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Baltic Amber is very diverse. Particular types are characterized by different degree of transparency, color (light yellow, white, green, honey, cherry, even white) or properties. Wide diversity makes it very popular and precious material used for production of amber jewelry and art.
There are two main groups of amber varieties: Primary and Secondary.
Based on the internal structure of amber, degree of its clarity and amount of organic impurities, one can distinguish four subgroups of amber within the primary group.
There is also an additional subgroup of amber belonging to Primary group, independent of internal structure or color. It is called “Soily amber” with organic impurities including wood chips. Gas bubbles are very common as well as organic inclusions. Black decayed organic debris commonly found in this type of amber make it dark green or even black in color.
Other descriptive names for amber exist, reflecting not only color and degree of transparency but also chemical composition, the degree of weathering, places of discovery, workability, and functions in folk rituals.
In Poland, over 200 folk names are applied to amber and some 80 variety names.As examples we can point out: “trinket amber” transparent, light yellow in color, belongs to group (A). “Spark amber” resembles fire with reddish color or “honey amber” in dark yellow or light orange color. There is also “cloudy amber” where turbid or opaque fragments resemble cloudy sky.
In group (B) there is “cloudlet” or “wooly amber”, where internal impurities resemble clouds or simply tufts of wool.
In group (C) we can find “beige amber” beige in color, or “cabbage amber”, where internal layers with yellow and white streaks resemble cabbage leaves.
Examples of names belonging to group (D) are “chalk amber”, white in color, “bone” or “osseous amber” whitish yellow or brown in color, opaque and looks similar to ivory or bone. Within “Soily amber” group we can find “dappled amber” where tiny grey or black detritus fragments are visible on yellow or white background. Very popular is “green amber” or “mixed” where opaque yellow fragments are mixed with fragments containing plant impurities.
Air, light, humidity and temperature change amber’s internal structure and color transforming amber to secondary type. Change of color means going from yellow to red or orange. Change of structure involves appearing of cracks which leads to “sugar” structure. Moreover, amber covers with so called “bark” which makes its surface rough and uneven. All of these effects can be noticed in amber pieces which spend long time in sediments above ground waters or displayed art pieces subjected to air and light exposure.
In Secondary group we can distinguish “red amber” red or orange in color; “glimmer amber” transparent and red in color or “sugar amber” with internal network of tiny cracks.
Huge diversity of amber results from its place of origin. Amber mined in Sambia is mainly yellow and opaque, whereas Baltic amber found on beaches or from Pleistocene sediments on Kurpie (Poland) is very diverse and rich in different forms, colors and properties.
Last type of amber which can be mainly found on the fashion/jewelry market is amber undergoing different manufacturing processes, which change its color, clarity or structure. Although it is not natural anymore, it is very popular due to its variety of colors and clarity.