What sets amber apart as a gemstone is its organic properties. In the most basic terms, it is fossilized tree resin which occurs in different colors such as blue, red, green, yellow, orange and brown. Since the gem is natural and organic, insects and plants become fossilized as the amber hardens. These inclusions are usually well-preserved organisms that are frozen inside and highly prized by amber enthusiasts.
In general amber is cloudy and translucent, but it can also be completely transparent. The cloudiness is caused by air bubbles that are trapped during hardening. However, amber with clearer transparency is also found and is more valuable than certain cloudy specimens.
Amber has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times (10,200 BC). It has been used as ornamentation in jewelry, fashioned into decorative objects and also as folk medicine remedies.
The color of amber varies as it can have a deeper orange-red color or lighter yellow color as well as blue which is usually found washed ashore in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican amber tends to be the most translucent. The Baltic Sea in Russia is where the largest deposits have been located.
The varieties of amber include Amberoid, Baltic Amber, Blue Amber, Bony Amber, Copal, Burmite, Dominican Amber, Pressed Amber and Simetite.
Amber is soft and can easily scratch. It is also affected by chemicals and cleaning solutions, so it should not be exposed to alcohol, perfumes, gasoline, acids or any solvents.
In today’s jewelry, amber is most used in cabochons and beads for a variety of necklaces, bracelets and earrings.