15 unknown facts about amber
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- Amber can be not only white, yellow, orange, red, but even green and blue. The various colors of the Central American "sunstone" - there are up to thirty shades, this is explained by its origin: it was formed from the resin of the carob tree (Ukrainian amber - from the resin of conifers). Blue amber is found only in Central America, more precisely - in Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Christopher Columbus and members of his team were the first Europeans to see this amazing mineral. When they landed on the island of Haiti in 1492, the aborigines greeted the uninvited guests with gifts, including blue amber. The Spaniards were only interested in gold, so they ignored stones. Blue tropical amber has the property of phosphorescence (probably due to impurities of volcanic ash in the hardened resin), which gives a stunning effect to jewelry made of such a rare material. Blue amber is the hardest of all types of petrified resins, so only very experienced jewelers are allowed to process it, and this fact strongly affects the final price of the products, of course, in the direction of increase in price.
- Amber decorated the crown of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, it is one of the earliest precious stones. Information about it can already be found in Homer in the "Odyssey" (by the way, it is the only one of all specifically named gems there). The Roman historian Tacitus reports that amber was brought "from the land of the Germans", it was traded by Phoenician merchants, calling it sahal (drops of resin). In some tribes, amber was a monetary unit.
- There are several varieties of this semi-precious stone. What we actually know as amber is succinite. If you see a waxy yellow amber, you will know that it is hedanite. An opaque brown stone is actually called glesite, and the same opaque amber, but already elastic and of a darker shade, is bokerite. And finally, a very fragile, easily broken amber of an unusual black color is called stantienite.
- Amber belongs to organogenic jewels (consisting of the remains of animals and plant organisms or products of their vital activity). The hypothesis that amber is fossilized tree resin was made by Pliny the Elder. The famous ancient historian Tacitus wrote: "... amber, as you can easily see, is nothing more than the juice of plants, because sometimes animals and insects are found in it, enclosed in the once liquid juice ... The rays of the sun expelled this juice , and the liquid dripped into the sea."
- Along with jade, amber is the oldest gemstone known to man. It can be found in the works of Plato and Aristotle. Amber has been known since ancient times. At times he was very popular. Thus, Pliny the Elder noted at the beginning of the new era: "...Among the luxury items, we see amber, the products of which, however, are still in demand only among women" (apparently, men preferred harder jewelry).
- Ovid in his "Metamorphoses" conveys a beautiful myth about Phaethon, "which would explain" the origin of amber. Phaethon, the son of Phoebus, the Sun god, and the nymph Clymene, begged his father to let him drive the solar chariot, but lost his way, could not handle the horses, got too close to the earth - a terrible hell fell on Earth, the rivers from the Don to the Rhine dried up, formed great deserts, the inhabitants of Ethiopia turned black, forests caught fire, mountain tops split. Angry Jupiter threw the unfortunate rider to Earth with lightning. The mother and sisters, who mourned the deceased for a long time, turned into trees, and tears continue to fall from their branches into the Eridan river flowing below them, immediately harden in the sun and turn into amber. Since these are the fossilized tears of the Heliads, the daughters of the Sun, that is why the mineral is so transparent, warm and bright, and when it burns, it smells simply divine.
- Fossilized resin, which is mined in the mines of Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, is especially valued in the world, because it contains ten times more inclusions. In the prehistoric resin traps that have come down to us, not only fossils of plants, insects, small amphibians, but also ... sea fish were found. Apparently, the resin, rolling down the trunk of the carob tree, collected everything that happened in its path, and for some time it did not freeze even in the sea.
- In China and Japan, the cherry-colored amber stone reminiscent of dragon's blood was especially revered, it was worn by members of the imperial family. Color and transparency were the standard of its value. In ancient Rome, white and waxy amber was used only for smoking incense, while transparent reddish amber was highly valued. At the beginning of our era, it was valued mainly for its two varieties: boiled in honey and transparent-golden. In the countries of the East, transparent yellow with a greenish tint and milky white gems were highly valued.
- One property of amber has long drawn people's attention to it and caused astonishment. The fact is that amber becomes electrified as a result of friction and attracts straw and fluff. By the way, amber is called "electron" in Greek. And in German, amber is called "Bernstein", literally "fire stone". Amber is sung in Russian songs under the name "alatyr stone". Amber - that's what they call it in Ukraine and Poland.
- Burning Stone, that's how amber was called in Old German in the 13th century. The smoke of burning amber not only relieved heartaches and helped with rheumatism, but could also serve as a substitute for frankincense. It is no accident that the Brandenburg-Prussian kings in the 17th century granted themselves the monopoly right to collect a valuable gift of nature. It was strictly forbidden to the inhabitants of the coast under pain of imprisonment and even death! And already in the thirties of our century, biochemists managed to isolate succinic acid - a substance that is a non-specific biostimulant and has anti-inflammatory and anti-stress effects, has a beneficial effect on the work of the kidneys and intestines.
- The cost of the most famous amber finds - with a seven-centimeter chameleon, a whole frog, and a ten-centimeter lizard - is tens of thousands of dollars. By the way, to date, about 30 lizards and about 50 butterflies sealed in ancient resin have been found all over the world. More recently, amber with a spider inside was found in Haiti. Scientists studied the find for two years and established that a 4 cm long insect lived in these regions 120 million years ago. Moreover, the "age" of amber was determined by ... the spider's blood.
The amber room is a masterpiece of amber mosaic, which was in the Catherine Palace-Museum near St. Petersburg before the war. In 1701, the Prussian King Friedrich I, after his coronation, commissioned the Danish amber carver Gottfried Do Tussaud to start making an amber cabinet in Potsdam. The work was completed in 1709. The Amber cabinet was a combination of individual parts with a total area of 55 m².
- In places of extraction, for example, in the north of the Dominican Republic or in the Mexican state of Chiapas, you can buy multicolored raw amber: from $250 for a large piece. Anyone who makes such an acquisition can discover some prehistoric wonder in a nondescript piece of ancient resin. True, in order to "look" into the stone, it will be necessary to polish it.
- It is quite easy to distinguish real amber from a fake. Natural amber has the property of floating in salt water. Therefore, pour water into a glass, add 2-3 tablespoons of salt and drop a piece of amber (if, of course, it is unframed). If it went to the bottom, then you are holding in your hands a masterful forgery.
- The largest amber in the world, named "Burmese amber", has a mass of 15 kg 250 g! It is kept in the Natural History Museum in London. The second largest piece of amber weighing 12 kg was found in the second half of the 19th century. in Prussia. Then the unique find was valued at 25,000 francs. There, on the coast of the Baltic Sea, pieces of amber weighing 9700 and 7000 grams were discovered. In 1803, a piece of amber weighing 6750 g (length 37, width 21 and thickness 14 cm) was found near the town of Guseva (former Gumbinnen), and a little later - a flat piece of amber weighing about 5700 grams. However, large pieces of this sunstone are quite rare. In the entire history of amber mining, less than ten stones heavier than 5 kg have been counted.
- Amber is a child of geological time. Its age is estimated at tens of millions of years. Younger amber is not found. So, just such a term is needed for the "ripening" of this precious stone. That is why amber deposits are so rare and scarce.