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ABOUT AMBER

Origin and features of amber

Amber is a fossil resin of ancient trees Pinus Succinifer, which were subject to extinction long time ago. Those trees belonged to the species of pines. This mineral may be white, yellow, greenish, blue, red, but the yellowish gold variations, which are shining in the sun, are the most common. That is precisely why amber is often called a solar stone. Mineral is amorphous, soft (rigidity 2.2 – 2.5), easy to planish and polish. Its density is 1.05 – 1.096 g/ml. In regard to the classification this mineral is represents the group of flammable minerals and humus carbon. In regard to the chemistry it is a compound of organic acids with representative formula C10H16O. It often has sulphur adulteration. Some “bony” variations of amber have less carbon than yellow limpid variations; it may be considered as the accumulation of bigger amount of resin. Oxygen forms small bubbles inside amber. The limpid yellow amber may have up to 6,000 small bubbles in 1 cm3; the opaque amber may have up to 900,000 in 1 cm3. The implication is that transparency of the stone is proportionate to the amount of oxygen bubbles in it.

Amber softens at 150° temperature and melts at 300°. It is flammable and releases smell of pine resin. This mineral has dielectric features and preserves warmth. Pieces of amber can be found in the nature. Diameter of them varies from 1 to 10-20 cm and more. Really massive pieces up to 10 kg are also possible.  There are various shapes of those pieces: drops, icicles, formations of irregular shapes, spongy discs or rounded shape. Tacit and Pliny the Elder who were notionalists of the first century AD mentioned amber in their works. Later, M. V. Lomonosov wrote about it in his work “About strata of the earth”. Up to now there are gaps in the interpretation of the origins of amber. For instance, there is no unanimous view about the place where those trees grew, whose resin fell into the sea. The fact is that 40-50 m year ago, when Scandinavian Peninsula bordered on Eastern Baltic coast, amber forests grew on the North Sea cost. Climate there was the same as in Africa now. The lush flora greened in the subtropical and tropical paleogene forests: palms, cypresses, magnolias, oaks, conkers, firs, pines, spruce. Various herbage, mushrooms, moss and ferns were involved in the formation of the cover of the earth. Amber pines grew in those forests. Those pines used to fill entire groves. Trees used to brake during the hurricanes and storms. Sticky resin used to outflow from the broken places and the gigantic drops of those resin used to hover on the bark. In the course of time those drops used to come unstuck and dropped on the ground. Not only hurricanes were the reason of the resin flow, called succinosis, but climate changes as well. Resin – succinite were drifted to the south when it got into the water. It is likely to believe that this was the way of formations of its occurrence.

Today amber is found in different forms but not in a resin shape anymore. It is the product of the resin; it is mineral, which formed because of manifold changes during a long period of time. Mineral, which has been formed in this way is considered to be called succinit, and only Baltic succinit may be called amber (the same as Romanian – romanite, Sicillian – simetite, Burmese – birmite). Succinit quite local in the territory of the North Sea cost, near the Canada coasts, in Transnistria, in Carpathians and in other regions. Nevertheless, amber is unique in Kaliningrad region and on Lithuanian cost: there is up to 80% resources of this stone gathered in those places worldwide.

Fragments of both plants and animals life is being found in the limpid formations of amber. The exploration of amber helps to identify the conditions, how this stone was forming; it also helps to find out the consecution of Earth’s forming stages.

Amber is the mineral of organic origin. It is the sectional name for the tacky, hard melting unearthed resin, which has lost a big part its evaporative components. Conifers used to get into the sea after the ruin, a wood there used to transform into brown carbon and resins - into amber. Brown carbon used to decay and amber concentrated in the remainders of carbon decay, which are called “turquoise ground”. Later, amber was washed out with seawater. Small stones are found the most often. The diameter of them is up to 3 cm. Sometimes the pieces of amber, which weigh up to 4-7 kg, may be found. Amber is a semi-precious stone, but it is not durable enough. To extend its longevity, it should be conserved in the dark and wet environment. In the course of time amber loses its glare because of human’s sweat.

Mining and processing of amber

Gathering of Baltic amber has its own history. The oldest method is considered to be “scoop”, when pieces of amber were caught with nets from the boats. Later, the “scoop” was replaced by the “abruption method”. This method is the abruption of amber from the shallow seafloor with sharp hook. In the 16th century people learned how to collect amber from the shoal wells and small pits, which used to be situated in the zone of near-shore. In the middle of the last century gathering of the industrial amber in the pits and levels was started in the region of Palmnicken town (currently Jantarnij) in Kaliningrad area. The cache of amber, which was gathered in the earth entrails, was found in 1876: 45kg of stone lay under a huge boulder. However, in 1922 because of difficulties the underground banks were removed from operation. They were replaced by the open collection in sand pits, which was started in 1912 in the northern part of Palmnicken town. Apparently the work of sand pits was successful, because there were stored about 3 centners of the stone in the storages, which were found in the region of Pillau town (now Baltiysk). Amber was collected in the ground also called “blue ground”, which gets into the composition of paleogene stratum.

The cover of seashore deposits has been processed with hidro-monitor and dredger. The monitor dispersed sediment with strong flush (those sediment cover stratum which produces natural amber). In this way the mixtures of water and thin coatings is formed, and it is called pulp (the soft). This pulp used to be frown away into the sea through the culvert of the dredger. Afterwards the powerful excavator used to scoop and gather cleansed “blue ground” in cone-shaped receptacles. The powerful stream of hidro-monitor used to wash out uncovering till the liquid squash used to consist. The squash used to be transmitted to the conversion factory through the culverts of the mechanism. Amber used to be shattered while washing the upper part of sediment of “blue ground” and removement of uncovering later transmitting it to the conversion factory through the culverts. 10% of amber is being lost during such operation.

Technological scheme of amber gathering in the seashore region is slightly different: the powerful excavator, which is marching around the sand pit, collects the “blue ground” after the removal of thin uncovering. The “blue ground” is being transfered to the conversion factory through the conveyor. The replacement of hidrotransportation system with conveyor significantly reduces the losses of amber.