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Since ancient times, the word "amber" had only one meaning - Baltic amber. This amber was formed from a particular type of pine (Pinus succinifera) and is called succinite. It contains 3-8 percent of amber acid. For a long time this feature of the Baltic amber distinguished it from other fossil resin, which was found in different places. Amber definition refers to the fact, that many different fossil resins were unknown. Now are known more kinds of amber, which also contain amber acid. So, this feature is no more a defining characteristic of the Baltic amber. Recent studies have shown that geological knowledge of each fossil resin is important to their botanical classification. Even when fossil resin comes from the same plants, it might be different since it got fossilized in different conditions.
According to Schlee (1978, 1980), all fossil resin, which is more than a few million years old, should be called amber. However, in order to be more accurate a place name, eg. Siberian amber, Borneo amber, New Jersey amber, Dominican amber or Baltic amber, should be given.
At present there are nearly 200 known amber deposits throughout the world and new ones are discovered every year. Amber has been found on all continents except Antarctica. Only a few of the deposits have achieved economic importance, but each is of scientific interest. Scientific research of amber formed in Cretaceous period (Lebanon amber, Jordan amber, Spain amber, Burmese amber), gave unexpected results in terms of evolution.
The Jordan amber, being 130 million-years-old, allowed to detect families of mosquitoes and flies also found in Baltic amber (35-50 million-years-old), and still exist today completely unchanged. It means that evolution of insects began much earlier than it was previously thought.
Here are 31 examples: amber, fossil resin or Copal from different parts of the world, with a description of their main features; where it was found, age, mother-plant, colors, inclusions and their special characteristics.
1. Dolomites amberFound: in sandstones of Upper-Triassic age in the Southern Alps (Italy)Age: 230 Ma. (Late Triassic period)Mother plant: affinity to a conifer familyColours: yellow to brownInclusions: small fungi, and micro-organismsSpecial characteristis: oldest known amber with oldest inclusions world-wide
2. Lebanon amber
3. Jordan amberFound: in the Kurnub sandstone of Wadi Zerka north of Amman Age: 130 Ma. (Early Cretaceous period)Mother-plant: Agathis (Araucariaceae)Colours: mostly yellow, brown, and dark redInclusions: quite rare, not well preserved, quite similar to those of Libanon amberSpecial characteristics: Agathis-like plants occur in the amber-bearing-strata.
4. Golling amber from AustriaFound: in coal-rich sediments of the Austrian alps near Golling/SalzburgAge: 130-120 Ma. (Early Cretaceous period)Mother-plant: unknownColours: mostly from dark brown to blackInclusions: very rare, not well preserved because of natural heatingSpecial characteristics: structures caused by the folding of the Austrian alps
5. Spain amberFound: Peñacerrada-Morazán region, the northern parts of SpainAge: 110Ma. (Early Cretaceous)Mother-plant: AraucariaColours: blueInclusions: abundantSpecial characteristics: bluish pieces of amber with inclusions
6. Taimyr amberFound: in the coastal area on the beaches of the Taimyr peninsula, near YantardakhAge: 105-80 Ma. (Late Cretaceous)Mother-plant: unknownColours: yellow transparentInclusions: commonSpecial characteristics: this amber is found only onthe seaside
7. Japanese amberFound: mostly in Kuji (North Japan), also in Mizunami and Chosi. Amber from Kuji is deposited on the mountain‘s slopes at about 600 metres depth.Age: Kuji amber is 85 Ma. (Late Cretaceous period), Chosi amber is 110 Ma. (Cretaceous period)Mother-plant: unknownColours: from green to black, Chosi amber is a type with a very varied spectrum of colours, Mizunami amber is dark, brown or intensiv red colourInclusions: rareSpecial characteristics: most of the pieces are cracked because of seismic tremors and the high pressure at considerable depths. The cracks often contain quartz crystals.
8. Burmese amber "Burmite"Found: mainly in the Hukong Valley (Northern Burma) where it occurs in clay deposits and coal seamsAge: 100 Ma. (Early Cretaceous period)Mother-plant: Agathis (Araucariaceae)Colours: often clear and transparent, varying from red to brownInclusions: contains many inclusionsSpecial characteristics: inclusions from the Cretaceous period are well-preserved
9. Canadian amberFound: in various regions of Canada. The term „Canadian amber" generally refers to amber collected in the vicinity of Cedar Lake, Manitoba.Age: 95-70 Ma. (Cretaceous period)Mother-plant: Agathis (Araucariaceae)Colours: red, brownInclusions: contains many inclusions, mainly flies, bugs, and arachnidsSpecial characteristics: It is found in areas where amber and dinosaur bones occur together.
