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.