Secrets of Amber: The Sun Stone on the Blue Earth

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Amber is one of the stones known to man since ancient times. And all because the mineral is very well processed even with the simplest tools. The creation of the most ancient products from the stone of the sun is attributed to the Neolithic period.

At one glance at amber, one can understand that this stone is endowed with magical properties. The light and warmth of the stone seem to envelop a person with positive energy, creating a barrier and protection from the effects of evil spells and black magic. The name of the gem comes from the phrase “hot stone”, and the people call it “honey stone”, and the existence of the mineral is more than a million years old, because this semi-precious stone in its structure is hardened tree resin.

They say that the first ethnic group to make jewelry out of amber lived on the coast of the Baltic Sea, and there is also the largest amber deposit in the world.

The Origin

Many millions of years ago, heavy, thick amber resin melted out of the mighty pine trunks under the rays of the bright sun. It sparkled like a drop on a branch, swayed a little and fell into a huge puddle between the roots. It was the childhood of the Earth when the sun was spreading in the air, dinosaurs were walking in warm and humid forests, and there was no man at all.

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But millions of years have passed – the forest was flooded by the ocean, covered with silt and bottom rock from above, crushed by millions of tons of soil. And then, one of the beautiful days, a strong winter storm argued with the water abyss and, in the heart of this struggle, scattered the underwater mound over the dead forest.

The raging ramparts snatched out of the gully all that was left of the gripping beauties-pines and threw them ashore with wild fury. In a heap of black debris and algae on the beach, a piece of the sun flashed with a bright light – a drop of resin, petrified under the seabed, survived centuries and epochs but retained the elusive breath of distant antiquity-Amber.

Sunstone, as amber is called, is not a stone at all. It is a long-known fact: amber is the hardened resin of ancient coniferous trees. Sometimes, before hardening, a sticky liquid resin met plants, insects and even small vertebrates on its way. They are forever bogged down in resin and, thanks to its composition, have remained practically unchanged for millions of years. Such “captives”, walled up in amber, are called inclusions

To get an inclusion, the resin had to harden quickly enough, for example, when it gets into water. That is why amber with inclusions is most often found in those places where forests border the sea. Rare inclusions are often found in the Dominican Republic, Burma and the Baltics. blankToday the Baltic field is the largest on earth, accounting for approximately 90% of the world’s reserves. The Kaliningrad Amber Combine extracts about 500 tons of amber here annually. On average, every ten thousandth stone contains a “surprise”: most often in the Baltic amber you can find small insects, remnants of prehistoric plants and air bubbles.

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To get an inclusion, the resin had to harden quickly enough, for example, when it gets into water. That is why amber with inclusions is most often found in those places where forests border the sea. Rare inclusions are often found in the Dominican Republic, Burma and the Baltics. Today the Baltic field is the largest on earth, accounting for approximately 90% of the world’s reserves. The Kaliningrad Amber Combine extracts about 500 tons of amber here annually. On average, every ten thousandth stone contains a “surprise”: most often in the Baltic amber you can find small insects, remnants of prehistoric plants and air bubbles.

The inclusions can be of different sizes, but each one is valuable, even an air bubble. Most inclusions are only a few millimeters long, but there are also “large” exceptions. The maximum recorded length of the inclusions is 4 centimeters. For example, amber with a whole lizard was found on the Baltic coast of Poland. Amber can also tell about the life of prehistoric mammals: pieces of fur are often found in the stone, which belonged to the ancestors of modern squirrels or moles. We will mention it again later.

The History

The history of the origin of amber has many variations, and perhaps all of them are correct. We will not burden you with boring information, but will briefly tell you who discovered amber and how.

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Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer and scientist, was the first who dared to prove that amber is the petrified resin of trees. Pliny observed the behavior of amber in various environments for a long time. Later, he drew attention to the resinous smell when burning amber, as well as to the fact that frozen plant particles are often found in transparent amber.

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Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer and scientist, was the first who dared to prove that amber is the petrified resin of trees. Pliny observed the behavior of amber in various environments for a long time. Later, he drew attention to the resinous smell when burning amber, as well as to the fact that frozen plant particles are often found in transparent amber.