10. Ethiopian amberFound: Debre Lebanon, in the northern part of Addis Ababa Age: 95-93 Ma. (Cretaceous period)Mother-plant: unknownColours: yellowInclusions: abundant (plant fragments, flying insects, arachnids, microorganisms)Special characteristics:The first real amber in Africa
11. New Jersey amber (USA)Found: in lignite layers just a few feet below surface, near the town Sayreville (New Jersey)Age: 80 Ma. (Late Cretaceous period)Mother-plant: Metasequoia (Taxodiaceae)Colours: yellow to red, translucentInclusions: abundant, up to 100 unknown species of insects and plants were foundSpecial characteristics: Amazing inclusions: the oldest known bee „Trigona prisca".
12. Chinese amberFound: in coal-beds of the Guchenzgi formation, near the city Fu Shun, province LiaoningAge: 60-55 Ma. (Late Paleocene to Early Eocene period) Mother-plant: unknownColours: usually with a black weathering crust, after polishing transparent, yellow to brownInclusions: contains many inclusionsSpecial characteristics: The inclusions are badly preserved because of natural heating of the amber.
13. Sachalin amberFound: on the shores of the island SachalinAge: 55-52 Ma. (Palaeocene period) Mother- plant: unknownColours: dark yellow to brownInclusions: commonSpecial characteristics: only small pieces occur
14. French (Oise) amberFound: near the Oise river just outside Paris, in sandy, lignitic layers Age: 55 Ma. (Early Eocene period) Mother-plant: the Hymenaea treeColours: single pieces with a typical frosted surface; after polishing mostly yellow transparentInclusions: many inclusions, mainly arthropods, few plant fragmentsSpecial characteristics: The pollen extracted from the amber are close to a modern Hymenaea species, which today is found only in the Amazonas rainforest.http://latvianamberstore.com/zinas/Aroun_world/Am
15. India amberFound: north-west coast of India, Gujarat ProvinceAge: 53 Ma. (Late Eocene period) Mother- plant: DipterocarpaceaeColours: brownInclusions: many insects and plantsSpecial characteristics: inclusions can be removed from theamber
16. Amber from SwitzerlandFound: in lignite sandstones, near Fribourg and BernAge: 50 Ma. (Late Eocene period)Mother-plant: unknownColours: honey-yellow to orange-brown, transparentInclusions: few plants inclusionsSpecial characteristics: Under UV light the amber shows an intensive blue-white fluorescence.
17. Ukrainian amberFound: in sands above and below the groundwater level in Western Ukraine (Parcew Delta, Klesov Delta)Age: 50-45 Ma (Eocene period)Mother-plant: pine tree Pinus succinifera Colours: mostly brown, brown-yellow, yellow transparent-red, light green, blue-greenish-yellow; translucent-light green; white with a green or blue tintInclusions: less inclusions than in Baltic amber, due to the smaller amout of layered amberSpecial characteristics: Amber pieces above the groundwater level are usually covered with a typical dark-brown to black weathering crust.
18. Australia amberFound: Queensland, Cape YorkAge: 50 Ma. (Eocene period)Mother-plant: KauriColours: mostly brown, brown-yellow, yellow, sometimes red-transparentInclusions: many inclusionsSpecial characteristics: washed ashore with a variety of resin and the pumice
19. Rumanite, amber from RomaniaFound: in sandstones from the banks of the River Buzau, in the East CarpathiansAge: 32-28 Ma. (Early Oligocene)Mother-plant: unknown Colours: brownish-yellow, red-brown, blackInclusions: very rare, not well preserved because of natural heatingSpecial characteristics: famous for rich colours, ranging from brownish-yelllow to deep brown. Pieces of brownish red amber reflect a blue-green fluorescence, similar to that of the "blue amber" from the Dominican Republic.
20. Italy amber (Simetite)Found: in Sicily (South Italy) on the banks of the Simetus riverAge: 25-22 Ma. (Early Mioceneperiod)Mother-plant: unknownColours: raw-material black; after polishing, famous for its dark-red colours; also pieces with blue fluorescenceInclusions: rareSpecial characteristics: the famous Simetite collection of the Prince Ingnatius Piscary from Catania, which was mentioned by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe during his journey to Italy in the year 1787.
