Best Amber Teething Necklaces and Anklets
Baby teething has a lot of myths surrounding it, coupled with the number of toddlers that you will see with Baltic amber teething necklaces; you will understand that parents would like to sooth some of the teething symptoms such as fever and diarrhea that babies usually have. In this article, I review the concerns of many parents on whether these necklaces work as demonstrated by the growing praises heaped on them by hundreds of websites, blogs, and forums. If you are a parent, or you just turned into a parent, you might have heard one or two things about cheap baby teething necklaces, and you probably want to know more about this miracle that is bound to change the life of your teething child for the best. In the following sections, we are going to go into details about this baby product and its transformative benefits on a teething toddler.
I will answer the following questions regarding the best teething necklaces: What are they made of? What is their history? How do they work? And what are the negative side effects that can be associated with them?
What is an amber teething necklace? This is a typical necklace but on this occasion, it is not worn to enhance beauty. A Baltic amber teething necklace is a type of necklace meant to ease a baby from the discomfort of teething. Just like any other necklace bought on the street, shops or jewelry shop, this baby teething necklace is worn on the neck against the infant’s skin although there are other alternatives. This indicates that the necklace should not be chewed by the child or put in the mouth in order to be effective.
How Baltic Amber Works
How amber teething necklaces work can be explained based on whom you speak to. Some of the unbelievable explanations found online include:
- It activates the solar plexus and root chakra
- It has both bactericidal and electrostatic properties
- Amber has powerful antioxidants that help fight toxic free radicals
- It has a slight sedative effect
- Amber is electromagnetic and produces large amounts of organic, natural energy which protect the human body from various magnetic fields
But the most plausible explanation is that when amber is worn and heated by body heat, it releases succinic acid which enters the body transdermally and acts as an analgesic. This is indeed true on one front; authentic Baltic amber necklaces contain succinic acid; however, there is no evidence whatsoever that amber has any analgesic effects on the body. In addition, the notion that succinic acid gets absorbed through the skin is baseless since there is no evidence that succinic acid is released from amber on body contact. Also, Baltic amber contains about 50-400 ppm of succinic acid, and 1 mg/kg is equal to 1 ppm, a necklace weighs 1 oz = 0.028 kg and therefore, contains about 1.4-11.2 mg of succinic acid. Such a low value in an amber teething anklet would mean that the amount of succinic acid released on contact with the body would be minuscule.
Amber teething necklace scientific review and evidence
Various benefits of wearing an amber necklace for teething can be found when one does a thorough research on them. Some of them include the mundane to the believable. These include the following two lists.
Baltic Amber for Infants and Children
Amber necklaces for babies are an anti-inflammatory and natural analgesic item used for centuries in Europe. For babies and children, a necklace made from Baltic amber has the following benefits:
- stimulates the immune system;
- reduces inflammation (especially on gums);
- accelerates the natural healing process;
- relieves teething pain;
- provides soothing effects without the use of medicines;
- Acts as a natural painkiller (reduces or eliminates the pain associated with teething, headaches, joint stiffness, etc.);
- Also helps treat discomforts related to the throat, ears and stomach as well as fevers and colds.
Note: for the therapeutic benefits of Baltic amber, it is necessary that the amber is directly in contact with the skin.
Baltic Amber for Adults
Amber is beneficial for adults too! Recent scientific research shows that succinic acid has a very positive influence on the human body, helping to improve the body’s immunity and acid balance when absorbed into the bloodstream.
The Baltic amber:
- is known for promoting vitality;
- helps to rebalance the body and natural healing;
- helps neutralize negative energy allowing the body to heal
- relieves stress and anxiety
- treats the throat, stomach, spleen, kidneys, bladder, liver and gall bladder bile;
- alleviates joint problems, such as arthritis and rheumatism;
- help in the treatment of tendinitis;
- is an excellent natural antibiotic;
- Strengthens the immune system.
How to Use Amber
For the maximum benefits of Baltic amber, consider the following forms of use:
1) Amber should be in continuous direct contact with the skin. The necklace must be worn underneath the shirt and the anklets underneath the pants, etc.
2) Amber should be in contact for the maximum possible time: for babies under 3 years, the necklaces should be taken off during bedtime. Some parents like to wrap the necklace/anklet at the ankle, under the pajamas. This makes Ambers contact with the skin to last for much longer.
3) Use the Amber where you want it to affect you. For discomfort in the head or neck, use the necklace. In the case of pain, arthritis and tendonitis in the wrist, hand or arm, use a bracelet. In case of discomfort in the feet or legs, use an ankle bracelet. To relieve baby teething symptoms, the necklace will bring more benefit than the bracelet.
