Amber is the resin from an old tree that seeped out as a defense mechanism and caught anything in its path in a little time capsule. It would trap organic materials like bugs, leaves, and even small animals like lizards, or feathers of dinosaurs! It then fossilized over millions of years and hardened to what we know it as today. Humans have been making jewelry with amber for thousands of years!
Mexican amber is around 22-28 million years old. It’s known as an “organic gem” because it formed from the resin of a tree.
The word “amber” comes from the greek word elektron, referring to the sun. It comes in a wide variety of colors, from a clear yellow to red, but also greens and blues.
Although consumers are most familiar with yellow and golden amber, the gem can be white, yellow, and orange to reddish brown. Reddish amber is more valuable than golden amber, which is more valuable than yellow amber. Rarely, strong fluorescence can give amber a bluish or greenish appearance, which can be highly valuable. (GIA)
Amber has a hardness of 2-2.5 on the mohs scale, meaning it's pretty soft. It can be scratched easily, but can also be polished easily. Rubbing an amber cabochon over denim can even take out finer scratches. Care must be taken when wearing amber not to scratch and damage it. Amber should not be exposed to heat, or prolonged exposure to water. The only safe way to clean amber is with warm water and mild soap.
Carved Amber Intaglios
These are amber cabochons that have been carved with tiny drill bits through the back. The carving is on the inside of the cabochon, but can look like flowers trapped in the stone at first glance. Each piece is unique in its design, colors, textures, and sizes. I source these amber from a woman artisan in Mexico, who has been perfecting her art for years and is trying to pass it on to her sons.
The easiest way to test amber is by simply touching it. Does it feel cold at room temperature? Then it's most likely glass or plastic. Genuine Amber is warm to the touch.
Amber also has a particular smell to it when it’s heated or burned. You can poke a hot pin into an inconspicuous spot, and note how is smells.
You can also test amber with a blacklight. This works better on clear amber because you get this bright green neon color bouncing back at you. On the reds, it’s a bit more blotchy and subtle.
Thanks so much for reading!