Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Art of Amber....Part 2

A few days back I wrote about amber being found in the far north of Queensland, here in Australia. Since then I've been doing a bit of research and found out some very interesting things about amber generally... it truly has me fascinated now. You may recall I was amazed about some of the possible inclusions found in amber, e.g insects and flowers, lizards and even frogs. Apparently mushrooms have also been found in the past as well as hair and feathers. Its seems that these types of inclusions greatly increase the value of the specimen. However, liquid and air bubble inclusions are usually removed by boiling the amber in rapeseed oil, before it is used for jewellery making.

Colour is usually determined by the source tree. Pines are responsible for golden-yellow amber, deciduous trees produce reddish toned amber, whilst green is due to the decomposition of organic material. However after long exposure to air and elements amber changes colour to a mellow brown. So far I've been unable to ascertain what causes some Amber to be blue.

Classification of amber is based on the source. eg. Baltic amber is known as succinite (as it contains succinic acid which biochemically plays a role in producing Citric Acid).
Romanian amber is rumanite, Sicilian amber is simetite and Burmese amber is burmite.
So does that mean Australian amber will be known as austamite? Guess we'll have to wait and find out.

Amber requires a fair amount of care because on the hardness scale it rates around 2-3. Being extremely heat-sensitive, it also needs to be protected from sources that produce heat, including hot water and strong sunlight.

Keep amber away from hairspray and perfume, protect it from bumps and scratches and keep it stored separately from other jewellery. When stringing amber it's best done in the same way as expensive pearls, i.e knotted between each bead.

So how do you tell the fake from the well thing? We've all seen lots of fake amber at weekend markets, this stuff is usually made from glass or plastic. Real amber is warm to the touch and floats in salt water, so that's why its found washed up on beaches.


kyles said...

i loved the info here berni, thanks heaps! i have a memory wire bracelet that i bought off a friend years ago, and it has a large amber sphere bead with a bee in the middle. i of course bought the bracelet cause i loved the amber bead. i showed a gemologist once who said however had drilled a hole through the middle of the bed was stupid cause it would now deteriorate once it has contact with the air, this made me sad and it sits unworn now cause i'm too scared to wear it. i have often wondered about the colour of amber, and its stability, so thanks for sharing!

Bernie said...

Glad you found the info helpful Kyles. Am really sorry to hear about your beautiful bracelet. Most of the Amber pieces I've come across with really interesting inclusions are usually set into silver, so no holes.

Hope you got to read my ealier post too about Amber being found in Australia. If you havn't check it out, its rather fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bernie,
I came across your amber page and it has some great information.
My parterner and I are the ones finding the aust. amber and its great to hear of some other amber enthusiastics.
We would like to call the amber ''wickite'' after the wicks family if it proves to be a new taxa of tree that produced this amber and its inclusions.
all the best Beth

Bernie said...

Wow Beth. I feel very honoured to find a post from you and certainly look forward to hearing more about the findings once the studies get underway this year.

I can only imagine how exciting it must have been for you both to discover what you did. I'm a bit of a beach fossicker too, love it, hope one day I might find something as wonderful to make into an amazing piece of wired jewellery. All the very best and hope you'll post some further comments on "Hooked on Wire" down the track.