Should all of these claims raise a red flag before we proceed? Let’s wait a minute until we go through the scientific evidence.
Baltic Amber Teething Necklace Amazon Reviews
The scientific evidence
A journal search at both PubMed and MEDLINE1 finds zero research on the benefits or any other information on amber teething necklaces for infant teething. The closest you could come to a scientific study on amber is a study a study on succinic acid published in 1987 in the Russian Journal Farmakologiia i toksikologiia which analyzed and demonstrated the anti-inflammatory potential in 44 different types of succinic acids.
As far as the scientific evidence goes by we can summarize it as follows:
- Baltic amber contains succinic acid.
- Baltic amber does not release succinic acid at body temperatures since Succinic acid melts at 187 °C, but it’s moderately soluble in water which means it can be dissolved in body sweat.
- Succinic acid is a naturally occurring compound and can be found in our bodies and foods and is generally considered safe and in some instances, it is used in food additives
- There is no evidence of its analgesic effects on the human body
- There is no evidence that succinic acid can be used to treat pain from the external of the human body.
Where to buy Amber Teething Necklaces wholesale
Natural Baltic amber has created a buzz over its amazing ability as a pain reliever and immune system booster for both adults and children. Baltic amber’s most exciting application is as a pain reliever during the teething period of a child which is its most startling quality. Due to this property of reducing pain in kids, amber teething necklaces have become favorites among parents in America, Europe, and Asia since the necklaces have turned their sleepless nights with their children into bearable nights where they can now have enough sleep. The raw Baltic amber teething necklaces are now recommended worldwide by parents as replacements for pain medicine. You should follow the steps listed below when you want to buy an amber teething necklace:
When going out to shop for your baby’s amber teething necklace, you should try to get one from reliable vendors who you can trust. It is good to be certain that what you are being sold is a real amber necklace – with amber that is over 45 million years old – and not an inexpensive replica product
Make sure that you purchase an Amber Teething Necklace for Babies from the Baltic region since the Baltic region has some of the highest concentrations of this natural ingredient which are found only in very small quantities in plant and animal tissues. This is important because this active ingredient is what creates the healing and pain relieving properties found in amber.
Avoid discounted prices since any genuine Baltic amber is very expensive, and this is an advertising strategy to coax you into buying some fake Baltic amber. This is a slowly disappearing precious material that can never be created by nature in the same way and if you think of the maturation process for amber and the fact that it took 45 million years to wash up on the shores of the Baltic Sea, there is no way you can believe that it can be cheap.
With real and genuine amber necklaces, there is always a big difference. The process that is used to mine carefully amber from the Sea takes several days as does the process of taking raw amber and converting it to beautifully refined amber gems from which the artisans will create the baby’s and children’s teething necklaces. Amber craftsmen take even a greater time and patience in carefully polishing the stones to ensure they are comfortable on the skin when they are strung together. This creates a huge difference between the fake and the real anklets.
It is good that you look out for softly rounded amber beads that will lie gently and comfortably on the baby’s skin. This will avoid your baby from getting any injuries and will allow maximum contact so that the amber’s homeopathic properties can be activated.
For original and genuine necklaces, the cost should be between $15 and $30. The cost is also dependent on the finishing on the necklaces. The rounded ones are the most expensive, as the round finishing ensures your child is comfortable while wearing them. You should not compromise on quality, as this is what guarantees the effectiveness.
The amber teething necklace should be worn on the neck and not chewed by the child. There should be strict supervision of the child to avoid this, and whenever the child goes to bed, the necklace should be removed.
Baltic amber necklaces have been bought by millions of mothers all over the world with often repeat customers. Is the above evidence conclusive that amber necklaces should not be used as baby teething relievers? That is for you to decide. However, should you decide to buy one for your baby and test the finding for yourself below are some few pointers you should put in mind as you buy a Baltic amber necklace.
Best Quality Amber Teething Necklaces
Natural remedies are always the best when it comes to curing most babies’ health problems instead of prescription drugs, and it is for this reason that very many parents in this century have opted for original amber teething necklaces to soothe teething pain in babies. Since teething is a phase that every young infant must go through in their early childhood, it is good to use natural remedies rather than resorting to over the counter drugs.
Cheap amber teething necklaces for babies provide the best solution as a natural remedy for the problem and happen to be one of the most ancient known remedies for teething pain in children and various health conditions for thousands of years. These cheap teething necklaces are well known for their analgesic pain relief and healing properties. The necklace is non-toxic and supports the immune system.