A little later, German scientists tried to challenge Pliny’s theory.

The natural scientist Georg Agricola (16th century) argued that amber is formed in the bowels of the Earth from a liquid bituminous substance, which, flowing out onto its surface, solidifies. At the beginning of the 18th century, there was also a hypothesis that amber appeared due to the combination of oil with mineral acids.

Amber was well known in Ancient Russia. They gave him the name «alatyr» and attributed miraculous properties to him.

Russian scientist Michael Lomonosov in his works “The first foundations of mining science” (1742) and “The word about the birth of metals from the earthquake” (1757) gave new arguments in favor of the organic origin of amber. Today it is generally accepted that amber is the hardened resin of trees, mainly conifers, that grew in the vast territory of the southern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula and adjacent areas within the boundaries of the modern Baltic Sea.

About 50 million years ago in these parts there was a significant warming and humidification of the climate, which favored lush vegetation. Along with broadleaf lime trees, maples, oaks, chestnuts, laurel and myrtle trees, as well as palms and lianas were widespread. Resin flow or trees was caused by climate change. Oxygen oxidized the resin released from the trees, which almost instantly became covered with a thick dark crust, in this form it accumulated in the soil of the amber forest.

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  1. Wooden lenses
  2. Under-bark lenses
  3. Bark amber
  4. Amber icicles
  5. Amber drops

The water streams of reservoirs over time washed the hardened lumps of resin from the greenery and carried them to the mouths of the rivers. Now it is the territory of the Kaliningrad Peninsula, now called the Palminikenskoe amber deposit.

Interesting facts

The story is not very interesting, but informative. We have already learned what amber is, how it appeared and how it was discovered. Now let’s move on to interesting facts and references.

Baltic amber crowned the crown of the famous pharaoh Tutankhamun, this is one of the first precious stones. Mentions of him are already found in Homer in his “Odyssey” (it is curious that there he is the only one of all named gems). The Roman historian Tacitus claims that amber was brought “from the country of the Germans”, this stone was traded by Phoenician merchants, calling it Sakhal (drops of resin).

For some tribes, amber served as money.

During the reign of Nero in ancient Rome, the fashion for amber products already dominated. Various luxury items were made from it. The emperor sent his merchants to the North for Baltic amber; which was highly valued not only for its attractiveness, but also for its medicinal and protective properties. Nero himself preferred black amber to all its types.

According to the historian Pliny, a small amber figurine cost more than an obedient and healthy slave. The rich Romans always carried amber balls with them, which they rubbed with their hands, believing that amber strengthens strength. In China and Japan, cherry-colored amber, similar to the blood of a dragon, was highly revered, it was worn by all members of the imperial family. The color and clarity of amber were the criteria for its value. In ancient Rome, white and waxy amber was intended exclusively for smoking incense, only transparent reddish amber was highly valued.

There are also many interesting stories, including historical figures, about the mystical properties of amber.

Myths and Legends

There are also many interesting stories, including historical figures, about the mystical properties of amber. We want to tell about the four most interesting and romantic.

Amber Tears of Jurate

In the depths of the sea, in a wonderful palace made of amber, lived the delightful mistress of the nymphs – Jurate. One of the warm and sunny days, when fishermen went out to sea, Jurate met young Kastytis. The fisherman was so handsome and strong that the nymph fell in love with him at first sight. But the laws of the sea forbade the love of an immortal goddess and an earthly man. And having learned about the sympathy of the princess, the thunder god Perkunas unleashed his anger on the castle of the goddess. The lightning launched by him destroyed the amber palace, grains of which are scattered throughout the sea world to this day.

The ruler also did not spare the beloved goddess, he caused a powerful hurricane in which the fisherman died. Jurate, saddened by the death of her beloved, mourned him with golden tears. And the sea wave carried them ashore in the form of amber stones.

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The ruler also did not spare the beloved goddess, he caused a powerful hurricane in which the fisherman died. Jurate, saddened by the death of her beloved, mourned him with golden tears. And the sea wave carried them ashore in the form of amber stones. 

