters at all times tried to make an ordinary amber into some unusual gem, ennobled it, cleaned it, polished it to shine with all the colors. Of course, the processed stone is valued more. It is used to create jewelry.
Succinite – Yellow, Golden and Brownish Amber Colors
Succinite – the most common amber, which is extracted for industrial purposes.
Yellow and brownish amber pieces are found all around the world. They make up more than two-thirds of the whole bulk of amber collected. The initial place this amber was found is the Baltic Sea area, and this area is still the best producer of amber both in quality and quantity. However, wherever old fossilized trees can be found, amber may be found as well. Initially, when people only applied to the beauty of this gem, jewelers worked with a transparent golden amber colors – Succinites.
Gedanite – Creamy or Rotten Amber Colors
Gedanite is a variety of amber, but with little succinic acid. Originally described from Gdansk (Danzig), Pomorskie, Poland. Gedanite (often popularly called “rotten”) – has a yellow (sometimes dingy yellow) shade. It is extremely rare (only about 2% of amber market).
Why does it have such a light creamy color – due to mixing of resin with chalk. To be honest, there are a variety of colors and types of the Gedanite amber, but I think the best is a creamy one.
This type of amber differs from succinites not only with its composition.
Scientists, particularly, Savkevich (1970) suggested that the “golden amber” (succinite) predominating in the Baltic area has been primary buried for some time in forest soil and then washed out and transported to its definitive burial place while “rotten amber” (gedanite) was rapidly buried in deltanic sediments without any significant processing in forest soil or litter.
Unfortunately, comparative studies of the Baltic succinite and gedanite assemblages have never been undertaken. So, now we have only suggestions on the exact appearance of this amber. What we know for sure, is that gedanite is found in the deepest sediments of the Cretaceous period, what means it has more than 100 million years!
Stantinite – Black Amber Colors
Black amber accounts for about 15% of the amber found. However, it is not actually pure fossilized tree resin. This color was formed when tree resin was mixed with soil, debris, remains of the tree from which it came or some other inclusions. But as you can see, that does not make it any less appetizing.
If you would hold any piece of black amber against light you would soon notice that it is actually another color. Usually it is either brown or dark red. Due to this some people even claim that amber in black color does not even exist. At Nammu we believe in all shades of amber, so for us black amber is black!
While purchasing black amber, you should remember one thing, it is usually mistaken with jet. Jet is a type of lignite, a precursor to coal, and is a gemstone. Jet is not a mineral, but rather a mineraloid. It has an organic origin, being derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure, but jet is not an amber, it is rather a coal.
We should say that if during amberisation process, amber was mixed up with carbonized coal, there appears little difference between jet and black amber. Moreover, due to its properties, it may induce an electric charge like that of amber when rubbed. Consequently, jet is sometimes called black amber and visa versa. In order not to get fooled, remember when black amber is held up to the light, it will usually be another color.
The cost of black amber is slightly more expensive than the common amber, but there is also not much of demand for it. However, it wasn’t like that always.
Roman Emperor Nero admired the black amber as the most expensive gem. It was believed (and is considered) that black amber absorbs negative energy. Therefore, in England such pieces of amber were hidden in the cradle of the newborn, so that kid should be protected from the evil eye and spoilage. But adults also were hiding black amber gem under the pillow to protect against nightmares.
Bekkerite – Green Amber Colors
Green amber is very popular. Through, it only accounts for about two percent of the amber, but there is enough of it found to supply the world. It is a very rare type of amber, because it doesn’t need to be processed, so it’s used for making expensive jewelry and also purchased by collectors. The Dominican Republic is known for the best specimens of green amber, but it still can be found in Indonesia, Italy and Mexico.
The cost goes up as the shade gets greener, or any other color, deepens on the stone. Its shades are ranging from the light-green to the nearly emerald color. Such amazing amber colors are obtained by soil and plant particles, that have been caught in a resin millions of years ago.Lighter amber, or yellow-green amber is less expensive. Green amber can also be treated by heating it and it will become even more beautiful as it becomes more transparent.
Canzite – Bone or Milky-White Amber Colors
White amber as it comes from its name has white color and is not translucent. It looks more like an elephant ivory.
White amber is especially rare (about 1-2%). It is also called “bony” or “royal white” for its unique texture. White amber is praised for the decorative swirls in butterscotch, grey, green, honey or blue hues which create one-of-a kind decorative effects. White amber is never treated as it is praised for its natural beauty.
However, milky white amber is not really white. It is also yellow, as usual, but because of the huge number of air bubbles and moisture it seems white. They help visually “whiten” all the dirt of the stone.
Since the days of antiquity white amber was mostly appreciated .In ancient times, such amber was considered the most valuable. Experts assured that it contains fewer impurities and therefore has the best medicinal properties.
Royal Amber – Blue Amber Colors
A rare and particularly revered is amber with a bluish tinge.
In ancient times it was believed that the stone received such a shade due to the interspersions of Vivianite – a special mineral. But after numerous studies it turned out that this color is caused by microscopic voids inside the gem, which, refracting and scattering light, create a special optical effect. Gems acquire this or that color in accordance with the composition of the gum, the conditions that helped it to petrify. Also, the shade depends on the number and composition of inclusions. In addition, the more acid in amber, the darker the stone.
Blue amber is the rarest of all the colors of amber. However, blue amber is fairly new to the gem industry. It must be caught in the right light, or it will look like every other piece of yellow-brown amber.
A fascinating property of blue amber is the color that it will change when a fluorescent light is shown on it. It will be a dazzling bright blue because the fluorescents inside it will react to the light.
However, the same piece will look yellow or brownish when a white light source, such as the natural sunlight, shines from behind it. Blue amber is almost completely found in the Dominican Republic.
Red or Dragon Blood Amber Colors
The second most rare amber is red amber. Only about one in every two hundred amber specimens are red. The color is very authentic and can be very deep. This amber is very expensive per gram.
Red amber is not transparent and can be polished. It is an interesting stone in its appearance, which is often called the “blood of the dragon.” It is distinguished by a cherry or red shade.
Because of its color, this stone has become especially popular among Japanese and Chinese people. At the same time decorations, based on the “blood of the dragon”, had the right to wear only members that were part of the ruling dynasty. It turns out that sanguinous color of the gemstone is obliged to forest fires: due to the strong heat amber pieces have changed their color to dark red shade.
You know, amber itself is a very special and exclusive gem. Just look at the variety of colors it has!
This raw piece of this million year old resin could give you a freedom and take it from you in the Ancient Rome. With the equal simplicity.
It was used to cure the severe head, neck and throat pain according to Hippocrate. Wearing amber bracelets was beneficial to sufferers of rheumatism and arthritis. Reduced fatigue and feelings of general weariness. Even Martin Luther carried a piece of amber in his pocket as a protection against kidney stones.
Amber exposed to Ultraviolet light
When we speak about the different colors of amber, it is important to comment that the color of this gem changes when it is exposed to ultraviolet light, and it gets a blue florescent tone. That is specially true for the lighter colors of amber (white, yellow and orange). I am enclosing a picture sent by our colleague Oleh in the mining region. Here we can see the different tones that amber acquires. It is usual to take this kind of pictures to show the authenticity of amber.
It is a perfect investment and an amazing piece of history that can be passed through generations allowing you to stay in minds of your descendants for hundreds of years. In the same way as amber did. For thousands of years.
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