From historical books, amber is said to date back to around 50 million years, when resin from prehistoric trees solidified and became the hard and pearly substance that we know of today. This has made many people believe that the trees themselves would have used the natural healing properties of amber to heal their own injuries and prevent infections, and it is these same properties that are available today through the discount amber teething necklaces for children.
It is amazing how one thing has many beneficial properties. Amber is also known to boost the immune system of the body which can, in turn, speed up healing in addition to having a number of natural therapeutic properties. This has all been proved through several scientific studies conducted on the properties of amber.
These necklaces can be comfortably worn around children’s necks with great ease. For infants having teething pain, these necklaces can provide relief and also the associated irritability that comes with teething. The body’s warmth makes the amber release tiny amounts of oil which enter the bloodstream through the skin, bringing about some healing effects. This does not end there since amber is scientifically proven to be electromagnetically alive, producing pure, natural and organic energy in significant amounts.
Child choking safety from the amber beads is guaranteed just in case the necklace breaks since the amber beads are fastened individually to the necklace hence they cannot scatter on the floor if it breaks. This is important as infants might be tempted to bite on the beads and accidentally swallow individual beads. During night time even if the necklace is removed when the child goes to sleep, the healing effect remains for a while since the relief provided by the best brand of amber teething necklaces lasts for a long period of time. This provides a good night’s rest without pain and restlessness from the baby.
If a teething problem with your child seems to be giving you sleepless nights, it is worthwhile for you to try this natural remedy that is proven to work and is cost-effective. Amber teething necklaces for mom and baby are therefore the best natural way to help your child through this painful moment of its childhood. Give it a try!
History of Amber Beads
Amber, also known as the “Gold of the North” (Electrum in Greek, Succinum in Latin), was formed at least forty million years ago.
“Amber” Forests stretched across the ancient continent which included the current territory in Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea, the British Isles, Greenland, across the Atlantic and reached part of North America.
“Amber” Forests with regard to climate, fauna, and flora possessed all the features of the current equatorial forests. During the millions of years of their existence, due to evaporation, the bacterial fermentation, and oxidation, the resin spilled abundantly from the enormous conifers (Pinus succinifera) solidified and become increasingly hard through petrification giving rise to amber. Subsequently, the glaciers that formed on the territory of modern Scandinavia crushed, washed, and moved the amber sediments which accumulated over the years. In this way, the precious primordial mineral deposits were partially destroyed. The remaining deposits were dragged to different places and at present the most significant deposits are located along the shores of the Baltic Sea buried under layers of earth and sand. Today they are exposed when violent storms tear the seabed and are then washed ashore.
The specific weight of amber is between 1.05 and 1.10 so they are very light and easy to transport along with the waves.
Towards the end of 1600, significant deposits in the hinterland were also discovered and amber quarries are still active today providing much of amber on the market today.
Amber is very tender, its hardness is about 2.5 on the Mohs scale, so easy it is to work with, which is why until prehistoric times it was used as a stone for sculpting small items such as jewelry.
The title of the book by David Grimaldi, director of the American Museum of Natural History “Amber: Window to the Past” summarizes very well the emotional and scientific content of this popular “stone”. Through this small window, you can discover how life took place on the earth forty million years ago. Inclusions of small insects and plant fragments are great research materials for paleontologists but are also an object of curiosity and interest among hobbyists and collectors. Looking at amber we can admire the infinite beauty of colors, shades, and lights, as well as the remote past encased in a “drop” of the golden resin.
The Use of Amber Resins
What are plant resins? From which Chemicals are they made from? How are they transformed? And from what are amber jewelry made from? These are some of the answers we will answer in this section.
Have you ever seen violinists rub their bows in resin before playing?
What are the supposed effects of amber necklaces on a baby’s toothache?
Some plants especially conifers and some roses secrete a viscous liquid substance on their surfaces whose main function is to heal them when injured and to protect them from pests. Some studies have also shown that the resin protects the plants from extreme temperatures and help in preserving moisture. Depending on the plant species, the age of the tree, and the climate zone it grows, various liquids are exuded which are specific in their chemical composition. These form various forms such as resins, gums, latex etc. In this section, we will focus, on resins.
Resins are composed mostly of terpenes which are very fragrant and react to light and heat. They also appear lighter or darker depending on the amount of the sunshine the tree received during development. The terpenes have also shown some role in the growth and development of the plants by being involved as a communication mechanism (bait for pollinators) and as a defense for survival.
Industrial Use of Resins
Resins have certain chemical properties that have made them useful in industrial applications with their use in varnish being applicable since the 19th century.
They are used in the preparation of sealants in clay vessels because of their ability to be insoluble in water.
