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Amber colors


#1

Was: Comments from adults at shows

Hey Gerry

how are the different colours [of amber] obtained. I realize they
are treated but does anybody know what treatments are used. Also
I noticed a large amount of very bright red Amber > available,
where is this coming from? 

Natural amber is fossil pine resin, or sap. Actually, the various
amber colours do occur naturally from yellow to red to green - even
blue! (from the Dominican republic). But these are rare and as you
know a lot of amber is synthetic these days, made from plastics. You
can tell the real thing by applying heat (though I am not sure most
vendors would approve lol)

http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/ident.htm

I trawled this info on the web, which I love:

“Most often small and winged animals were trapped in the sticky
resin. Approximately 86% of the inclusions are insects, about 12% are
spiders, 1,5% belong to other groups of animals and only 0,5% of
inclusions are plants.”

The same source says:

“Colors of amber were influenced by changes in resin when it leaked
out: evaporating volatile elements could form in transparent resin
plenty of gas microbubbles, which “roiled” the resin (yellow amber);
this intensive process in 1 sq. mm of resin could make up to 1
million such bubbles (white amber). Blue tint formed when FeS2
admixtures got in resin fallen on soil-amber of blue tint is the
most rare. Green amber formed when small parts of plants got in the
resin, black amber - when resin mixed up with soil, small parts of
wood bark.”


#2

Hi,

The colour of blue and green amber is contributed to fluorescence in
natural daylight. Delocalized ions are said to be the cause of colour
for the other colours.

Amber may be dyed, coated etc or heated to darken/alter the colour.

http://gemologyproject.com/wiki/index.php?title=Amber

Alain


#3

Baltic amber is almost always a pale yellow and the colors,
especially the ‘green’ are treated/dyed/nuked (radioactive material
is CHEAP around those parts). But other, younger amber, Dominican,
Burmese, and especially Chiapas material has many beautiful fancy
colors available with NO treatment. I specialize in Chiapas material
and have several photos of natural colored amber on my site if you’d
care to see some,

kirk


#4
Actually, the various amber colours do occur naturally from yellow
to red to green - even blue! (from the Dominican republic). But
these are rare and as you know a lot of amber is synthetic these
days.." 

I think I may have written about this, I may not have posted it
here.

Want red amber?
http://www.mexican-amber.com/rough_index.htm

Want blue amber?
http://www.ambarazul.com
See also, other colors.

Want bulk Baltic amber, how much?
http://www.amberworkshop.com/raw_amber_materials.htm

Here are two good sources of
http://www.museum-albersdorf.de/BERNSTEN/LEXICON.HTM
http://www.cst.cmich.edu/users/dietr1rv/amber.htm

More at,
http://www.gplatt.demon.co.uk/map.htm#THE%20INDEX

On heat treatment: This is from a cutting house
http://www.kekgems.com (good source of cut) explaining amber
treatment, they will tell you what they do, but not the instructions.

"Other resources of Amber not from the Baltic region are either
Regions containing Amber, which is not "old" enough to work
properly with it (polish, heat treatments etc.) or Regions that
contain aged Amber but not in commercial quantities and therefore
also being expensive, resp. not available." 

"Therefore Baltic Amber is the only amber, being available and
old enough (45-50 million years), to get a cutting job done,
which clients do require. Most of the natural rough stones are
milky, pale or translucent but very light yellow. To match the
taste and the requirement of the consumers, very special
techniques of heat treatment for these stones has been developed,
whereas each company, working with these fine stones, keeps their
developed technique as a secret know-how." 

"Just by heating these stones (at low temperature), the
following general changes will appear: If heat and air (as in a
regular stove is the case) is supplied to the stones, the
material will clear up and darken. If stones are heated under a
vacuum (i.e. by an autoclave), stones will clear but not changing
their color towards a darker shade. By special techniques, heat
may cause Glitter to appear inside of the stone." (This also
occurs naturally, most all has a human hand in it though, and if
done right brings better a price than plain.) "Under such a heat
treatment, the natural properties of amber is not changing, so
that such a heat treatment may never be proofed and the amber is
still considered to be a natural Amber."

#5

Amber that has been exposed to the atmosphere goes a deeper shade of
red. I have seen natural amber treated to make the surface a deeper
orange/red colour but I dont know how it is done on an industrial
scale. heat treatment I suppose.

Nick


#6

Kirk, your link to your website didn’t work. I tried copying and
pasting it several times. Would you like to try again? I’d like to
see it.


#7

I have done a little research into amber colors. Wrote a piece a few
years ago for Lapidary Journal on that, now Jewelry Artist for which
I’ve started writing again.

There are all sorts of treatments for amber to change its colors.
The natural colors are somewhat more complicated. There is natural
green Dominican amber but being rare, it’s expensive. Along with a
geology professor at Dartmouth, I believe we pretty well determined
that natural green is colored by very small bright green chlorite
crystals, interspersed through the amber. They are smaller than 50
microns.