21. Amber from NicaraguaFound: in sandstones at the Caribbean sea-shore of NicaraguaAge: 23-18 Ma. (Early Miocene period)Mother-plant: the Hymenaea treeColours: varying from transparent yellow to redInclusions: only a few up to nowSpecial characteristics: newly discovered amber deposit.
22. Dominican amberFound: in sand and claystones of the Northern and Eastern Mountain Ranges at elevations between 500 and 1,200 metres Age: 23-20 Ma. (Early Mioceneperiod)Mother-plant: the Hymenaea treeColours: yellow, red, green, sometimes blue shades, 90% is trasparent amberInclusions: many inclusions, fauna and flora reflect a dry tropical climate with many groups of organismsSpecial characteristics: There exist single amber lumps with an amazing number of inclusions, pieces with 10-50 ants or flies are not rare, but also such with 500-1000 occur. An unusally fluorescent variety which occurs only in limited areas is called „blue amber".
23. Mexican (Chiapas) amberFound: deposited in lignite layers, mainly in Chiapas, to the East in the Lacondon jungleAge: 23-20 Ma. (Early Miocene period)Mother-plant: the Hymenaea treeColours: varying from yellow to red/brown; special red translutient pieces and fluorescent blue green varieties are also foundInclusions: because of natural heating usually not well preserved Special characteristics: large Mexican amber lumps are often covered with large fossil oyster shells.
24. Borneo (Sarawak) amberhttp://latvianamberstore.com/zinas/Aroun_world/Borneo-Sarawak-amber.jpgFound: within a coal-seam of the Merit-Pila coal-mine in Sarawak, North Borneo, MalaysiaAge: 23-15 Ma. (Late-middle Miocene period)Mother-plant: angiosperm tree of the Dipterocarpaceae familyColours: mainly dark-brown to yellow-brown, partly whitishSpecial characteristics: Worlwide largest pieces of amber, up to 30 kg..
25. North Carolina amberFound: in the area of Aurora, North Carolina, U.S.A
Age: 23-16 Ma. (Neogene period) Mother-plant: unknownColours: dark-brown, opaque Inclusions: unknown Special characteristics: thedark-brown colours
26. Duxite from Czech RepublicFound: in Bohemia, near the village DuxAge: 20 Ma. (Neogene period)Mother-plant: Cupressaceae Colours: mostly opaque, dark yellow to brownInclusions: noneSpecial characteristics: occurs attached to or inside fossilized wood.
27. Colombian copalFound: Pena BlancaAge: between 5000 and some hundred yearsMother-plant: the Hymenaea treeColours: pale yellowInclusions: abundant, but modern fauna and floraSpecial characteristics: Larger pieces could be filled with some hundreds of termites.
28. Madagascar copalFound: embedded in about one half or one metre depth of the western coastal area of MadagascarAge: between 50 and 500years Mother-plant: the Hymenaea treeColours: mostly transparent and pale yellow or brownInclusions: many inclusions, but modern fauna and floraSpecial characteristics: All copal is soft and smears when it is ground or polished.
29. Borneo copalFound: West Borneo, IndonesiaAge: very young, from today to max. 500 yearsMother-plant: unknownColours: dark red with white dotsInclusions: unknown Special characteristics: strange colours
30. Phillipines copal (Manila copal)Found: on some islands of the Phillipines Republic Age: very young, from today to max. some hundred years Mother-plant: different trees of the order Dipterocarpaceae (Dammar tree)Colours: varying from clear-yellow (fresh) to dark grey (fossil)Inclusions: rareSpecial characteristics: -
31. Todays Dammar gumFound: in Indian and East Asian forests, mostly by tapping the trees, some collected fossilized from the ground Age: recentMother-plant: Dammar tree, from the family DipterocerapaceaeColours: from clear to pale yellow, fossilized form grey-brownInclusions: rare Special characteristics: Dammar was firstly used as a picture varnish in 1862, and is commonly referred to as Dammar varnish.
In conclusion, some observations should be made: the oldest amber in the world is Dolomites amber (about 230 million years old); Borneo amber is found in largest lumps, up to 30 kg.; New Jersey amber is impressive with its inclusions: here the oldest mushroom and a bee were found in amber. What is more interesting, Canadian amber is found in the areas of Canada with dinosaurs‘ bones.
After all, the Baltic amber is the most important one:
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