Another interesting property of the plant resins is that they are soluble in alkali and can be used to make soaps (fatty acid salts) obtained by the reaction between NaOH and large molecules of fatty acid contained in some resins (e.g. abietic acid)
They are also used in medicine (externally and internally) because of their antiseptic and antibacterial effect and are still the subject of much research for their pharmaceutical effects.
These rich aromatic resins are used in the perfume industry.
Let us briefly look at a particular resin commonly known to all as turpentine. This resin is produced by different pine species (e.g. maritime pine). When distilled (refined turpentine), we get the light fractions used as a solvent for resins, varnishes, and paints. These species are mainly composed of monoterpenes (α-pinene and β). At the bottom of the distillation column, the solid residue is recovered and the brittle (the heavy fraction) which is called rosin is particularly prized by violinists.
This residue has a diterpene formula C20H30O2.
Rosin is indeed used to coat the strands of bows which increases the friction on the ropes and produces sound. A new free rosin bow produces absolutely no musical note.
Rosin when rubbed on the bristles on the robes is inserted between the scales opening them and causing a divergence, increasing the roughness and therefore the friction on the strings.
Other Uses for Amber Resins
After the death of plants and animals, the organic matter decomposes slowly. However, under certain conditions (high temperature, high pressure, lack of oxygen) and provided that this process lasts long enough (several million years), they become fossilized. This is also the case for resin when it is trapped in sedimentary layers.
During this process, the basic monomers “isoprene” polymerize (i.e. come together, regroup and reorganize compactly as a result of reactions (including cyclization involving double bonds located at the end of string). All this (which is not yet fully understood) results in a strong solidification. Overall: it is the birth of amber
It is composed of succinic acid but also other more complex molecules.
The Use of Amber Necklaces for Pain Relieve In Toddlers
A myth has existed around the use of amber stones, that they confer therapeutic properties through bodily contact.
One the latest uses right now for Baltic amber teething necklaces right now is in their use in relieving teething symptoms in babies. Pseudo-scientific articles evoke the absorption of negative energy, an effect related to magnetism through the use of amber resins.
What is the basis of these beliefs?
Maybe is it the discovery of static electricity by the ancient Greeks when they rubbed amber (then called “Elektron”) against a fabric that created this wonder? Or optical properties of the material (color change according to the brightness)?
The only possible basis for the effect might be to assume that when in contact with the heat of the skin, vapors “essential oils” from the resin could be salted out and have a calming effect … The argument is actually advanced in terms of succinic acid (also present in wine).
Is this hypothesis validated by studies?
It seems that no study has corroborated that succinic acid has therapeutic effects.
A medical thesis has addressed the issue of folk medicine teething remedies but the author did not seek to verify if some serious study had validated the facts about amber necklaces. Note that some steps have been taken to prohibit any advertising stating that no sufficient evidence has been presented.
Pediatricians have also put a warning against these deeply rooted beliefs and recall that the interpretations of “personal experience do not constitute proof of efficacy”. Only scientific trials under conditions that eliminate the maximum biases may lead to the conclusion if there is a conclusive effect other than a placebo effect. For now, the literature does not provide any type of evidence. And the “natural” label in no way a guarantees the safety and security of Baltic amber necklaces!
To conclude, the risk of strangulation is probable, as with any baby necklace.
What Is Baltic Amber?
Well, here is the answer to what makes Baltic amber teething necklaces.
Location and Geology
The true Baltic amber is found on or near the shores of the eastern Baltic Sea, particularly on the Samland Peninsula. The peninsula, a mere 400 square miles in size, has produced 90 percent of all the amber in Europe. Both its northern bay (Kurisches Haff) and southern bay (Frisches Haff) are nearly entirely closed off to the Baltic Sea. Beaches on the side of the peninsula facing the sea are narrow, with steep, vertical cliffs. Amber washed up on the beaches, especially after storms, has been harvested for at least ten millennia. A few huge pieces have been found; one, weighing 21.5 pounds (now in the Humboldt Museum, Berlin), was discovered in 1890 at the mouth of the Oder River. Amber is stranded on other Baltic shores as well and, occasionally, even the eastern shores of England. In North Jutland, Denmark, for instance, 3,000 pounds were collected this way in 1800, and, after several stormy years between 1822 and 1825, one Danish merchant collected 686 pounds at Ringkjobing (one piece purportedly weighed 27 pounds). The record, though, goes to the Samland Peninsula; during one day in 1862, 4,400 pounds were collected off beaches in the town of Palmnicken (now Yantarny). It is not coincidental that the most productive amber mine in history was established in that town about ten years later.
