Real Amber?

LaurieNby: Laurie Neilsen

Is Your Amber the Real Deal?

Amber is fossilized tree resin which has undergone molecular polymerization over many millions of years. It is highly prized for use in jewelry because of its beautiful color, transparency, and lightness. It is also of great interest to the scientific community, as much of it has been found with ancient insects and plant life encased and preserved within.Real amber with insects

Amber sales skyrocketed after the release of the movie Jurassic Park, which featured scientists resurrecting several dinosaur species by extracting DNA from mosquitoes preserved in amber, to disastrous results. Fortunately for us, scientists have recently discovered that DNA has a 521-year half-life. Dinosaur DNA would simply be too old to clone.

Unfortunately, the popularity of amber has given rise to many imposters and imitations passed off as the real thing. So how do we make sure that the amber we are purchasing is real? We have found a few tests you can do at home (or in the classroom) to verify that what you have is real fossilized amber and not plastic, glass, or copal. Copal is tree resin that has not yet fossilized. (It will, though, if you’re willing to wait a few million years.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Insects in Amber

Tami O'Connor, Educational Innovationsby: Tami O’Connor

What is Amber?

Millions of years ago large forests in some parts of the world began to seep globs of sticky, aromatic resin down the sides of the trees. Unlike sap, resin is produced to protect the tree from disease and injury and is extruded through the bark of the tree during rapid periods of growth.

As it continued to ooze, this resin would trap such things as insects, seeds, leaves and other light debris. As geologic time progressed, these forests were buried under sediment and the resin hardened and formed the soft, warm, golden gem we know today as amber. Most of the amber in the world ranges from 30 to 90 million years old and is found in sedimentary clay, shale and sandstones associated with layers of lignite. Read the rest of this entry »