Amber has a humble roots – literally! It comes from an organic source: trees! This is why you may have heard the term "organic gemstone" thrown around when discussing amber. (However unlike other things that have an organic label, we’re not going to charge an arm and a leg for it :) ) Amber is actually formed from the resin of trees; this resin becomes fossilized over millions of years if the right conditions are met. Most often amber comes from pine trees. In this picture Tim the tree is just relaxing and having a good time…
…but then comes Wassily the Woodpecker and he starts pecking away at the bark – it seems to have caused a large hole in the tree. To prevent further decay from both the elements, and other animals, the tree secretes resin, a sticky substance to cover up the hole, and stop further damage.
Now resin is not to be confused with sap. Sap transports nutrients throughout the tree, while resin is similar to a scab you might get after scraping your knee – it’s like the trees immune system kicking in.
You can see that this resin is a light honey color, since it was formed outside the tree, it would also most likely be translucent. You’ll notice that there are many kinds of amber, such as butterscotch amber, which is more of an opaque color. If the amber is opaque or cloudy it comes from resin secreted inside of the tree, if it’s translucent it comes from resin on or outside the bark. Different trees, will often give different colors of amber.
Resin has got a viscosity similar to a thick honey, and it will slowly ooze down the tree, picking up little bits of organic matter as it goes. In this case Fyodor the Fly is in its way, and he’s forever going to be trapped in the beautiful amber prison, perfectly preserved for millions of years! If you’ve ever seen the film Jurassic Park, then you’ll recognize the idea of bugs being trapped, and preserved inside of amber. All of these little extras are called natural inclusions, and they are highly sought after in the amber collectors world. They make each piece unique, and give each amber stone its own unique personality and character.
Now often times the resin will solidify, and then got weathered away by nature – never getting the chance to become a beautiful piece of amber jewelry. Lucky for us, a lot of glaciers around the Baltic region knocked over trees, and buried them under ground protecting them from the elements, and allowing the resin to fossilize and become amber. Often the glaciers would knock trees to the bottom of lagoons or seas – and then millions of years later the amber would float to the top (amber floats in salt water, a good way to see if your amber is real!), and be washed up on beaches.
And that’s the story of how amber is formed.