Gemstones & Pearls:Gemology
Encased in amber, prehistoric insects offer a beautiful view into
Interesting organic inclusions in amber are extremely collectible and
highly expensive. The creatures who suffered the misfortune of being embalmed
in the slowly oozing sap of prehistoric trees also offer a clear window
we have into the past.
To be considered amber, tree resin must be over a million years old and
fossilized; otherwise it's known as copal. So amber with ancient inclusions
provides scientists and entomologists with clues to our own evolution.
Gemologists have their own reasons for prizing amber, including its rarity.
And owners of included amber in jewelry can rest assured that theirs is
a one-of-a-kind jewel. Professional Jewelerexamined a scorpion in
amber, one of only a handful of such known specimens. Another unusual amber
specimen sports an assembly of termites. (While insects are often thought
of as the only inclusions found in amber, small reptiles, flowers and leaves
have been documented also.)
Included amber is priced first according to the rarity of the organic
matter trapped inside, though it's difficult because there are such few
comparables. Collectors often drive up prices well past estimates. The amber
specimen with the scorpion, for example, fetched a low five-figure sum.
The next factor in pricing is the visibility and size of the inclusion
and how it has been isolated in the amber. A primeval mosquito isolated
in a pool of amber with no other insects present the classic image
we often have of amber is considered a collector's item.
The condition of the amber, including the amount of crazing (a minute
patchwork of small cracks), is important as well.
Origin of the amber is another consideration; Baltic and Russian ambers
sometimes command higher prices, though amber from the Dominican Republic
(which is less recognized as a source) has become highly collectible also.
The color of the amber is the final consideration: deeper colors of amber,
such as red, are highly desirable, but the visibility of the insect trapped
inside always takes precedence over the color.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
| A scorpion in amber from the Dominican Republic. Gem courtesy of Cynthia
Renée Co. Fallbrook, CA.|
| Termites and ants in amber from the Dominican Republic. Gem courtesy
of Bill Hehr Enterprises, Trumbull, CT.|
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.