Amber ( #8)

Australasia New Zealand 3 ¼" x 2" x 2"


Learn More

Amber is fossilized plant resin (which is a plant secretion composed of hydrocarbon molecules, but is different from sap). Most fossilized resin (amber) originated in coniferous trees.

Now, if you read the "Learn More" section of the introductory page (the page with the photo of the large quartz centerpiece of this display), you should be wondering why amber is included here. A mineral, you will recall, is naturally-occurring, solid, usually inorganically formed (that is, abiogenic), and it has a definite chemical composition and a fixed arrangement of atoms (that is, a crystal structure). Amber is of organic origin; its chemical composition can cover a wide and indefinite range, depending upon the kind of plant the resin came from; and it is amorphous. Take that last word apart: "a-" means "not," as in atypical or asymmetrical, and "morph" means "form," as in morphology. So amber has no '1orm" or crystal structure. Its atoms (organic molecules, really) are randomly arranged.

Thus, amber is not a mineral. But many specimens are very attractive, and amber often finds its way into mineral collections. From antiquity amber has been made into jewelry and other decorative objects. Because it originated as a soft and sticky substance, it may have trapped unfortunate insects, as seen in some very attractive amber jewelry.