Natrual Blue amber is rarer still, no one yet knows for sure what
makes it blue. There were some blue sort of blade looking things in
the blue amber, but they appeared to be organic. However they were
still in the smaller than 50 micron range and we couldn’t determine
either what they were or whether they were responible for the blue
color.

Red amber is most likely as a result of aging and oxidation of
yellow/orange/amber and every color in between those fits into that
continuum.

White amber is probably from tiny air bubbles, and is pretty rare.

Black amber is very rare and is probably a high concentration of
organic matter.

Copal, which is most likely the forerunner of amber is nearly always
yellow and much softer.

Incidentally, natural blue and green show up best in full spectrum
light and are most obvious in sunlight.

I personally have all these colors and some are for sale. A very few
pieces even come multicolored.

Derek Levin
www.gemmaker.com


#8

Yes, Amber does come in that wonderful range of colors. Been
fortunate to help hubby, Bill, find and purchase some large rare
specimens in all those colors. Regarding “fake” amber. The smell of
burning pine pitch isn’t enough. It will determine if you’re dealing
with a synthetic, but not rule out Copal. Copal is, basically,
younger Amber…younger by millions of years. It is also pine resin,
but is isn’t as hard as Amber and it IS NOT VALUABLE. At a recent
gem show, I saw a number of dealers selling copal as amber and it was
infuriating! Copal is sold by the 50 gal. drum for use in making
turpentine. How do you tell them apart? Their is a specific gravity
test that I can’t illuminate. But it feels different and it certainly
works differently. It is., if I remember correctly, somewhat lighter
weight than amber; all that I’ve seen is a light golden honey color,
it isn’t quite as slick as amber. If you polish a piece of amber and
then a piece of copal, you’ll get it. The copal will get sticky and
melty with heat build up when polishing. I believe it is also more
brittle.

Faking the inclusions in amber is common. Some scientists in Germany
went so far as to remove the visually “dateable” genitalia from
insects before placing them in reformed amber…to make more
expensive, collectable pieces. This is a very sophisticated market
fraud. If you’re buying smaller, inexpensive pieces you probably
don’t need to be too concerned. This info comes mostly from the past
head of UC Berkeley entomology dep= t and a world renowned authority
on amber. Oh, and those pieces with the attractive round "spangle"
inclusions…those are created by boiling amber in oil (water?)

Marianne Hunter
http://www.hunter-studios.com


#9

For those who couldn’t access my link showing varied fancy colored
NATURAL amber material here it is once more:


#10

I would like to correct something, do not take this personably. This
statement is false. “However as all amber has microscopic moisture
bubbles inside, they burst when heated leaving tiny circular
fractures inside, these marks being the proof that the amber has been
heated.”

Here are the facts, “Another popular type of inclusion are “star
spangles.” These internal fractures radiate from a central point.
While quite attractive, most are human induced.” It went on to say
that those inclusions (being almost always human induced) do not
fetch the price of an insect. Still would bring a higher price than
plain. My source is the IGS. If I were more ambitious I could list
numerous others all saying the same. In other words, this is also
found in nature with untreated amber. I am not sure of the exact
process used to produce this, I assume it is quenched, but this is
done after a cabochon is cut, during a heating process it would have
been coated with linseed oil. The treatment of Baltic amber dates to
before the Neolithic, except (we know from archeology) pig fat (lard)
was used to produce that effect. (Amber workshops dating from this
period have been found. How do I know? History was, still is, my
first love. Unfortunately, most of what is written on amber comes
from old references; accurate when written as far as was known, few
consult later archeology findings. These push the amber trade far
back into time.) While, as stated, this occurs naturally, chances are
(I would not hazard the odds) it was deliberately done. As for proof
a piece of Baltic amber has been heat treated, if done properly there
is no test in the world that can do it, as pressure and some heat
caused by such is necessary to change the resin to amber in the fist
place.


#11

Wow Kirk…Some beautiful amber there. Thanks for the show!!

Cheers from Don in SOFL


#12

That all is quite right…which is why I’ve never appreciated Baltic
amber; it’s 95% treated in some fashion. Chiapas and Dominican
material however, since the ‘trade’ does NOT go back for so long a
time period possibly, and there being such a limited amount, is
almost never treated at all. That’s especially so because the
natural colors found in those two places are fantastic in their own
right. Take a gander at the color variation of the pieces I have on
my site to see the real possibilities of this magical material:


#13
I would like to correct something, do not take this personably.
This statement is false. "However as all amber has microscopic
moisture bubbles inside, they burst when heated leaving tiny
circular fractures inside, these marks being the proof that the
amber has been heated." Here are the facts, "Another popular type
of inclusion are "star spangles." 

