Amber Tidbits

Anatomy of a Gemstone By Linda McMurray

A beautiful rough crystal is discovered, then it is faceted, transformed, and becomes a lively colored jewel, evolving into a precious gemstone!

Colored gemstones are among the most beautiful of nature’s crystal creations.  A gemstone is the naturally occurring crystalline form of a mineral.  A gemstone is desirable for its beauty, valuable in its rarity, and durable enough to be enjoyed for generations.  Some gemstone varieties have been here since before history began and others only discovered recently, like the exotic Tanzanite.

Most important, a colored gemstone has to have an attractive display of color and brightness.  The rough crystal must be oriented—positioned so the very best color will show to the eye.   There should be no muddiness or dead spots in the gem, or “window” in the gem, which is an unattractive, washed out area in the center of the gemstone when you look through the table.  There should be no dark areas or dark spots around the outside edge of the gemstone, which is called extinction. 

Colored gemstones have primary value factors very closely related to diamonds.



I was introduced to Amber when I was a small child. My grandmother came back from a visit to Poland wearing some beautiful dark honey colored beads. She told me the lovely bead necklace was Amber and the beads had strong healing powers. I can still remember the smooth warm feel of her special Amber beads as she let me hold them.

European and Jordanian Ambers date back to over 200+ million years old, with Dominican Amber dating to about 55 million years ago. (Interesting note: In the movie Jurassic Park, the scientists used 55 million year old Dominican Amber and extracted the dinosaur DNA from that. Since Dominican Amber is 55 million years old, and the dinosaurs died out 65 million years old there was a “slight” 10 million year technical flaw in their thinking.)

Known as an organic gemstone Amber is the product of living organisms. Amber was formed from tree resin, mostly from pines that fossilized millions of years ago. To be called Amber the hardened resin has to be at least a million years old. Immature Amber is called copal. This sticky resin would sometimes trap insects, leaves, pine needles or flower parts before it hardened and fossilized. Amber inclusions like these are highly sought after and could bring a commendable price depending on what got trapped in the Amber.

Amber is one of the earliest gems to be discovered and was highly valued as adornments. These golden gems where found along the Baltic Sea by cavemen. Archeologists have found Amber artifacts from 10,000 BC. The ancients also used to burn Amber because of the sweet smell it emitted.

Amber is warm to the touch and surprisingly very light weight. It comes in many natural colors; different shades of amber, (fact: the color is named after Amber) yellow, cherry reds, red orange, blue and green. Amber sometimes is treated by heat or oil to make the gem more transparent. There is also Amber that is Translucent (a silky look) or opaque (cannot see through.) Heat treatment at times leaves crackled like marks called sun spangles inside the Amber.

Amber is used in jewelry as cabochons, faceted into gems, carved objects and beads. It is a soft gemstone and can easily be scratched. It is 2 to 2.5 on the Mohs scale for hardness. You should always keep your Amber away from chemicals, solvents and perfumes. Wrap your Amber piece or jewelry in a soft cloth when storing for added protection. Amber can crack from too much heat or pressure.

Amber Folklore:

Amber possesses electrostatic properties. For centuries it was used for healing purposes and continues to be utilized as such. Amber is a powerful chakra cleanser and healer. It is said that Amber saturates the body with vitality and has the power to draw disease out of the body. Amber absorbs pain and negative energy. It allows the body to rebalance itself and heal. Amber is said to be an excellent natural antibiotic.

Amber is said to be able to strengthen your memory and intellect. It helps with emotional calming and centering. Amber transmutes negative energy to positive. Wearing Amber jewelry gives you the energy of the stone all day long. It is said that wearing Amber neutralizes your negative energy, allowing the body to heal itself. Amber is said to be an excellent natural antibiotic. In fact, you may have noticed babies wearing Amber necklaces recently, as they have grown in popularity as an all natural, drug-free teething remedy.


Simple test to confirm your Amber is genuine and not plastic.

You will need:

Water Glass
Table salt
Plastic bead



Use a water glass, preferably so you can see the results.  Take 1 part salt (a little more if you are using Kosher salt) and 2 parts water, mix till dissolved.  Drop the Amber and the plastic bead in the water.  The Amber (if it is real) will be buoyant and float.  The plastic bead or an Amber imposter will sink to the bottom.  Neat!

Linda McMurray, G.G., A.J.P