Forever Amber


Category : News and Information, Opinions and Editorials, Senior Spotlight

“Amber… twelve times more valuable than gold…”

Article By: Dorothy Coleman


Who would’ve known a piece of jewelry and family keepsake- multi-faceted with definition as well as history- dates back 30 million years? Read how Dorothy Coleman, a  Meals-On-Wheels client of several years, articulately explains how amber has flowed through time and traveled the world…

As I hold my little amber heart on its thin gold chain up to the sunlight, I see the tiny
leaves and other bits of floral encapsulated debris. It is locked in the fossilized tree resin and
ablaze with light. Each tiny bit becomes quite distinct. Under a magnifying glass it becomes even
more dazzling. It may well be that this collection of minuscule particles is 30 millions years old!
Amber is a semiprecious stone, used in jewelry and this was not designed by an earthly jeweler!
While traveling in Germany in 1984, my husband and I chanced to visit a military Post
Exchange in Heidelberg. Among the interesting items for sale were pieces of amber jewelry.
I found this small item irresistible. I knew very little about its origin and it was only after some
research that I realized the uniqueness of this semiprecious stone. Amber jewelry is found more
frequently in stores in Europe than in the United States.

Of course you remember the science fiction best-seller, “Jurassic Park”, by Michael
Crichton. Amber is used in the plot – scientists isolate dinosaur DNA from the stomachs of
biting insects that have dined on dinosaur blood before becoming entombed in the resin which
eventually becomes fossilized. Dinosaurs were cloned.

Reading about amber in an article in the Smithsonian Magazine by John F. Ross
published in 1993, I found many startling discoveries. Scientists and collectors have found
literally, a menagerie of insects, and animal parts, plants and other materials – all locked in that
golden resin. Lizards, butterflies, frogs and scorpions are easily recognizable.

If I rub this small piece of amber, it collects a small negative charge of electricity. What
is this marvelous piece of antiquity? It has a silky sheen because it has been polished, is light in
weight and after I hold it for awhile, it becomes warm to my touch. It has been said that Frederic
Chopin handled small chains of amber before giving a concert – perhaps because it seems to carry
away perspiration.

The definition from the English dictionary “a yellow or brownish-yellow translucent
fossil resin found along some seacoasts and used in jewelry, pipe stems, etc. It is hard, easily
polished and quickly electrified by friction.” Second definition: “the color of amber”. In Polish
dialects there are over 200 words that describe colors and hues – ranging from rare blue and
green colors to the more common red, yellow, brown and gold.

Where does it come from? One paleontologist, Susan Hendrickson, says these things are
carried to us in fossilized tree resin going back to the Oligocene Epoch – more than 30 million
years ago. If an insect settled on a tree oozing a glue-like resin, it could be caught and held by the
resin until it died. The resin continues to ooze and cover the insect. Eventually the tree dies, is
decomposed settling into the geologic process with the insect locked in its resin tomb.

For centuries amber has been quite valuable. It was “harvested” from the coastal areas
along the Baltic coast in Europe. Because it floats in salt water, amber can’i”lash up on the beach
rising from the depths where it has been buried for millions of years. Amber traders go back as far
as the Phoenicians. In Nero’s time it was said a small piece of amber was worth more than a
living slave.

From the vast collection of amber gathered for the Russian rulers, the first Amber Room
was created at the beginning of the 1700′s for Prussian King Frederick I. The walls were covered
with mosaics in amber depicting the Prussian coat of anns and other symbols of power as well as
artful floral designs. Truly a show of opulence because of the value of this tree resin. In 1717
amber was twelve times more valuable than gold.

I do cherish my bit of antiquity. And grateful there are no insects there to be rejuvenated
by modem science. It is scary to think that by rubbing my tiny bit of amber (like Aladdin’s Lamp)
I could be transported back to 30 million years ago. No thanks!

Reprinted with permission from the Good Old Days magazine, DRG publishers, Berne, IN  46711,

Synopsis written by Lesieli

Lesieli is a Social Media Intern at Meals-On-Wheels, soon to pursue her degree in Pharmacy.  She is a dedicated volunteer, has a vibrant spirit and loves to create new ideas and think outside the box


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