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Physical properties of amber


Amber is not a mineral, because it has an organic origin and amorphous structure (no orderly internal arrangement of atoms). Find out more about amber's physical properties below. Information is available on a young resinous material, that is often times confused with amber, called copal. Copal resembles amber but is not a mineral either.

Baltic amber generally has the following characteristics;
Hardness: 2.0 - 2.5 Moh’s Scale.
Specific Gravity - 1.050 - 1.096
Refraction Index - 1.54
Melting point - 480/720Of (250/3800c)

Composition: can vary greatly depending on the botanical source, though all have terpenes or compounds that are linked as the resin matures. It is thought that Baltic amber, or succinite, contains 3-8% succinic acid (succus is Latin for juice); succinic acid is believed to form from microorganism-induced fermentation of the cellulose contained in the resin. One composition of an amber variety is: oxygenated hydrocarbon (carbon 67-87%, hydrogen 8.5-11%, oxygen 15%, sulfur 0-0.46%). Although this composition was believed to be the hardened tree resin from the genusPinus, chemical studies show these pines were not the source of Baltic amber.

Amber is a poor conductor of heat and because of this it always feels warm to the touch.

The name amber relates specifically to fossilised resin which has succinic acid - COOH(CH2)2COOH15 present in its chemical makeup. Baltic amber can have succinic acid present between the ranges of 3 to 8 percent. Amber which is clear usually has the lower levels of succinic acid and this increases as the amber becomes more opaque. Fossilised resin which possess no succinic acid is officially classified as retinite.