Amber had been collected largely from the Samland beaches up until the mid-nineteenth century when two people made a major impact on massive-scale mining of amber. In 1850, Konigsberg’s Society for Physical Economy hired geologist George Zaddach, who described how the amber was concentrated in layers of the blauErde (“blue earth,” actually greenish and formed by glauconite) dating back to the Eocene epoch, 40 million years ago. The blauErde everywhere was 16 feet below sea level, and some 130 to 150 feet below the topsoil. More important, this layer was submerged on the floor of the Baltic Sea and reached the Samland Peninsula at only a few locations, one being Palmnicken. What was washed up on the shores was merely cast off from the bed of the sea; a much richer source remained to be tapped. In 1854, engineer Wilhelm Stantien from Memel began dredging operations for the amber, 35 feet down from the floors of the Haffs. By 1865, the mining firm of Stantien and Becker was operating twenty-two steam barges and employing about one thousand people. In 1868, they collected an unprecedented amount of amber: 185,000 pounds. By 1870, Stantien and Becker began open-pit mining, and the famous Palmnicken mine was opened in 1875. In its first year, Palmnicken generated 450,000 pounds of amber, and its yield improved steadily until 1895 when the unbelievable amount of 1.2 million pounds was extracted. One Felix Dahn described Palmnicken, where there worked “hundreds of men, women, and children, in all imaginable costumes, in the oddest of attires, shielding themselves against the sharp, whistling winds, digging vigorously and swinging their shovels to the languid strain of some somber melody.”
By 1930, amber extraction at Palmnicken was largely mechanized. Huge conveyers dumped buckets of blauErde into open freight cars. The trains then carried the earth over to grates, where it was spilled to the spray house below and blasted with high-pressure hoses; small pieces floated out of a slurry, larger pieces were collected by hand. Out of the hundreds of thousands of pounds extracted yearly, nearly 90 percent was of poor quality and suitable only for chemical processing; the remainder was used for carvings and jewelry or contained fossilized inclusions. That 90 percent was dry distilled in huge iron retorts, which yielded 60 to 65 percent amber colophony (a high-grade varnish), 15 to 20 percent amber oil (used in medicines, casting, and the highest grade varnishes), and 2 percent distilled acids (used for medicines and dyes). Palmnicken is still the most prolific amber mine in the world.
About 90 percent of Baltic amber has a high concentration of succinic acid (up to 8 percent), from which the name succinite is derived. Agricola (Georg Bauer) is said to have been the first to isolate succinic acid from Baltic amber, around 1546. Some Baltic amber, a yellow, friable amber called Miirber Bernstein, lacks succinic acid and has alternatively been named Gedanite. Other, rarer Baltic ambers, also lacking succinic acid, are stantienite and beckerite, both of which are opaque, dull brown, or black. Glessite, the rarest form, is yellow and softer than succinite. Even within succinite, there exist, various classes, distinguished by the size of numerous bubbles in the amber. Foamy amber is caused by a froth of larger bubbles, while bone amber is marked by microscopic bubbles. Bone amber is white to yellowish opaque, like ivory, and was eagerly sought for particular portions of carvings, such as inlays. Pieces having bubble sizes between those of foamy and bone amber are called flom, or goose-grease, and bastard amber. Bastard amber is clouded by milky swirls and is the most common of the opaque varieties. Why some ambers are opaque and others are not is not well understood. The fact that some Baltic amber lacks succinic acid suggests that several different kinds of trees may have given rise to the Baltic amber.
Exactly what tree or trees gave rise to the amber from the Baltic region has long been a matter of controversy and confusion (possibly resolved just recently), and study of botanical inclusions in Baltic amber has a distinguished history. In 1836, the German botanist H. R. Goeppert described the Baltic amber tree as Pittites succinifer. The tree was identified from microscopic features of wood fragments preserved in the amber, which, Goeppert believed, also showed similarities to pines. In fact, another botanist later assigned the Baltic amber tree to the genus of true pines, Pinits. Other evidence in favor of a pine or pine like origin are the many cones and needles in the amber. Baltic amber, however, lacks abietic acid, which chemically distinguishes pine resin. The alternative hypothesis states that Baltic amber was formed from an araucarian or a tree like one, but araucarian resin does not have the succinic acid that is so distinctive of most Baltic amber. In addition, there are few araucarian fossils in the Northern Hemisphere, and apparently none in Baltic amber.
