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"When the warm kingdom of the amber pine and it seaas set, cooled and froze beneath a thick glacial mass, only amber itself survived; the living sap of a dead tree"
Stefan Zeromski : The Sea Breeze
Baltic amber, otherwise known as succinite, comes from Tertiary deposits on the Sambian Peninsula in Russia or from accumulations found in Quaternary sediments which are exploited in Poland.
Resin from coniferous trees was carried by river at least forty million years ago from Scandinavia and the territory currently occupied by the Baltic Sea and laid down in what is referred to as blue earth in the Chlapowo-Sambia Delta. This delta was laid down in the shallow, northern coastal zone of the ancient intercontinental North-West European Basin.
In all of these deposits amber occurs in the shape of natural swelling taking the form of stalactites or droplets or as the fill of cracks in trees which once secreted resin. The internal moulds of amber which were formed in these cracks - in or beneath the bark or in the sapwood - constitute a type of fossil recording the presence of trees, same of which were of unimaginable size. The biggest single piece of amber ever discovered weights 9,75 kg and can be seen in the Natural History Museum of Humboldt University in Berlin. Amber which has been carried over long distances or been polished naturally by the tidal action of the sea occurs in the form of pebbles or small grains rounded to varying degrees.
Varieties of Baltic amber
Baltic amber comes in a wealth of varieties produced by the great differences in the degree of its translucency and colour - from pale yellow through numerous shades of yellow to white, bluish, greenish, beige and brown. These are among the factors which make amber such a highly desirable and valued raw material in the folk art and jewellery trades.
Baltic amber varieties can be divided into primary and secondary. The fundamental criterion in distinguishing the primary varieties is the internal structure of the amber, which constitutes the key to establishing its colour and translucency, as well and colour of amber depend on the amount of air bubbles contained within a given piece of amber and their distribution.
Transparent amber - this variety does not contain any air bubbles or only single, fairly large ones measuring 0,5-2,0 mm in diameter.
Translucent amber - parts of which contain large concentrations of air bubbles producing a clouded appearance.
Opaque yellow amber - the number of air bubbles in this variety reaches 25,000/1mm², its colour ranging across all shades of yellow and beige.
Opaque white amber - containing up to 900,000 air bubbles per mm², with an internal structure which has the appearance of solid foam. The colour of this variety ranges from white to blue.
Amber contaminated by organic matter and wood splinters forms a separate category among the primary varieties. The types of amber belonging to this category are know as the earth varieties, even though they have nothing to do with soil, or are sometimes referred to as clinker.
The internal structure and colour of primary varieties of amber is subject to change dependent on air, humidity and light levels and other weathering processes which can turn it from yellow to red or orange. Changes in its internal structure lead to the appearance of numerous cracks within any given piece, resulting in what is referred to as a sugar-crystal structure. Weathered amber is also covered by a "cortex" or "crust" making its surface coarse and uneven. The greatest degree of weathering is displayed by amber which has lain in deposits above the surface of the water table for a prolonged period of time.
Sugar-crystal amber, so-called because of its granular appearance and red amber, are easily distinguished amongst the secondary varieties of this mineral.
Most of the information used in texts comes from the book : "Amber - Treasure of the Ancient Seas."
Barbara Kosmowska-Ceranowicz, Roza Kulicka, Krystyna Leciejewicz, Katarzyna Kwiatkowska
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