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About amber

About amber

The name Amber derives from the Arabic word anbar that refers to ambergris, a sperm whales’ secretion which in past times, was mistakenly confused with the fossilized golden-hued vegetal resins. In ancient Greek people it was well known as “electron”. Thales of Miletus made experiments on it, recorded phenomena which today are classified in electricity and are the field where electron (amber) owes its properties.

The Turkish word for amber is kehribar, which in turn derives from the Arabic word kahruba, which means “that which attracts haystack”, presumably due to its known properties of attracting light material, after rubbing amber on a wool garment. Amber is the fossilized resin of coniferous trees, which exceeds the age of 30 million years, it contains succinic acid and it is a source of electricity.

Amber comes from molecular polymers that result the impact of very high pressures and temperatures which are produced by the overlying sediments and convert the resin to a copal first (plain fossil). After passing of millions of years, the effects of pressures and temperatures lead to the formation of amber.

But there are other requirements for the creation of amber, as the original resin must be wear resistant. Many trees produce resins, but in most cases, the deposits are cleaved from the physical and biological process. Exposure to sunlight, rain and temperate extreme conditions tend to decompose most resins and this wear down process is assisted by microorganisms such as bacteria and various fungi. In order these resins to withstand for long enough until they turn into amber, they should be resistant against erosive forces or they must be produced under conditions that preclude the presence of such forces.

Although amber it is not a mineral, sometimes it is regarded and is used as a gemstone. If even one of the above characteristics is missing in any fossil resins, then these are not amber, but just plain fossils known as copal. Amber has no fixed formula, because it is a mixture of resins, but its average chemical composition is C10H16O. It has a hardness of 1.5 to 2.5 on the Mohs scale that is why it is very soft and has a relatively low specific gravity of 1.05 to 1.10. Practically, amber floats in salt water. It doesn’t float at sea, but it can move for entire miles therein. Baltic amber is deemed to originate from plants Sciadopityaceae of the genus family Sciadopitys, which grew in northern Europe.

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