Amber has been in use by humans for thousands of years, possibly longer than any other gem material. It is fairly common, easy to work with and a constant wonder to the eyes.
Amber is an amorphous mixture of organic compounds, including hydrocarbons, resins, succinic acid, and oils. Amorphous means that it has no crystalline structure. Organic refers to having its origin in living things.
It is commonly referred to as fossilized resin of ancient conifers. However, it is not a fossil in the common sense. Most fossils begin by having an animal or plant buried in the earth. Over a period of millennia, the organic material is slowly replaced with elements from the mineral kingdom.
Amber, on the other hand, has not had its organic elements replaced. Instead, the resin has gone through a chemical transformation. Amber has become a polymer, a natural plastic.
This gem comes in many colors, with the most common being yellow, orange and brown. Rarely, you will find amber with a green, blue, or violet tint. This is due to extreme fluorescence.
There are several shades of these colors and several grades of transparency. Jewelry is made almost exclusively from the transparent material. The opaque material is carved into a variety of artistic ornaments and useful utensils. Amber is also burned as incense and used as an ingredient in perfumes.
Amber is known for its inclusions. They consist of insects, pollen and plant debris from the time the tree was living. This offers a remarkable view into the past.