|GemSelect Newsletter - October 2011
Welcome to the amazing world of fossilized amber, otherwise known as fossilized tree resin.
You may have seen fascinating pictures of small insects trapped inside amber. They have been there for millions of years!
Lizards! If Pliney had actually seen lizards trapped in fossilized amber then he was certainly very lucky. Today, such gems are worth a small fortune.
Most fossilized Amber today is found in the Baltic regions; hence it’s called Baltic Amber. Latvia, Poland and Russia are the usual areas although; because amber is light and can be swept around by the sea it is easily transportable. Therefore Amber has also been found washed a shore in Scandinavia, Germany and the UK.
The Dominican Republic has fossils that generally contain bigger insects and they are believed to be about 30 million years old! The clarity of the amber is also better.
Ordinary amber is priced according to its clarity and size. However, the exception to the rule is if it happens to include an insect. In these cases the gem is worth a lot more, and it will depend on how clearly the insect is visible and how near the centre of the gem stone it is located.
It's possible that some of the insects walked into the sticky mess or maybe, as many naturalists believe, the resin dropped from the tree onto the unfortunate insects below. Resin is in fact a natural weapon of defense for the tree. Designed to seal wounds in the plant from corrosion against the weather and also to repel harmful insects as well as attract friendly insects to kill those insects and bacteria that may harm the tree.
There are very interesting examples of unlucky insects frozen in time millions of years ago, whilst going about their business; These include insects caught in spider's webs, ants transporting eggs and small mites hitching rides on the backs of beetles!
Fossilized amber was really brought to the public’s attention during the film Jurassic Park. Most amber found today was actually formed after dinosaurs had become extinct, during the Tertiary Period, about 30-50 million years ago. However, in the film, DNA is taken from the stomach of mosquitoes containing dinosaur blood (an interesting concept) and dinosaurs are cloned! Could this really be done? Well in reality, right now, The British Museum of Natural History is investigating. So, watch this space...
Meanwhile there are stories of amber found in Gdansk, Poland that holds a small lizard and, even more amazing there was a find in the Andes mountains of Colombia of a small lizard entombed in Amber… and there are pictures to prove it…!
The lizard, measuring 28mm in length (he doesn’t have a tail… a piece of the story that is lost to time…) is surrounded by insects. You can imagine the hot-house tropical forest floor and the buzz of the insects already caught in the amber in a mad struggle to free themselves, attracting the lizard as he too walked into the trap.
They were all entombed together. A real scene from an ancient tropical forest millions of years ago!
So, if you want to try and clone a million year old unknown plant species, now’s your chance!
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Happy gem hunting,Your friends at GemSelect