A recent discovery that sheds considerable light on the origins of Baltic amber is that some living trees in the pine family, which belong to the genera Keteleeria and Pseudolarix, do indeed produce succinic acid. The latter is of particular interest since resin in 40-million-year-old Pseudolarix cones from Axel Heiburg Island in the Canadian Arctic also contains succinic acid. Pseudolarix today is found in Asia, and one species, Pseudolarix amabilis, is very narrowly restricted to some mountains in eastern China (the other two species have higher concentrations of succinic acid). The fact that 40-million-year-old trees that produced succinic acid existed on (what are now) the northern most islands strongly suggests that Pseudolarix could have been in Scandinavia at the same time, and thence in the Baltic region. The Pseudolarix hypothesis is also bolstered by the fact that many of the other plant and insect species fossilized in the Baltic amber are closely related to species now living in Asia, Australia, and even Chile
Given the mountains of Baltic amber extracted from the Palmnicken mine alone, one can only imagine the thousands of pieces that were found containing interesting inclusions. The amber collection of Albertus Universitat in Konigsberg absorbed the amber collection of the Stantien and Becker firm, which in 1914 totaled some 70,000 pieces. Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology has a superb collection of 16,000 fossiliferous pieces, many brought over from Europe in 1867 by Hermann Hagen, a brilliant entomologist from Konigsberg who became a professor at the Harvard museum. The Konigsberg collection was by far the largest in existence and, by all accounts, was destroyed by fire in World War II. Actually, only portions of it were lost, because during the war the collection was divided among various localities for safekeeping, one place being the Institut fur Palaontologie in Gottingen, where part of the collection still resides.
German scientists developed the paleontological study of amber fossils for several reasons. One, of course, was the proximity of the richest amber deposits in the world. The other was their perfection of optics, specifically in microscopes. Since 1800, hundreds of specialized scientific papers have described myriad organisms in the Baltic amber. Some of the nineteenth-century monographs, particularly the botanical ones, are illustrated in lavish detail with copperplate etchings, hand painted with watercolors. For G. C. Berendt’s lovely 1830 monograph on the flora of the Baltic amber, he had studied more than 2,000 pieces with plant inclusions. Hugo Conwentz’s botanical monographs of 1886 and 1890 are the most complete, with a stunning delicacy that modern scientific illustration could never hope to accomplish. Continuing the prestigious German tradition is Dieter Schlee at the Museum fur Naturkunde, Stuttgart, home to the most comprehensive collection of ambers around the world and a huge collection of fossiliferous pieces, from the Baltic, Dominican Republic, and Lebanon.
Sven Larsson’s 1978 book, The Paleobiology of Baltic Amber, summarizes nearly 150 years of scientific work on Baltic amber. Dating methods are far too imprecise to confirm if all Baltic amber is 40 million years old, but we know that succinite can be as young as 20 million years old, which is the age of the huge deposits of amber from coal mines in Bitterfeld, Germany (these mines are no longer active, but they did yield extensive collections of fossils, now at the Humboldt Museum in Berlin). If the fossilized organisms did exist all at the same time, the great diversity of tiny animals, plants, and fungi allows a very thorough reconstruction of the ancient amber forest. Such a reconstruction is presented later for the Dominican amber forest, which contains tropical species, not unlike ones living on Hispaniola today. Perhaps a result of being 10 million years older, when sea levels and changing climates had more effect, the Baltic amber biota was distinctively subtropical.
The gamut of diversity in the Baltic amber includes bacteria, slime molds (actually, they are colonial protozoa), true molds, parasitic fungi, higher fungi (like mushrooms), lichens, mosses, ferns, cycads, conifer cones, flowers of nearly a hundred species of plants, and hundreds of species of arthropods. Stellate plant hairs (trichomes) are more common in the Baltic than in most other ambers. Since oak flowers occur in the amber, these trichomes are often attributed to oaks, even though trichomes are widespread throughout the flowering plants. Not surprisingly, many of the insects are forms whose living relatives are found on dead and decaying tree trunks and under the bark. Swarms of insects infested injured and rotting wood, perhaps the result of “succinosis,” Conwentz’s hypothetical disease that led to the demise of the forest and the formation of such prodigious amounts of resin. Besides stellate plant hairs, another distinctive feature of Baltic amber inclusions is the preservation. Insects in Baltic amber, much more than in any other amber, have a milky covering (Schimmel) over at least a part of the body. This milkiness is an emulsion of microscopic bubbles caused by decomposition.
Collectors of Baltic amber are not immune from the obsession for vertebrate remains typical of most amber deposits. Unfortunately, there is also a venerable history of forgeries in Europe. The only whole, possibly authentic vertebrate specimen in Baltic amber was a Nucras succinea, a small lizard related to ones living now in Africa, which apparently was lost with some of the Konigsberg collection. Small tufts of mammal hair and a few small single feathers occur in Baltic amber, and recently the tails of a lizard and a rodent were found.
