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Though natural amber is usually pale yellow, there are many exceptions, often due to climate, temperature, surrounding minerals, and other external conditions. This can result in amber being white, orange, red, brown, green, blue, grey, black, or even a mixture of colors. Most amber is transparent, though a small number are semitransparent and there is even some non-transparent amber, called “opaque amber.”
Opaque amber derives from a rare kind of ancient pine that died-out millions of years ago and was never very common. This makes opaque amber very rare and thus very precious. It is mainly found in Europe but some come from China, Tibet, and South Asia as well.
For more than 2000 years, people have used opaque amber for high-class jewellery and religious items. Its slight pine aroma is calming and the amber is light and warm to the nature (and so is often called “warm jade”). It is considered one of the seven treasures in Tibetan Buddhism, and is often made into prayer beads in Buddhism as well as in Hinduism, Catholicism, and Islam. In Africa, it’s favoured for jewellery, good luck charms, and, in some areas, even currency.
Opaque amber must fulfil one of the following two conditions to be considered valuable “old opaque amber”:
A raw gemstone that is a pure, natural fossil of opaque amber.
An old opaque amber carving. They need a detailed history; the beads should have been worn then handed down from generation to generation. They could be prayer beads, the hair accessory of a beautiful young girl, an amulet of a brave warrior, or some other treasured object. An old opaque amber artifact would not have an extravagant appearance but carving and time could give it an uneven shape or particular texture and gloss. Time and history will have also appreciated its collection value and have resulted in the object touching many people’s stories.