Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Baltic-Amber Bracelet

Today is my lucky day. My (another) boss came back from his vacation and brought me some present... guess what? yes.. it's a Baltic-Amber bracelet. I have no idea if he bought it in either Poland or some island on the Baltic Sea. But I would like to thank you for the present. He said he bought it from Swarovski.

 suitable for me right? ;)
Amber is fossilized tree resin (not sap), which has been appreciated for its color and natural organic beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents. Because it originates as a soft, sticky tree resin, amber sometimes contains animal and plant material as inclusions. Amber occurring in coal seams is also called resinite, and the term ambrite is applied to that found specifically within New Zealand coal seams. 


Amber can be classified into several forms. Most fundamentally, there are two types of plant resin with the potential for fossilization. Terpenoids, produced by conifers and angiosperms, consist of ring structures formed of isoprene (C5H8) units.[2] Phenolic resins are today only produced by angiosperms, and tend to serve functional uses. The extinct medullosans produced a third type of resin, which is often found as amber within their veins.[2] The composition of resins is highly variable; each species produces a unique blend of chemicals which can be identified by the use of pyrolysis–gas chromatography–mass spectroscopy.[2] The overall chemical and structural composition is used to divide ambers into five classes.[17][18] There is also a separate classifications of amber gemstones, according to the way of production.
Class I:
This class is by far the most abundant. It comprises labdatriene carboxylic acids such as communic or ozic acids.[17] It is further split into three sub-classes. Classes Ia and Ib utilise regular labdanoid diterpenes (e.g. communic acid, communol, biformenes), whilst Ic uses enantio labdanoids (ozic acid, ozol, enantio biformenes).[19]
Includes Succinite (= 'normal' Baltic amber) and Glessite.[18] Have a communic acid base. They also include much succinic acid.[17]
Baltic amber yields on dry distillation succinic acid, the proportion varying from about 3% to 8%, and being greatest in the pale opaque or bony varieties. The aromatic and irritating fumes emitted by burning amber are mainly due to this acid. Baltic amber is distinguished by its yield of succinic acid, hence the name succinite. Succinite has a hardness between 2 and 3, which is rather greater than that of many other fossil resins. Its specific gravity varies from 1.05 to 1.10.[20] It can be distinguished from other ambers via IR spectroscopy due to a specific carbonyl absorption peak. IR spectroscopy can detect the relative age of an amber sample.[verification needed] Succinic acid may not be an original component of amber, but rather a degradation product of abietic acid.[21]
Like class Ia ambers, these are based on communic acid; however, they lack succinic acid.[17]
This class is mainly based on enantio-labdatrienonic acids, such as ozic and zanzibaric acids.[17] Its most familiar representative is Dominican amber.[2]
Dominican amber differentiates itself from Baltic amber by being mostly transparent and often containing a higher number of fossil inclusions. This has enabled the detailed reconstruction of the ecosystem of a long-vanished tropical forest.[22] Resin from the extinct species Hymenaea protera is the source of Dominican amber and probably of most amber found in the tropics. It is not "succinite" but "retinite".[23]
Class II:
These ambers are formed from resins with a sesquiterpenoid base, such as cadinene.[17]

Class III:
These ambers are polystyrenes.[17]

Class IV:
This class is something of a wastebasket; its ambers are not polymerized, but mainly consist of cedarane-based sesquiterpenoids.[17]

Class V:
Class V resins are considered to be produced by a pine or pine relative. They comprise a mixture of diterpinoid resins and n-alkyl compounds. Their type mineral is highgate copalite.[18]

Baltic amber

The Baltic region is home to the largest known deposit of amber, called Baltic amber or succinite, with about 80% of the world's known amber found there.[citation needed] It dates 44 million years ago (Eocene).[1] It has been estimated that these forests created over 105 tons of amber.[2]

The term Baltic amber is generic, so amber from the Bitterfeld brown coal mines in Saxony (Eastern Germany) goes under the same name. Bitterfeld amber was previously believed to be only 20–22 million years old (Miocene), but a compari
son of the animal inclusions revealed that it is most probably genuine Baltic amber that has only been redeposited in a Miocene deposit.[3]
Because Baltic amber contains about 8% succinic acid, it is also termed succinite.
It was thought since the 1850s that the resin that became amber was produced by the tree Pinites succinifer, but research in the 1980s came to the conclusion that the resin originates from several species. More recently it has been proposed, on the evidence of Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIR) analysis of amber and resin from living trees, that conifers of the family Sciadopityaceae were responsible.[2] The only extant representative of this family is the Japanese umbrella pine, Sciadopitys verticillata.
Numerous extinct genera and species of plants and animals have been discovered and scientifically described from inclusions in Baltic amber.[4] Baltic amber includes the most species-rich fossil insect fauna discovered to date.
How to Care for Baltic Amber Jewelry
A few quick guidelines to help keep your new amber in the best condition.

Your new amber is alive. The stones are still breathing & interacting with the environment. The color may change over time--this is expected & contributes to the unique, intensely individual nature of amber. Each piece of amber ages differently. Each is composed of different combinations of plant materials & fossil inclusions. Science has yet to replicate the chemical signature of amber in the laboratory, so amber retains not only beauty, but also a bit of mystery.

People have always desired & worn amber jewelry. It is widely claimed to be the very oldest semi-precious material used for human adorment. It was worn for many reasons--for protection, for beauty, to signify tribal affiliation & frequently, given as a gift with a personal meaning. Just as it is today.

While amber is durable enough to withstand millenia--it is also fragile.

amber jewelry care instructionsEven so, caring for amber jewelry couldn't be easier.

Because amber is brittle, the owner should avoid allowing it to come into sharp contact with hard surfaces. For example, the owner should take an extra moment to set it down on a dressing table rather than casually tossing it.

This is especially true for carved pieces, cameos & intaglio jewelry forms, so the owner should be extra mindful when handling these types of designs.

That said, amber cameos are typically passed down in families as heirlooms, so there is no need to feel anxious when handling them, just be a little careful.

Amber is also soft & as such, may easily be scratched. It is the softest & lightest of all gems.
Try to keep your amber away from solvents (including chlorinated water), hairspray & perfumes. This doesn't mean one shouldn't use perfume or hairspray if wearing amber. It's just that ideally, one would use these first before putting on any jewelry, not just amber. But specifically regarding amber--this is so the piece doesn't become coated with a dull whitish film, which may then chemically bond & become permanent. As noted above, your amber really is alive, it is porous & it really is still interacting with the environment.

When not wearing, it is always best to wrap & store amber jewelry away from direct sunlight--inside a pouch or jewelry box. With bead necklaces, one should hang these when not wearing to help retain drape & avoid tangling.

If luster is ever a concern, simply apply a tiny drop of olive oil & rub with soft flannel. "Less is more" with the olive oil.

Sterling silver is the traditional metal paired with Baltic amber. Since the late 90s, Polish sterling silver has by law contained special anti-tarnish agents. So it should rarely tarnish. (Moist environments or salt air may hasten the process.)

If it does tarnish, simply rub it with a silver polishing cloth. These are widely available in shops for just a few dollars & seem to last forever. You will find these handy for keeping all your sterling silver jewelry bright & gleaming. It's also kind of fun & magical to just wipe away the tarnish & see the gleaming metal with so little effort.

If you follow these easy guidelines, your amber jewelry will reward you with a lifetime of service & wonder. It will stay just as beautiful as it is the day you open the box & see it for the first time. 
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