One of the most important insights into evolution that the study of Baltic amber fossils has made concerns extinctions. For many of the now extinct plants and insects in this amber, the closest living relatives are found in tropical or subtropical Asia, Australia, or southern South America. For example, the small parasitic plant Trigonobalanus today grows in Southeast Asia. The plant Trianthera in Baltic amber is closely related to Eusideroxylon from Borneo and Sumatra. Archaeid spiders and many chironomid midges have their closest living relatives in New Zealand, Australia, or Chile. Why some groups of organisms were once widespread and became extinct throughout most of their range is uncertain.
Differences between authentic amber teething necklace and forgeries
How can I tell if my amber necklace is real? Well, read on to find out.
The virtues of amber are many, but two main limitations are that it gradually deteriorates when exposed to heat and air, and forgeries are easily and sometimes convincingly made. Various substances have been used to imitate amber in decorative objects, but these are not usually sold with the intention of deception. Generally, the imitation materials and processed amber are quite easy to distinguish from true , unadulterated ted amber. Some of the imitation substances include cellulose acetate and nitrate , acrylic resins, Bakelites (the first synthetics used), and now most commonly, polyester resin. Even horn and hardened casein (the protein in milk) have been used as amber imitations. The imitations are usually discerned by their unnatural color or composition, or with a hot needle. When a hot needle is touched to amber or copal, the smell is resinous; imitations will smell acrid, like burning plastic or burned fruit (for the celluloids).
A common process for amber jewelry is the creation of “sun spangles,” which are disks at different angles to each other. The disks are made by heating a piece of amber with numerous air bubbles buried in cans of hot sand. Popping heard from the heated can indicates that the bubbles have expanded, creating a discoidal fracture around them like the rings around the planet Saturn. All of the substance is natural, but it has been processed to give the desired effect of these highly reflective disks. This technique is closely related to clarification. Most amber pieces used for decorative objects, and particularly for the flat pieces glued into mosaics and onto chests, were clarified. By heating amber in oil very gradually, the minute bubbles near the surface become filled with the oil, and the amber becomes somewhat transparent, even in bony and bastard amber. Despite what some may claim, this technique cannot make a piece of bony or bastard amber completely clear, but it does give a characteristic transparency to the surface. In the time of Pliny the Elder, the oil that was used for clarification was the rendered fat of a suckling pig. Now rapeseed oil is used, partly because its refractive index closely matches that of amber.
An extremely important technique for processing amber has been the pressing of amber to create ambroid. Here, the masses of small, unusable chips from amber mining are fused in a vacuum with the steam of at least 400° C. The softened amber is then pressed through a sieve, mixed together, and hardened into blocks. It can be dyed, usually a dark red. Ambroid is characterized by its flow lines, which become m o r e apparent with age. The technique was particularly useful for the mass production of standard small objects, such as buttons and mouthpieces for pipes. At the turn of the twentieth century, the use of pressed amber for smoking implements was very popular, because amber was considered healthier than horn, bone, or ivory, and it was smoother. Small inclusions, such as insects and plant parts, can be embedded in the pressed ambroid while it is soft, but the heat and pressure greatly distort them, and the flow lines are always an indication that the inclusions are unnatural.
The real interest in amber forgeries involves the inclusions of small organisms purposely embedded in an imitation substance or in a cavity of natural amber. Currently, and presumably hundreds of years ago, the most sought and therefore most expensive amber objects contained large insects and small vertebrates. Forgeries of these have been made for at least six hundred years. Probably all forgers deceive their buyers simply for the money. For the few cases in which scientists have been fooled by faked inclusions, the forger almost certainly did not intend to be misleading scientifically: the fake just ended up in a museum collection.
Since it is not feasible to melt authentic amber to insert inclusions, some convincing substitutes must be used. The first forgeries were made from melted copal, a practice common up to the early twentieth century. Even Pliny doubted the authenticity of lizards in Baltic amber; he believed them to be copal forgeries. East African copal (the kind originally used) would be pulverized and mixed with spirits, such as turpentine or alcohol, and then heated until the copal was dissolved. As the solvent evaporated and the mixture became thicker, it could then be poured into a mold, into which was placed, say, a large beetle, scorpion, or lizard. At the peak of the kauri-gum trade in the late nineteenth century, a popular sideline was the manufacture of fossil forgeries, many still in private collections. Most of these forgeries are very unsophisticated, consisting of unnaturally large arthropods and lizards, and usually with their appendages far t o o neatly arranged. At the very least, copal forgeries are easily spotted.
