The Amber Lady has written an excellent article that discusses amber, its quality, and the nature of the inclusions found. The scholar should get Life in Amber by George O. Poinar, Jr; it is definitive. His The Quest for Life in Amber, written with his wife, is more accessible and adventurous. And their The Amber Forest: A Reconstruction of a Vanished World disects the findings from a particular amber bed in the Dominican Republic; the very same bed that is the source of most of our fossils.
Also of note is Amber, by Andrew Ross, a short but accessible introduction to amber and its inclusions, how formed, where found, how to determine authenticity - with great photos.
We have some interesting mythological stories about amber that might pique your interest. These and others are found in Bruce Knuth's fascinating book "Gems in Myth, Legend, and Lore." It's not only bugs that amber reveals. See this piece in the New York Times about how feathers trapped in amber reveal "A More Colorful Dinosaur Age."
What makes one piece of amber more valuable than another?
- Color. Personal preference but not totally subjective; colors always influence the price since olive green, deep red and the florescent ambers are more expensive. Value also varies with the immediate availability and intensity of the color.
- Beauty. Look for a piece that emits a natural glow from within. Clarity plays a roll only if it enhances the piece.
- Cut. Look for a cut that enhances the inclusions. Facets are difficult but some lovely work can be done.
- Inclusions. Ah, thats why we're on this particular page, isn't it? Insects, identifiable plant parts, enhydro's (moving air bubbles inside water bubbles), natural spangles, dust swirls and circular 'stalactite' formations add beauty and scientific value to the amber. The placement, visibility, the quality, size, rarity and scientific value of the inclusion all are determinants of value.
- Magical Special Powers. Amber has a rich history being one of the first gems used for amulets and healing. Amber is used as prayer beads in Christian and Moslem practise, is also known as the 'Witch's Stone' and is used in Wiccan practice. It is believed to be best worn around the throat for a soothing and buffering effect. There are many New Age Resources with further information.
Some additional web resources with discussion and photos related to amber and bugs in amber include:
- The Smithsonian's "Suspended In Time".
- Bob Platt's "Identifying True Amber" discusses the factors to consider in evaluating value and quality. His images are gorgeous!
- Amber: Window to the Past, at the American Museum of Natural History.
- Doug Lundberg's "Amber, A View of the Past".
- The Swedish Museum's Amber Facts.
- Mark Meyer's Natural History of Amber CD Project.
- The Dead Bug in Amber Club is, as you might imagine, an eclectic and interesting website.
- The Amber Gallery
- The Amethyst Gallery has a fine 'mineral gallery' with mineralogical data and images.
Here are some fine paleontology/entomology/geology related websites for your pleasure.
- For insect identification try the Entomology and Wildlife Ecology Insect Database.
- InsectNet is a popular bug portal.
- There are many Virtual Museums on the Web!
- The Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley is awesome; see the Geologic Time exhibit.The Amber Lady, Inc.
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