Tears of Heliad

In the myths of ancient Greece, amber is mentioned as the tears of the inconsolable sisters of Phaethon, heliads, who mourn their dead brother. The son of the sun god Helios, Phaethon, to prove his divine origin to the son of Zeus, Epaph secretly took his father’s solar chariot. Not knowing how to control the fiery horses, Faeton raced first to the ground, then to the sky. Blinded by his thought, the boy almost ruined the whole world. Angry Zeus barely managed to stop the stubborn young man. His thunderous lightning pierced Faeton’s chariot, and he fell like an arrow into the Eridanus River. Shards of the golden chariot were scattered throughout the sky.

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For a long time, Phaethon was mourned by his mother and his sisters, the Heliades. The Greek gods, unable to withstand boundless grief, turned the weeping heliads into silent poplars. But even becoming trees, Phaethon’s mother and sisters continued to cry, dropping their amber tears into the river. Since then, from the trees bent over Eridan, golden tears of sadness have scattered, falling into the cold water, turning into transparent amber.

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For a long time, Phaethon was mourned by his mother and his sisters, the Heliades. The Greek gods, unable to withstand boundless grief, turned the weeping heliads into silent poplars. But even becoming trees, Phaethon’s mother and sisters continued to cry, dropping their amber tears into the river. Since then, from the trees bent over Eridan, golden tears of sadness have scattered, falling into the cold water, turning into transparent amber.

Particles of the sun

Long before the appearance of man on earth, there were two heavenly bodies. Over time, the stars became crowded in the same sky, and one of them fell to the ground. Having hit the rocks at the bottom of the sea, the sun crumbled into small pieces. Since then, sea waves have carried particles of the amber sun ashore.

Tears of Indian Birds

In the works of the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles (5 years BC), dedicated to the myths of amber, the wonderful stone was described as the tears of mysterious Indian birds mourning the death of the hero Meleager.

What about the mining?

It seems that now we should go to the methods of extracting amber.

Once again, about the extraction of amber, you can write a separate long and not very interesting article. We are here to introduce you to the true history of the stone and its mining. Therefore, here is a short and informative version.

Most of the world’s amber developments are located on the territory of the Russian Federation. 90 percent of the world’s proven amber reserves are located in Kaliningrad.

 In the village of Yantarny, on this unique deposit, the world’s largest enterprise engaged in the extraction and processing of amber operates.

The first mention was made of the easiest way to extract amber, namely by hand on the beaches, where the stone was thrown by the tides. This method was the main one in the medieval era.

Svyatoslav Savkevich is an outstanding Russian scientist and the main popularizer of amber. Based on the data from his research, about 60 thousand tons of amber have been collected on the Baltic Sea coast over the past three millennia.

In the 14th century, another, no less simple method of mining was gaining popularity. Amber was caught in large nets, 8 meters long. The fishermen either went out to sea in boats, and together with algae and other waste they caught amber, or they collected it from the shore.

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After a long time, they began to extract amber in more automated ways. The stone was scooped up from the seabed using special scrapers. The scooping was usually done from the boat in the absence of a storm.

In the middle of the 16th century, the first mentions of amber mining on the coast appeared. The coastal zone was drilled, the loosened earth mixed with water contributed to the floatation of amber to the surface.

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In 1871, the first mine was laid in the area of ​​the village of Sinyavino (Russia, Kaliningrad). The mine was 30 meters deep and was founded for the purpose of industrial amber mining. Unfortunately, the mine turned out to be unprofitable and dangerous to find, therefore it was closed.

 By the beginning of the 20th century. underground mining became unprofitable.

Successful industrial amber mining began only in the first half of the 19th century. Quarries were laid on the coasts, about 30 by 30 meters in size.

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In 1912, at a distance from the sea, a large open pit was laid for opencast mining in the vicinity of the village of Palmnikenen (Russia, Kaliningrad). Before World War II, about 400 tons of amber per year were mined at this deposit. It was processed at the Konigsberg amber manufactory and other enterprises in East Prussia. The quarry exhausted itself only in the 70s of the 20th century.

The history of amber fishing in the Baltic has several millennia.

Today, amber mining is fully automated, and there is no need to go out to sea with a landing net. Although, if you really want to, we do not stop anyone.

