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There are about 150 fossil (Latin fossilis – excavated) sorts of resin. From non-organic minerals fossil sap differ because they‘re made up of only three chemical elements: carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. During XVII – XVIII centuries when mining was on the rise, in brown carbon clusters first of all, later in other sediments various fossil sap sorts were found that varied greatly by their chemical characteristics. Most of the fossil sap was found in the Northern hemisphere, Europe and America during XX–XXI centuries. Also more and more of them are now found in Asia, Africa and South America.

Fossil resin called amber has been found on the seashores of the Baltic and Northern Seas since long time ago. The main characteristics of this resin were restricted to color, clarity, combustibility and ability to get electrified when rubbed. For a long time resin that had similar characteristics was considered amber. Some mineralogists as little as 25-30 years ago attributed simetrite and rumenite found in the Carpathian region to the six sorts of Baltic amber – sukcinite, gedonite, stantentite, glesite, bekerite and crancite.

In Delter‘s mineralogy textbook (1931) similar to amber resins are attributed to fossil sap such as ambrite, copalite, shraufite, birmite, Istric trinkerite, Canadian cederite, Columbian, Galician, Greenland‘s, Kamchatka, San Domingo, Spanish, Syrian, Lebanese, Yucatan peninsula‘s amber, as well as amber from Bohemian Shuco region and Kep Sebl (USA).

Mineralogists though of amber as mineral, pointing out its special feature – the ability to burn. Later on when attributing it to minerals used the genetic approach – its vegetal roots even though many mineralogists still keep to the opinion that mineral has to be of non-organic origin.

Nowadays scientists agree that the main chemical characteristic of amber is its acid НООС-СН2-СН2-СООН that distinguishes it from other fossil sap.

Konvenc established and K. Shubert finally proved in 1961 that amber composed from a certain type of pine. This pine tree sort is now called Pinus succinifera Conwentz. That‘s why amber is the resin from Pinus succinifera Conwentz and is called sukcinite. Rezenic type of compounds predominate in its composition and there‘s from 3 to 8 % of amber acid, on average around 7.1 % (according to O. Helm).

The current District of Kaliningrad (now Russia, but formerly Eastern Prussian Samba peninsula) contains the biggest amber clusters in the world. In the deep layers of this peninsula which was near the former historic Fenoscandic continent – in the so called “blue land” – more than 90% of the whole world amount of amber is found and mined. The thickest blue land layers are in Palvininkai (called by the Russian colonizers Jantanyj) region amber mines.

Amber is found not only around the Baltic Sea (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the District of Kaliningrad), but also in Belarus, Ukraine (Kharkov and Kyiv districts) as well as in Poland, Germany, Denmark and Southern Sweden.

In 1896 O. Helm wrote about the so-called rotten amber. It‘s a transitional sort between sukcinite and gedanite.

Fossil sap sort called simetite is found in Sicily and it has various colors and shades: dark red ruby, reddish yellow pomegranate, blue, green and brown. It‘s a little bit softer than sukcinite.

Rumenite found in Romania, Carpathian region, Bukovina, Galicia, Valakia is very close to the Baltic amber by its chemical composition, but differs in color. Sometimes yellow rumenite is found, but usually it‘s brownish yellow, brown, grey or clouded. Sometimes very dark rumenite is found so it‘s sometimes called the „black amber“.

In Burma and India territories dark brown fossil resin called birmite is found. Dark red and lightly yellow sap similar to sucinite is also found. Birmite is harder than the Baltic amber so it‘s more suited for polishing. It‘s usually not clear.

In the Baltic Region apart from the real amber (sukcinite) a few other sorts of it are also found. Around Gdansk reddish yellow clear gedanite is mined (Gedanum is the Latin name for the city Gdansk) and it‘s a little softer than sukcinite. In other parts of the Baltic Region a very rare sort of amber is also found – glesite. It‘s a bright rosy amber without any impurities.

Fossil resin types and their clusters are listed in the table below

Name Cluster
Baltic sukcinite Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Latvia
Glesite Lithuania, Germany
Shtantinite Lithuania, Priekulė region
Bekerite Juodkrantė region
Crancite Prussia, Semba (Prustas horn)
Gedanite Poland (Gdansk)
Noidorfite Southern Poland
Valchovite Slovakia (Moravia)
Aikait Hungary (Aikos basin)
Kiscelite Hungary (Budapest)
Telegolite Hungary (Budapest)
Deliatinite Moldavija (Bukovina)
Ruminate Romania (Carpathian district)
Piatra Romania (Ploesh region)
Almashite Romania (Almash river valley)
Shraufite Romania (Deliatian region)
Simetite Sicily (Simet region)
Duksite Austria (Bohemia region)
Keflachite Austria (Shtiria)
Iksolite Austria (Oberhart)
Jaulingite Austria
Zigburite Bona
Euosmite Bavaria (Bajershof region)
Copal Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Jordania)
Siberian retinite Arctic (Jugor and Taimyr peninsulas)
Birmite China (Burma)
Siderite North America (Alaska)
Mexican amber Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti
Ambrozine America (South Carolina)
Chilean sukcinite Chile

Very fragile black colored opaque shiny amber is called stantenite. It‘s composed from fossil sap of still unknown tree to scientists.

Stronger and less fragile from the latter mentioned is bekerite – opaque grayish brownish amber. In 1961 paleobotanical research done by K. Shubert showed that it‘s sukcinite that‘s highly impure with tree bark.

If we look at other continents we can see fossil resin clusters in Mandzuria, Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, as well as Africa (Sierra Leone, Congo Republic, Zanzibar island), in the states of Unites States of America (New Jersey, Virginia), Canada (British Columbia), North Greenland, Mexico, Brasilia and Guiana.

Though the biggest fossil resin clusters – the real amber – is located in the Baltic Region. Here the amber industry is also the most developed one.

Since the old times the Baltic amber lured merchants of the distant ancient countries such as Finikia, Greece and Rome. And the merchant‘s tales about the long and adventurous journeys to the North were the base for the antique writers to start talking about amber. Of course, the first accounts aren‘t very accurate, they‘re full of carious fictional elements. Though, they‘re historically based. Exactly this truth about amber clusters, its mining and trade routes the scientists are trying to find out from the existent antique sources. Archeologists and philologists work hand in hand with historians to find this scientific truth.

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