Welcome to the World of Amber

by Susie Ward Aber, Emporia State University
Emporia, Kansas, USA

Million years ago large stands of forests in some parts of the world began to seep globs of sticky resin! This aromatic resin oozed down the sides of trees, as well as filling internal fissures, trapping debris, such as seeds, leaves, feathers and insects. As geologic time progressed the forests were buried and the resin hardened into a soft, warm, golden gem, known as amber. Amber is the fossilized resin of ancient trees which forms through a natural polymerization of the original organic compounds. Most of the world's amber is in the range of 30-90 million years old.

Amber is known to mineralogists as succinite, from the Latin succinum, which means amber. Heating amber will soften it and eventually it will burn, a fact that has given rise to the name of bernstein, by which the Germans know amber. Rubbing amber with a cloth will make it electric, attracting bits of paper. The Greek name for amber is elektron, or the origin of our word electricity. Amber is a poor conductor of heat and feels warm to the touch (minerals feel cool). The modern name for amber is thought to come from the Arabic word, amber, meaning ambergris. Ambergris is the waxy aromatic substance created in the intestines of sperm whales. The substance is related to cholesterol and is formed to protect the sperm whale from the sharp beaks and stings of its major food source, the giant squid. Ambergris was used to make perfumes. Ambergris and amber are only related by the fact that both wash up on beaches.

Amber studies are truly interdisciplinary. Geologists and paleontologists are interested in amber because it is a fossil, evidence of prehistoric life. Archeologists look at trade routes and the barter view of amber. Organic chemists investigate the physical and chemical properties. Botanists and entomologists examine the botanical sources of amber and embalmed insects and debris. Poets, writers, and artists look to amber for sunny inspirations. Gemologists and jewelers desire amber for its beauty and rarity. Curators and conservationists preserve and archive amber.

Regardless of your background I hope you enjoy investigating amber in a little more detail. Begin your exploration by taking the amber quiz or simply pick a topic from the index below. Highlighted terms will whisk you away to images and text within this site and to remote locations to enlighten and dazzle! Credit is given to the remote sites or the external links at the bottom of each page in the Connecting Menu. All external connections are referenced in the WebLink Index.

Index of Amber Topics

What's New!

What is Amber?

Kansas Amber

Baltic Amber Bibliography

Physical Properties

Types of Amber

Geologic Occurrences

Geographic Occurrences

Life in Amber

Recovery Methods

Imitations and Identification

Uses of Amber

Care of Amber

Amber Myths

Copal-An Immature Resin


Communicating Information via WWW

Lundberg's Amber ListServ


WebLink Index

Connecting Menu:

The Amber Webpage originates from the Earth Science Department at Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, USA. For more information contact Susie Ward Aber, saber@emporia.edu. Links to commercial sites do not imply any endorsement of products or services. The last update of pages within the World of Amber was March 2008. Webpage went online January, 1996. You are currently the person to access this page since December 2006. Thanks for visiting!

copyright 1996-2008 © Susan Ward Aber. All rights reserved.