All About Amber
A few weeks ago, I was in my local rock shop and a woman came in with a necklace that she’d acquired and wanted to know what the warm, honey colored beads were. She was hoping for amber, the fossilized remnants of resin.
Thanks to our friends Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton, most folks are aware of amber because of Jurassic Park, a film which centered around the premise of using DNA extracted from dinosaur blood in mosquitoes fossilized in amber to “recreate” dinosaurs. While this really isn’t possible (DNA from the insects can be extracted but not the blood from the dinosaurs!), some amber does contain the remains of flies, spiders and other insects.
Amber used for beads is polished and drilled, and can range in color from yellows, to oranges, to reds, to browns. It has great depth and feels warm on the skin. I love using amber not only for the color and organic texture, but because I know there are millions of years of history in each bead.
Back to my lady at the rock shop. She wondered, looking and fingering her necklace, how to identify if it was real amber or not. I told her that a sure fire way is to carefully stick a hot needle in the beads (near the stringing hole or other undectable spot). Real amber will smell like burning pine wood…a pleasant scent, while imitations (usually plastic) will smell like, well, burning plastic! The expert at the rock shop echoed my assessment, and said he’d test the strand for her.
She eagerly waited for the test (which just takes a minute) and soon the rock shop owner came back. Unfortunately, her beads were plastic, but she still liked the necklace!
If you’d like more information on amber, check out Susie Ward Aber’s World of Amber. I’m sure you’ll be just as fascinated by it as I am!