Unfortunately, most of what is written on amber comes from old
references; accurate when written as far as was known, few consult
later archeology findings. These push the amber trade far back into
time.) While, as stated, this occurs naturally, chances are (I would
not hazard the odds) it was deliberately done. As for proof a piece
of Baltic amber has been heat treated, if done properly there is no
test in the world that can do it, as pressure and some heat caused
by such is necessary to change the resin to amber in the fist place.

Baltic amber often is opaque because of the presence of microscopic
air bubbles. Heating it in oil (or pig fat, I suppose) will clarify
it, but those round fractures (more commonly called “sun spangles”)
are a tell-tale sign that this has been done; I’ve always considered
it definitive proof of treatment, although their absence is not
proof that heat treatment was not done, since careful cooling can
apparently avoid them. My sources vary as to whether they are due to
internal traces of moisture or to simple heat stress. (Quenching has
no part in the process, though, and it is usually done before
cutting.) They don’t really count as an “inclusion”, which properly
speaking are objects that were incorporated inside the amber when it
originally formed. I’ve never seen them in untreated amber, although
ordinary fractures are common, which make the stones less, not more
valuable. While clear Baltic amber (even with “spangles”) is
preferred by some to amber in its natural state (which is why the
heating process is done), I doubt that naturally clear amber would
ever be treated to produce the fractures - it would be vandalism,
like intentionally cracking a flawless gem. I don’t believe that
heat and pressure have much to do with the formation of amber from
tree resin; I’ve always heard it’s a very long-term process of
polymerization, with molecular chains forming and cross-linking over
millions of years at normal depths and temperatures.

Here are some sources, if you don’t believe me:

http://cigem.ca/367.html (Canadian Institute of Gemology)
http://thecolorsource.com/gems/amber.htm
http://tinyurl.com/333c4d
http://www.madehow.com/Volume-7/Amber.html

Andrew Werby
www.computersculpture.com


#14

The spangles in amber do come from heat treatment, mostly. Amber is
heated to about 170F in oil. However, it is done to relieve internal
stresses. Untreated amber is unbelievably brittle. If you drop it, it
will shatter.

Amber with insects in it isn’t usually heat treated because the
largest internal stress is the critter. If you heat treat it, it will
make a bunch of spangles and cover the insect. So while amber with
natural inclusions is rare, it is also fragile. I learned this
painful lesson with a beautiful piece of Danish Baltic amber with a
perfectly centered tiny wasp. I fumbled and dropped the piece and it
became two pieces. I complained to my amber dealer in Skagen Denmark,
and he helped me understand what happened. He has been in the amber
business for many years, catering mostly to the tourist trade. He
collects the amber from the coast of Denmark where the Baltic and
North Sea meet.

A few years ago, so called green amber was a hot item. It was mostly
sourced out of Poland. When I examined the unset amber, I could see a
painted background and much of it had the starburst pattern in it.
The Polish dealer explained that the amber was first cut, with an odd
very slightly pointed top. It is then heat treated to some secret
temperature. While still hot, the individual pieces are slapped on a
hard surface causing the star pattern. The amber is then tumbled and
coated on the back to make the star stand out. I’ve seen a few pieces
with a natural opaque back, but most of it is manufactured as
described. Polish amber is mined with explosives and dynamite.

The so called amber from the Dominican Republic and other points
south is copal. It hasn’t been around long enough to be amber. When
cut, it will craze on the surface as it continues to mature.

I have a piece of blue amber. You have to have quite an imagination
to call it blue.

Judy Hoch


#15

Right on Derek, almost all you say is true. The CHiapas "green’
though, is known as “green flash” and is a natural flourescence
which is seen from the surface and normally NOT seen holding it up
to a light. I work with a lot of that material and the theory is
that it’s caused by refraction of metal molecules…though it’s not
been completely established. You can see example of this cool
phenomenan on my site: http://geocities.com/kirkstephany/tools.htm


#16

Mea culpa - as a Graduate Gemologist, I should know better. I
related my experience with material being represented as coming from
the Dominican Republic. According to the Gem Reference Guide from
GIA, amber is indeed found in the Dominican Republic.

I have purchased one lot of material and a large specimen that were
represented as being from the Dominican Republic. All of it failed
the basic tests for amber. All of it has crazed and is not useable.
When attempting to repolish the material, it is sticky.

I have also had a batch of Polish amber salted with reconstituted
amber.

Please accept my apology for the mis

Judy Hoch
GIA Graduate Gemologist


#17

The piece that’s “sticky” is probably ‘copal’ and probably wasn’t
from the D.R. Colombia is the current biggest supplier of copal and
dealers usually say it’s amber… So far I’ve never encountered any
treated or fake amber from the mine I visit regularly in Chiapas.
You can see photos of green and red natural amber from there on my
site: http://geocities.com/kirkstephany/tools.htm