A Study In Amber

Amber con Insecto LR

Steve’s ‘Amber con Insecto’ pendant

(Purchased this morning for $250 MXN/$19 USD)

The mysterious wonder of Amber.  Yesterday I mentioned that I had visited the Museo de Amber to learn more about this brilliant miracle of nature.  Not a precious or semi precious gemstone, but pine tree sap.  Purportedly Amber possesses magical and mystical powers—many indigenous people around the world believe this to be true.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a New Ager—I am a skeptic and a cynic of the first order.  But—

Certain things speak to me (I know that sounds New Age I can’t help it):  Jade for one, Opals for two, Gold for three and finally Amber.  If you’ve ever seen or felt quality Jade you know what I’m talking about; it’s almost like it possesses an inner life force.  Like Amber— Jade comes in many different hues and colors.  Some of the finest Jade in the world originates in Burma (now Myanmar).  I have a small Burmese (delicate light green) Jade Kuan Yin (Buddhist Saint of Mercy and Compassion) that I wear as a pendant on a gold chain. Opals are brilliant and contain an inner fire that illuminates the entire stone—no two Opals are alike, and they also come in many different hues and colors.  Gold is warm, rich and luxurious—every culture worldwide reveres Gold.  And finally Amber—

Amber is a biological substance and not a geological substance.  It was once alive and vibrant.  It had taste, smell and fluidity—it actually flowed as the blood of a tree.  It had a life force.  I’m still sounding a little New Age aren’t I?  Amber is fossilized pine tree resin or sap.  Raw samples of Amber look like dirty rocks until you pick them up and feel how light they are.  They aren’t pretty at all.  But once they are polished like a stone they become brilliant and translucent like a teardrop, revealing their inner secrets.  Pieces of Amber are mini-timecapsules unearthed after countless millennia.  Some people are drawn to the pure translucent stones that radiate like colored diamonds.  Myself, I am drawn to Amber con Insectos and Amber con Plantos; samples that contain trapped insects or plant matter. Back when the resin was alive (fluid and sticky) insects and plants became trapped and were forever preserved.  Remember the premise of Jurassic Park was that you could extract dinosaur DNA from the blood of preserved prehistoric mosquitoes trapped in Amber.

Erika, my delightful hostess at Hostel Dakota, is an Amber aficionado—and with her expertise she took me shopping this morning.  It is Caveat emptor (buyer beware) here in San Cristobal. like almost anywhere I suppose.  There is a certain amount of faux, or fake, Amber being sold here to the unwary tourist (especially by the street vendors and the little urchins that work for them).  I was able to communicate to her vis-a-vis my Caveman Spanish and with the help of her husband Arturo what I was looking for.  I wanted a small piece of Amber con Insecto to wear as pendant along with my Jade Kuan Yin; preferably a piece with a mosquito entombed in it.  She took me to the open air crafts market at Templo de Santo Domingo, and introduced me to a family who has been selling Amber there for over 25-years.  They collect the raw Amber themselves, and polish and fashion it into jewelry (so it is authentic and not faux Amber—guaranteed).  They don’t have enough money to open a shop in Centro Historico so they sell to those shops wholesale, and then sell retail at their location in the market.  So basically Erika brought me directly to the wholesaler with their lower prices and guarantee of authenticity.

The photo above is of my actual morning’s purchase.  I set the piece on a white background in the Sun, and then took a macro-shot of it with my Canon PowerShot G15. It is much smaller than it appears in the photo; it’s about the size of my thumbnail in diameter.  Amber & Thumb LR

Relative size when held between thumb & forefinger

(Click on image to enlarge)

Instead of a mosquito it has a small bee entombed in the resin.  I think (I know) I prefer the bee, because mosquitoes remind me of my bout with Dengue Fever last year. It’s a light-colored (almost clear) piece of Amber with a slight yellow-orange hue to it. Based upon what I learned at the Museo de Amber yesterday, the samples of Amber in this region date to 25,000,000 years ago.  That means that 25,000,000 years ago this tiny bee inadvertently got stuck in this pine tree resin and couldn’t work its way free.  Over the millennia this resin fossilized to eventually become Amber.  This local family dug it up, polished it and revealed the tiny treasure within.  They brought it to market, and I purchased it this morning.  Its taken 25,000,000 years to complete the cycle.  And once I have a small Gold connecto attached, I will be able to wear it along side of my Jade Kuan Yin.  A symbol of the Buddha who lived 2,500 years ago and a prehistoric bee that lived 25,000,000 years ago.  Is there a message there, New Age or otherwise?  I don’t know, but it just feels right to me somehow.

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4 responses to “A Study In Amber

  1. Nice! ….but since my dad was a beekeeper and I’m partial to bees…I like the idea of a mosquito getting stuck in the sap instead of a bee! I probably would have picked the bee one too though!

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