What is Amber?
Amber is a natural, hardened tree resin, consisting of compounds of terpenes, alcohols, and esters. Trees produced it as protection against disease and insect infestation when the bark of a tree was opened due to limb that broke away or attacks by wood-boring beetles, or for other reasons. After oozing out, it hardened in wet sediments, such as clay and sand that formed at the bottom of lagoons or river deltas and was preserved in the earth’s crust for millenniums
The chemical composition of the resin acted as desiccant and antibiotic which caused that animals like insects and non-insects (i.e. mosquitoes, flies, spiders, ants and their eggs and emerging larvae) and even lizards and frogs, when caught in the resin, were entrapped and preserved as dehydrated fossil inclusions, but without the shrinking effect dehydration’s usually causes. They were kept in such a way that their cellular structure and even fragments of the DNA can still be found today.
But not only are insects and small vertebrates present in the amber, but also plants like flowers, mushrooms, moss, leaves and seeds. Thus, it allows scientists to reconstruct the long-vanished ecosystem of gone-by millenniums.
Baltic amber is formed from hardened resin of the pine tree, Pinus Succinifera.
Baltic amber is “considered to be the best variety of amber. It occurs irregularly as rounded nodules, drops, grains, and stalactites, weighing up to 200g; a piece weighing more than 1 or 2 kg is rare; the largest lumps recorded are 10 and 20 kg.” Baltic amber “is usually of a yellow, honey-like color, but may occur in many shades from pale yellow to dark brown. White pieces with a yellowish or bony tint are rare, and reddish, bluish and greenish tinted pieces are very rare. Some pieces of Baltic amber are transparent and clear, and others are cloudy and opaque.”
Amber “becomes electrically charged when subjected to friction. It burns with a bright flame and gives off a pleasant pine fragrance.”