Amber is the fossilized resin of 50-million-year-old conifer trees, usually pines. The most sought-after amber comes from the Baltic region and is golden and translucent. Less common is white or so-called bone amber, while amber in red, violet, green, and transparent yellow is rarer still.

Like gemstones, amber is prized for its clarity and transparency. But the inclusions in amber are often the most interesting things about the material. Because amber began as a liquid, all sorts of things got stuck in it, from lichen and pine needles to insects and even reptiles. The book and subsequent film “Jurassic Park” were based on the premise that dinosaur blood could be extracted from a mosquito preserved in amber. So who knows: That pendant around your neck or the bangle on your wrist may contain the DNA of a velociraptor!

Baltic amber is often labeled as succinite. This amber is variously described as being clear, cloudy, fatty, and foamy. All can be made into beads (sometimes faceted) for necklaces, as well as cabochons for rings. When polished, amber will not shine and catch light like diamonds, rubies, and other brilliant gems, but it will glow with what’s often referred to as a resinous luster. Foamy amber, however, is chalkier that other types, so it doesn’t take polishing well at all.

Types of non-Baltic amber include simetite, a red-to-orange variety found in Sicily; dark, sulphur-rich Roumanian amber; and Burmite, which is also known as Chinese amber even though it comes from present-day Myanmar. The rarest form of Dominican amber from the Dominican Republic is blue amber, whose color varies from blue to yellow depending on how sunlight hits it.

The biggest problem with amber for collectors, as with many other gems, is the rampant number of fakes in the marketplace. One of the most common substitutes for amber is copal, which is similar to amber in that it’s also a tree resin, except it’s not as old, which means it will get sticky when rubbed vigorously with a piece of cloth. In contrast, amber will become fragrant when subjected to friction.

Just because amber is harder than copal, though, doesn’t mean it’s as hard as a, well, rock. Small chunks of amber are routinely heated and pressed together with linseed oil to create ambroid (sometimes spelled “amberoid”), which is then cut and polished into larger cabochons or beads. To spot ambroid, look for long air bubbles trapped within the gem. To distinguish amber from synthetic materials, pierce it with a hot needle; amber will smoke while substitutes will simply melt.

