There was a time when dinosaurs walked the earth, pterodactyls swooped through the air and resin flowed from the trees around them. The dinosaurs and pterodactyls are long gone, but the resin hardened and fossilized and today adorns our hands in amber rings.
At times when the resin was soft and flowing, it trapped insects in its path, which became preserved as the amber hardened. Today we call them inclusions in the amber. With their fascinating peek into prehistoric times, amber stones that have inclusions are highly coveted.
Most of the amber you’ll find on the market today hails from the area of the Baltic Sea, although it is found in regions as widespread as Burma, North America, Romania and Italy. The Dominican Republic is a popular source for the stones since a large number of inclusions are found amongst amber mined on the island.
Amber Colors in Rings
Amber stones are so frequently discovered in shades of dark yellow that the name amber has become synonymous with that color. Nevertheless, amber can be found in an array of colors, including rust, brown, green, blue and black. When judging amber quality, clear, uniform stones are considered more desirable than cloudy stones or stones with bubbles.
As gemstones go, amber is on the soft end of the scale. The Mohs scale is used to rate gems for hardness on a scale from one to ten. Diamond, the hardest known natural substance, is a ten on the Mohs scale. Amber comes in at between 2 and 2.5, meaning it is one of the softest gems.
Caring for Amber Rings
Amber’s relative softness means that it is more prone to scratching and damage than other, harder stones and needs special scare. Amber rings in particular are likely to be jostled and bumped around in the course of normal wear, but take care to remove your ring before engaging in activities such as sports or housework to decrease that likelihood. It’s also a good idea to remove the ring before using household chemicals like cleaning supplies or hairspray, substances which can harm the stone. When not wearing the ring, do not toss it into a jewelry box drawer where it can be scratched by sharp prongs or other gemstones. First wrap it in a soft cloth, or use the box’s ring holders.
The Amber Room
One of history’s most fascinating unsolved mysteries is that of the disappearance of the famed amber room. The room consisted of wall panels fashioned from amber, mirrors and gold leaf and was created in the 18th century for the Prussian king, but was subsequently given as a gift to Russian tsar Peter the Great, who had it installed in the Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg. There it remained until World War II, when the invading Nazi army stole it and carried it to Konigsburg, from where it disappeared. While some experts suspect that it was destroyed in a fire at the end of the war, no one knows for sure what became of the Amber Room.