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After a long time, they began to extract amber in more automated ways. The stone was scooped up from the seabed using special scrapers. The scooping was usually done from the boat in the absence of a storm.

In the middle of the 16th century, the first mentions of amber mining on the coast appeared. The coastal zone was drilled, the loosened earth mixed with water contributed to the floatation of amber to the surface.

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In 1871, the first mine was laid in the area of ​​the village of Sinyavino (Russia, Kaliningrad). The mine was 30 meters deep and was founded for the purpose of industrial amber mining. Unfortunately, the mine turned out to be unprofitable and dangerous to find, therefore it was closed.

By the beginning of the 20th century. underground mining became unprofitable.

Successful industrial amber mining began only in the first half of the 19th century. Quarries were laid on the coasts, about 30 by 30 meters in size.

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In 1912, at a distance from the sea, a large open pit was laid for opencast mining in the vicinity of the village of Palmnikenen (Russia, Kaliningrad). Before World War II, about 400 tons of amber per year were mined at this deposit. It was processed at the Konigsberg amber manufactory and other enterprises in East Prussia. The quarry exhausted itself only in the 70s of the 20th century

The history of amber fishing in the Baltic has several millennia.

Today, amber mining is fully automated, and there is no need to go out to sea with a landing net. Although, if you really want to, we do not stop anyone.

Amber is mined in an open way. To open the rock, special equipment is used: water monitors and dredgers. The water jet, releasing a powerful jet of water, washes away the layer of waste rock, and then dredgers transport the resulting mixture of waste rock and water – slurry – through a pipeline into the sea. When the amber-bearing layer – the “blue earth” is opened, a multi-bucket excavator is put into operation. He grabs the amber rock with a ladle and feeds it to the conveyor, from where the “blue earth” goes to the processing plant. And here is where the processing begins.

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Amber is mined in an open way. To open the rock, special equipment is used: water monitors and dredgers. The water jet, releasing a powerful jet of water, washes away the layer of waste rock, and then dredgers transport the resulting mixture of waste rock and water – slurry – through a pipeline into the sea. When the amber-bearing layer – the “blue earth” is opened, a multi-bucket excavator is put into operation. He grabs the amber rock with a ladle and feeds it to the conveyor, from where the “blue earth” goes to the processing plant. And here is where the processing begins.

From Zero to Hero

So how does our sunstone become beautiful? After being mined, amber goes through a full cycle of processing before becoming an adornment or a gift.

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Roughing – removing the crust, patina formed as a result of weathering, using a coarse-grained skin, a file. Roughing is always started from the transparent side of the stone, which at one time was facing the sun. The lower crust will become an excellent background for the future amber product.

Forming – giving the workpiece the intended shape. With the help of the same tools, the stone is given a certain volume, silhouette and shape.

Leveling – the product obtained after peeling and shaping has a relatively rough, with visible scratches, rough appearance. Smooth the entire surface with a medium-grain sandpaper. The movements of the skin or stone are light, without pressure, circular, rotational.

Grinding – this technique exactly copies the previous one, only in this case the skin is taken with a finer grain. This technique should be carried out in several passes, little by little, reducing the degree of graininess. The skin is taken waterproof, processing is carried out by moistening the stone or skin

Polishing is the final operation, which gives the amber product a perfect “marketable” appearance. It is carried out by hand on felt, leather, felt, flannel or calico, rotating circles made of the same material. In production, amber products are polished on a coarse calico wheel, rubbed with a special paste of amber shavings, paraffin and chalk. Hand polishing is carried out with light circular motions. On rotating circles, the surfaces are polished with a light touch and constant movement.

Do not forget about the most important feature of amber, namely inclusions. Told you we will get back to them.

Inclusion is a remnant of a whole living organism, bogged down in prehistoric resin and forever frozen in amber. Such inclusions increase the artistic value of the gem and jewelry.

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Do not forget about the most important feature of amber, namely inclusions. Told you we will get back to them.

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Inclusion is a remnant of a whole living organism, bogged down in prehistoric resin and forever frozen in amber. Such inclusions increase the artistic value of the gem and jewelry.