Some unscrupulous dealers will sell fake amber with perfectly preserved insect specimens inside them. These large beads or pendants may make attractive show pieces, but as with most things in life, if it looks too good to be true it probably is.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Alfred Philippe Design Trifari Brooch W/ Amber Rhinestones, 2 Flower Heads 1939Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Limited Edition Green Amber & Topaz Cabochon NecklaceAntique 37.25" Long Natural Butterscotch Baltic Amber Beaded Necklace 64.8 GramsVintage Amber Necklace 14 K Gold Clasp 10.4mm-11.4mm 21" LongNatural Old Antique Butterscotch Egg Yolk Baltic Amber Art Dec Necklace 36 GramsNatural Antique Baltic Amber Butterscotch, Egg Yolk Necklace 67gr !!!!! 35cm50.2 Gr. Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone Necklace 老琥珀 Antique Vintage Natural Egg Yolk Butterscotch Baltic Amber Necklace Antique 26" Long Natural Butterscotch Baltic Amber Beaded Necklace 25 GramsJudith Ripka Pendant Earrings Set Sterling Silver Amber Garnet Czs48 Gr Antique Natural Baltic Amber Stone Brooch Egg Yolk Butterscotch Mila49.4 Gr Vintage Butterscotch Egg Yolk Genuine Baltic Amber Stone Beads NecklaceFabulous Rare Antique Natural Butterscotch Amber Bead Necklace - 23 Grams61 Grams Nice Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone 老琥珀 Antique Amber Crystal Rhinestone Copper Dachshund Doxin Dog Pin 2" Vtg BroochNatural Old Antique Butterscotch Egg Yolk Baltic Amber Necklace 27.8 Grams.Natural Antique Baltic Amber Butterscotch Egg Yolk Brooch 9,3 Gr . Antique.Vintage Russian Genuine Baltic Butterscotch Egg Yolk Amber Brooch45.1 Grams Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone Pendant 老琥珀** Vintage 22" Long Graduated Amber Beaded Necklace Center 27x17mm 24 Grams Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone Pendant 老琥珀44.8 G. Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Colour Natural Baltic Amber Bracelet 琥珀Stunning! Vintage Natural Unheated Amber Bead Necklace - 68 Grams, Gold ClaspAntique Victorian Art Nouveau Jewelry Lot, Horse Glass Sterling Celluloid AmberAmazingly! Magnificent Antique Box Inlaid With Genuine Egg Yolk Baltic Amber.16.5 G. Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Colour Natural Baltic Amber Bracelet 老琥珀 155,33gr. Natural Antique Yellow Butterscotch Egg Yolk Baltic Amber Stone 波羅的海琥珀Antique / Vintage Genuine Graduated Amber Necklace 46.5 Grams 30 Inches26 Gr. Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone Necklace 老琥珀 Vintage Honey Amber Oval Sterling Silver 925 Post Earrings (1.4g)Vintage Jewellery Amber Cameo Brooch BacchusOld 41 Gr. Natural Butterscotch Egg Yolk Baltic Amber Beads Necklace33.1 G. Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Colour Natural Baltic Amber Bracelet 琥珀Australian Sterling Silver Large Pendant With Cut Amber Stone Rhoda Wager?Vintage Antique Silver Jewellery Art Nouveau Amber Brooch203gr!! Long Heavy Vintage Natural Baltic Egg Yolk Beads Amber Necklace 波羅的海琥珀Antique Natural Baltic Big Amber 58.2 GrammAntique Victorian C1900 Gold Gf Glowing Amber Fob Watch Chain T/bar Bracelet184 Grams Nice Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone 琥珀 Vintage 14k Solid Gold Amber Necklace 14" Marked 5.2 Grams Tw No ReserveAntique Natural Baltic Amber Necklace 27.4 Grams Butterscotch / Egg Yoke Amber15,92gr Natural Yellow Antique Butterscotch Egg Yolk Baltic Amber Pendant 波羅的海琥珀Massive 36" Antique Long Genuine Cherry Amber Graduated Beaded Necklace 90 GramsRare Vintage Sterling Silver Beautiful Ladies Amber Bracelet Bangle E55Antique Natural Baltic Egg Yolk Amber Bead Necklace, 40 Gr Graduated Beads 34" Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Amber Bead Necklace 46.2 GramsNatural Antique Baltic Amber Butterscotch, Egg Yolk Necklace 74,9gr !!!!! 17cmVintage 1940s Alice Caviness Amber Tones Filigree & Bead Necklace Vtg Baltic Natural Butterscotch Amber Pendant-835 Solid Silver-18" Snail ChainVintage Old Art Deco Czech Brass Floral Amber Glass Blue White Enamel Pin Brooch5g Antique Genuine Natural Baltic Amber Bead Round Butter Egg Yolk 琥珀項鍊 كهرمانAntique Bracelet Of Butterscotch Amber Beads 31g26.4 Grams Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone Pendant 老琥珀Natural Antique Baltic Amber Butterscotch, Egg Yolk Pendant 8,5 Gr. 114.4 Gr Antique Natural Round Baltic Amber Necklace Egg Yolk Butterscotch, 97.1 Gr. Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Natural Baltic Amber Stone Necklace 老琥珀 Beautiful Antique Butter Scotch Egg Yolk Baltic Amber With 12k Gold Necklace29 G. Antique Egg Yolk Butterscotch Colour Natural Baltic Amber Bracelet 老琥珀 Antique Chinese Cognac Honey Cherry Amber Necklace 10k Gold ClaspEstate Vintage Natural Baltic Amber Beads Necklace 65 Grams