What is Amber?
Though it is often called a semiprecious stone, amber is in fact not a mineral at all. Amber consists of fossilized resin, secreted by trees growing many million years ago. Resin differs from sap in that it is an organic substance secreted in pockets and canals via a plants epithelial cells. The amber found in todays major amber deposits was formed from conifer and leaf trees which are now extict.
Various theories concerning resin production exist. It is mainly thought that the trees produced resin as an attempt to ward off disease, repel insect attacks or recover from damage, such as broken branches. Before the sticky resin hardened, insects, small organisms and debris sometimes became trapped and were mummified over time. These inclusions offer a spectacular insight into ancient flora and fauna and are highly sought after.
Usually, amber deposits occur in marine sediments the remains of prehistoric rivers, seas and other bodies of water. Washing up on the shores with driftwood and fallen trees, the resin slowly developed into amber during its subsequent burial by clay, sand and other sediments. Being densely encased actually protected the amber from eventual disintegration, as oxidation takes place whenever amber comes into prolonged contact with oxygen. Given enough time, the amber would first develop a dark crust, then splinter into ever smaller fragments.