Amber Facts
The sister trees

..... where weep
        Even now the sister trees
                      their amber tears
                                O'er Phaeton untimely dead.

H.H Milman, from the poem "Samor", published in London, 1818.

Sun Tears... What is in a name? Amber has a long and storied history. The sister trees above are found in Ovid's Metamorphoses, where they weep for their brother Phaeton, lost in a quest for recognition by the Sun. And of course they weep Amber, the Tears of the Sun. (see... Amber Legends )

Amber is unique among earthen treasures for its inherent warmth, its ability to enter into our psyche and find a place in our hearts. Gold may be described as cold by some, but never so for amber. Soothing, almost magically it holds us, bringing us closer to our distant past with the treasures it holds, the stories encapsulated within. Crystals such as quartz are lovely, and perhaps provide a physical link to distant realms, but amber is alone in connecting us emotionally with our past.

As since Ovid's time, we know that trees are responsible for amber's origin. Truly the "lifeblood of the twig," the sweetness of a tree's honeyed serum is preserved for us through the geological journey of this fossil resin. Amber is unique - it cannot be duplicated by human effort yet, although many have tried and failed. The resin of trees today cannot be simply heated nor treated to create authentic amber. It must be diligently sought in the good earth and carefully nurtured to create treasures such as these.

And the life within? Amber has long been regarded with mystical, even magical reverence for the exquisite preservation of ancient life within its golden tomb. Did this fascination with the past encourage our ancient relatives to attempt to preserve themselves for eternity? If a simple scarab can be preserved for eternity in gold, does not the Pharoh deserve infinitely greater? Perhaps amber shares the responsibility, the drive for the Great Pyramids themselves.

Amber is a most interesting substance.  Commonly referred to as tree sap, it is anything but sap.  Amber forms from resin and contains succinic acid, or succinite.  Sap is the fluid substance which flows in the heartwood of the tree and provides nutrients to the tree itself.  Resin flows beneath the bark and protects the tree when it's wounded by boring insects or loses a branch due to storm damage.  Resin flows like syrup and has a distinct piney, sweet smell.  The piney, sweet smell is due to chemicals in the substance known as terpenes.  When you see a photograph of a mountainous area full of trees, and there is a light, misty cloud hanging over the trees - that is due to these aromatic chemicals being released by the conifer trees.  Time and particular strata that the amber lay in for millions of years help those terpenes break down and escape from the resin, forming amber.  Immature amber or copal is a substance in which all the volatile terpenes have not yet left the resin.

If you have not held this treasure yourself, if you have not experienced the opportunity for this joy, we hope you find this gallery a celebration of what amber has meant to us and to many through the ages. Enjoy your visit.

 

Smoothstone Design, Inc., 1999