The caveat is that not all inclusions in copal, including lizards, are forgeries. Some, such as ones in the Natural History Museum in London, misled a few Victorian taxonomists who thought they were in true amber. The American Museum of Natural History has an extensive collection of insects naturally preserved in East African copal. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum has a rectangular block of copal containing a small gecko lizard. The immediate assumption was that it is a fake, but close examination revealed microscopic plant hairs and frail midges that a forger would never have thought to include; or, if he had, heating the copal mixture would have greatly distorted them. The piece was probably cut and trimmed from a large chunk of kauri gum, in which a lizard had been naturally trapped (or pushed!). One ironclad technique of discerning a copal forgery relies on some sophisticated chemistry. Copal forgeries, even one made a hundred years ago, contain traces of solvent that have not evaporated, but to detect this requires expensive instrumentation.
Forgeries in polyester resin have largely replaced copal forgeries, perhaps because the technique is easier and, to the inexperienced eye, more convincing. Since about 1980, polyester forgeries have become very popular in the Dominican Republic and Mexico. Unlike forgeries in copal, detecting fakes in the polyester resin is unequivocal. But, like copal forgeries, the inclusions in polyester forgeries, generally lizards, are usually very unnatural. This is convenient, since small vertebrates and the like draw immediate scrutiny by dealers and sophisticated buyers; it is the thousands of small inclusions that do not. Forgers also unwittingly use large, common insects (like modern honeybees) that entomologists easily spot as fakes, but which a layperson may not.
One cannot rely on detecting a forgery based on the extreme clarity of the substance, for some amber, especially Mexican and Dominican amber, can be remarkably free of debris. In fact, forgers of Dominican and Mexican “amber” generally sprinkle dirt into the resin, but to an amber specialist, even the dirt is suspiciously unnatural. Like an experienced bank teller who can detect counterfeit currency by the texture of the paper, an experienced amber expert can also detect a polyester forgery by the feel (and color) of the piece. The easiest and surest method of detecting polyester forgeries for laypeople is the hot-needle test.
The most clever technique in amber-fossil forgeries is one of the oldest as well. For at least four hundred years, Europeans have been making fossil forgeries from Baltic amber, and the many natural flow lines and cracks in it lend themselves wonderfully to a special technique. A piece is split along the plane of a crack or fissure running g through the amber. A small cavity is carved out of a split surface, filled with the forged inclusion and with resin, balsam, or melted copal, and the same is used for fusing the two halves back together. The difference between the resin and amber is generally so slight as to be undetectable, especially if other flow lines and fissures help to conceal the edges of the cavity. All of the most sophisticated chemical tests would reveal the piece to be authentic amber.
The technique is so clever that it easily misleads even experts. One case involved a piece in the American Museum of Natural History. It was about two inches long, dark red, and with a crazed surface typical of old Baltic amber pieces. Inside was a stream of resin, and inside of that was a tiny frog and what appeared to be two large bubbles. The piece came from one of the most venerable private collections of minerals ever assembled (by Clarence Bement), and the whole lot was purchased for the American Museum of Natural History by J. P. Morgan in 1900, for $100,000. Elation at the rediscovery of “Bement’s frog” quickly subsided when the piece was examined closely: one of the small “bubbles” was actually a small scallop, which could not possibly have been caught in amber. It was then discovered that the internal stream of resin was actually a borehole filled with modern resin and that a slice had been taken off one end to make the hole and then very carefully fused back onto the original piece. One surface of the piece was left naturally rough to help conceal traces of the forgery. Fortunately, the piece was detected before there could be a scientifically embarrassing report on it.
Another case was not so fortunate. In the paleontological collections of the Natural History Museum, London, was a small piece of amber containing what looks like a small housefly. It had been acquired by the museum in the nineteenth century from a distinguished German scientist. More than seventy years later, another distinguished German scientist, Willi Hennig, studied it and reported that the specimen was a fly indistinguishable from the common sewer fly, Fannia scalaris (there are at least a hundred other species of Fannia, but none are as common).
He considered the possibility that the specimen was a forgery, but there seemed to be no signs of it, and so he dwelled, in his original paper, on how an insect species can persist in evolutionary time. It became a cited example of evolutionary stasis, until 1993, when a researcher at the British Museum discovered it was a forgery. Were it not for the heat of a microscope lamp, which caused the piece to crack in a certain way, the specimen might never have come under suspicion. It was such a good forgery that it had stumped even a scientist like Hennig, who was renowned for his work on insects, including flies in amber. It was made in a way similar to that of Bement’s frog, by embedding a fly (probably from a windowsill) into a cavity in natural Baltic amber. In allusion to a famous human-fossil forgery, the fake fly has been euphemistically dubbed “Piltdown Fly”; in this case, however, the forger almost certainly never intended to mislead a scientist.