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AMBER “The Jurassic gem”
Dinosaurs have been more popular than ever since their starring role in the film Jurassic Park. A more surprising result of the film's popularity has been a worldwide surge in demand for amber jewelry. Although amber's use in adornment is probably as old as mankind itself, in recent times it has had a limited market. Of course, that was before millions of people saw dinosaur DNA extracted from a mosquito trapped in amber in the film.
Millions of people learned from the film that amber, which is fossilized pine tree resin, is ancient and valuable, like an antique from history.
Demand is especially strong for amber with insects inside it. "Amber is like a time capsule made and placed in the earth by nature herself," said David Federman, author of the Consumer Guide to Colored Gemstones. "It has helped paleontologists reconstruct life on earth in its primal phases. More than 1,000 extinct species of insects have been identified in amber."
The two main sources of amber on the market today are the Baltic States and the Dominican Republic. The desire for amber is nothing new. Amber artifacts dating back to the Stone Age have been found in what is now Germany and Denmark.
Stone Age man imbued amber with supernatural properties and used it to wear and to worship. It never completely went out of vogue since the Stone Age
The Greeks called amber 'elektron', sun-made. The Romans sent armies to conquer and control amber-producing areas. The Emperor Nero was a great connoisseur of amber. During his time, according to the Roman historian Pliny, the price of an amber figurine, no matter how small, exceeded the price of a healthy slave.
The ancient Germans burned amber as incense, so they called it 'Bernstein', or 'burn stone'. Clear colorless amber was considered the best material for rosary beads in the Middle Ages on account of its smooth silky feel. Certain orders of knights controlled the trade, and unauthorized possession of raw amber was illegal in most of Europe by the year 1400
Columbus got a surprise when he arrived in 1492 at the island which the Spaniards called “La Hispaniola” (today Dominican Republic and Haiti), and received from a young Taino prince a pair of shoes decorated with Caribbean amber, in exchange for a strand of Baltic amber beads that he had offered.
The warm beauty of amber caused that for thousands of years it was regarded as a precious substance, and for its mysterious origin considered as a divine protection from harm to the bearer of amber jewelry. While Baltic amber formed from hardened resin of the pine tree, Pinus Succinifera, amber from the Dominican Republic originated from an extinct species of broad-leaved tropical trees Hymenaea of the legume family, whose closest relative is still found in East Africa. Nevertheless, in the Caribbean and in Central and South America, another relative of this ancient species is still grown and is called “algarroba”. Although there are many places where Amber is found, larger quantities are mined in about twenty deposits around the world and mainly in Eastern Europe (Baltic), in Mexico and in the Dominican Republic.
Amber from the Dominican Republic is renowned for the diversity of inclusions it contains. Amber lovers, scientists and collectors alike value Dominican Amber for the three rare “treasures”, which are scorpions, lizards and frogs. Probably only 30 to 40 scorpions, 10 to 20 lizards and 8 or 9 frogs have been found worldwide. A piece of Dominican amber was discovered in 1997 and valued at over 50,000 US$. Why? I contained a small frog, preserved in a magnificent way. The occurrence of insects in Dominican Amber is about 10 times higher than in Baltic amber. Dominican amber is also 90 percent more transparent. Another important fact about Dominican amber makes it stand out from the amber found in other regions: It occurs in several colors, from a light yellow to a deep red, the extremely rare smoky green and even blue.
- Item #: AE001