The homeland of rare inclusions in the Dominican Republic, Burma, the Baltic States. All conditions have been created in these regions for the formation of amber with amazing “captives” by nature: a tropical climate, massive coniferous forests bordering the sea and the ocean.

An animal, an insect, got stuck in the resin, then immediately fell into the cold coastal waters and instantly froze. The victim had no chance to get out of the stone sarcophagus.

It is believed that the older or larger the animal, the more expensive the stone. It is highly prized among collectors. It is also worth noting that scientists learn a lot about prehistoric species, thanks to such finds.

350 Shades of Amber

Each piece of amber is unique. Each carries a riddle, a mystery, an indescribable play of light, a light haze, cobweb cracks, depressions; very rich scale of its colors. There is almost colorless amber.

According to the degree of transparency, amber is divided into:

Transparent – this stone has no voids and, accordingly, belongs to the highest quality;

Cloudy – translucent, with a large content of cavities;

Foamy – an opaque mineral, outwardly reminiscent of sea foam, inside which cavities of various sizes are clearly visible;

Bastard color – an opaque look that resembles candied honey;

Bone – an opaque stone that looks like ivory in appearance.

Also, the mineral is separated by color. The palette is formed by various inclusions that are present in the nugget.

It is believed that there are as many shades of amber in nature as there are in the spectrum.

For example, a green tint is obtained if the composition contains algae or pyrite (FeS2). Bright yellow amber is a fresh nugget, the color of which has not yet changed under the influence of external factors. The stone gets a red tint over time in the process of weathering and natural grinding with sand, wind and water.

Division of amber by color:

Succinite or Baltic stone is the most common traditional yellow nugget and occupies the largest niche on the market.

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Bockerite is a dark amber that resembles black tea in color.

Glessite is a brown opaque stone.

Gedanite is a waxy yellow amber.

Stantienite is a nugget of beautiful dark, almost black color.

Nature has endowed amber with a huge wealth of colors. Amber specialists count about 350 shades. There are unique finds in which almost all the colors of the rainbow are found. The usual colors are orange, honey-yellow, golden with reflections of the sun’s rays. There are stones of white, yellow, blue, red and almost black color.

Stones of the color of thick tea with a cherry tint are very much appreciated. And in Sicily, emerald green, bluish and even purple amber is mined. Blue amber is very rare. It is harder than other types of amber, difficult to process, and its cost is very high.

In Japan, striped amber is found, it looks like agate. The whole range of colors is due to the origin of amber and impurities in it.

As you can see, each grade of amber has a specific color and transparency.

Medical or Magical

Amber is a stone of health, light feelings, and the sun, a love amulet that can attract the object of his love to the owner of the gem. According to the psychological effect of color on a person, orange (amber) is a stimulating and exalting color, amusing and invigorating, ardent and hot, but not intimate.

Even in the pre-Christian period, people believed that perfumes were hidden in pieces of amber in small recesses, and therefore they were highly valued.

Among the ancient Greeks, giving amber meant wishing good luck. This stone is a symbol of victory: it gives victory over enemies, therefore the main part of amber items in burials are battle amulets.

The stone has been considered a panacea for all diseases since time immemorial; Medicinal white amber was especially appreciated by connoisseurs.

It was believed that there are practically no such ailments from which this gem would not heal. It heals myopia and cataracts, heart ailments, and sore throat, stops vomiting and hemoptysis, removes kidney and liver stones, and aids urination.

So, Martin Luther constantly carried a piece of amber with him in order to prevent the formation of kidney stones. The stone strengthened the abdominal organs, and taken in the form of a powder with water healed stomach ailments; mixed with rose oil or honey, it was used for diseases of the eyes and ears and healed cracked legs.

The stone was used for loss of consciousness (amber oil with ammonia), against sudden weakness and bleeding, suppuration and swelling, incessant cough and consumption, seizures, mental disorders, and hypochondria, healed and prevented a number of female and colds, strengthened the gums and teeth. It was believed that amber cures dementia and suffocation, fever, and jaundice, is effective for deafness and improper metabolism, the intoxication of the body and joint diseases, spasms, whooping cough, and colic in young children.

It has long been known that it is useful to wear amber beads in case of thyroid disease. Amber contains iodine, which is essential for the normal functioning of the gland.