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Amber derives from the resin of ancient coniferous trees (such as pines). The resin is buried in the ground where it eventually fossilizes. Amber can be as transparent as crystal, as bright as pearl. It comes in numerous varieties, such as gold amber, bright amber, opaque amber, fragrant amber, stone amber, and water amber. Amber with fewer impurities has a higher value, as well those containing insects and plants (such as flowers) – these inclusions are not regarded as impurities. If the insect or plant is rarer or if the inclusion is bigger and sharper, then the amber is even more valuable.
40 million years ago, northern Europe was covered in primeval forests. The climate was warm and resin flowed from pine. But when the primeval forests sunk under water, the resin was buried under soil sediment, where it fossilized. 75%-85% of the world’s amber is produced in countries around the Baltic Sea, such as Poland and Russia. Their amber is golden, glittering, and translucent, easily carved into jewellery. Blue amber from Dominica is also rare and a favourite of collectors.
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that amber has precious medicinal benefits, which has made it a very valuable substance in many parts of Asia. Tao Hong Jing from the Northern and Southern Dynasties summarized three believed functions of amber in Supplementary Records of Famous Physicians: producing calmness, activating blood, and inducing dieresis for treating strangurtia.