found occurs trees colour pliny coast pieces substance
AMBER (Gr. '11A.verpov; Lat. Succinum, Electrum ; Fr. Succin, Ambre ; Ger. Bernstein) is a hard, brittle substance with a resinous lustre, sometimes found perfectly transparent, but more usually of varying degrees of translucency, and possessing a prevailing yellow colour, passing from a pale straw tint to a deep orange. It occurs in irregular masses, and has neither taste nor, at ordinary temperatures, odour. It develops electrical phenomena by friction, a property which doubtless early drew attention to amber, and invested it with the romantic interest which attached to it in ancient times. The popular regard for the substance among the nations of antiquity was further maintained by the fabulous tales of the manner in which amber was formed and the mystery connected with its occurrence.
The earliest notice of amber we find occurs in the Odyssey of Homer, where in the list of jewels offered by Phmnician traders to the Queen of Syra occurs " the gold necklace hung with bits of amber "(0d. xv. 460). Thales of Miletus, 600 B.C., noticed that amber when rubbed attracted light bodies, and that remote and simple observation is the foundation of the modern science of electricity, so named from the Greek iXeic-rpov. Among the Greek fables purporting to account for the origin of amber, it is narrated that the Heliadw, on seeing their brother Phaethon hurled by the lightning of Jove into the Eridanus, were by the pitying gods transformed into poplar trees, and the tears they shed were dropped as amber on the shores of the river. Hence arose the Greek term for amber, ITA.EKTup being one of the names of the sun god. A less poetical theory of its origin states that it was formed from the condensed urine of the lynx inhabiting northern Italy, the pale varieties being produced by the females, while the deeper tints were attributed to males. In such repute was amber in Rome in the time of Pliny that he sarcastically remarks, " the price of a small figure in it, however diminutive, exceeds that of a living healthy slave." Besides its application to jewellery and carved ornaments, and its use, partly decorative and partly prophylactic, as necklaces, peculiar virtues were attributed to it. Pliny observes - " True it is that a collar of amber bead.s worn about the necks of young infants is a singular preservative to them against secret poison, and a counter-charm for witchcraft and sorceries." As an article of personal ornamentation, the same authority states that amber was used to produce imitations of precious stones by artificial staining, a use to which it was peculiarly adapted owing to its brilliant lustre combined with tho ease with which it could be worked and polished.
The great source of supply of amber in all ages appears to have been the Baltic coasts, from which the supplies of commerce still continue to be drawn. During the reign of Nero an expedition was sent from Rome to explore the amber-producing country, and so successful was the party that a present of 13,000 lb of amber was brought back to the emperor, including a piece weighing 13 lb. It occurs in regular veins along the Baltic coast, but in greatest abundance between Pillau and Grosz Hubenicken, on the Prussian coast. Professor Phillips thus describes the mines " Near the sea-coast in Prussia there are regular mines for the working of amber under a stratum of sand and clay, about 20 feet thiek, a stratum of bituminous wood occurs, from 40 to 50 feet thick, of a blackish brown colour, and impregnated with pyrites. Parts of these trees are impregnated with amber, which sometimes is found in stalactites depending from them. Under the stratum of trees were found pyrites, sulphate of iron, and coarse sand, in which were rounded masses of amber. Tho mine is worked to the depth of 100 feet ; and from the circumstances under which the amber is found it seems plain that it originates from vegetable juices."
After heavy storms large quantities are usually found thrown up on the coast at the localities where it is regularly excavated, and the assumption is, that amberiferous deposits crop up in the shallow waters near the shores, from which pieces become detached during the violent commotion of the water. It is further sparingly cast on the Swedish. and Danish coasts, and occasionally pieces are picked up along the shores of Norfolk, Essex, and Sussex in England. It occurs at numerous localities inland throughout Europe, among which may be noted the neighbourhood of Basle in Switzerland, the departments of Aisne, Loire, Card, and Bas lthiu in France, and in the Paris clay it is associated with bituminous deposits. In England it has been found in the sandy deposits of the London clay at Kensington. The coasts of Sicily and the Adriatic likewise afford amber. The most beautiful specimens are perhaps those which are found at Catania. They often possess a beautiful play of colour, approaching, to purple, not to be observed in the product of other places. Professor Dana gives the following note on its occurrence in America : - "It has been found in various parts of the greensand formation of the United States, either loosely embedded in the soil or engaged in marl or lignite, as at Gay Head or Mather's Vineyard, near Trenton, and also at Camden, in New Jersey, and at Cape Sable, near Magothy river, in Maryland."
The appearance of enclosed foreign bodies, such as insects, leaves, twigs, &c., which amber very often presents, and the markings on its surface, very early led to correct inferences as to its origin, Pliny states that " amber is an exudation from trees of the pine family, like gum from the cherry and resin from the ordinary pine ; and in accordance with this opinion is its Latin name su,ccinum, the gum-stone. The opinion expressed by Pliny is that which at the present day may be fairly held as established; but of course amber differs from other resins owing to changes induced by its fossilised condition. Sir David Brewster has pointed out that in optical properties it agrees with other resinous exudations. The insects found enclosed in amber are for the most part of extinct species, and so also are the remains of plants. A species of conifer has been established provisionally as the amber-yielding tree, _Ratites succinifer, but Giippert has shown that many trees may have yielded the exudation, and these not all necessarily belonging to the pine order.
The close relation of amber to ordinary resins is further brought out by its chemical properties and composition. According to Berzelius, it consists mainly of a resin, succinite, insoluble in alcohol, in combination with small proportions of two others, isomeric with the first, but soluble in alcohol and ether. By dry distillation it gives off at a low temperature water, succinic acid, and oil of amber, which last substance was formerly used in medicine in combination with alcohol and ammonia under the name of eau de Luce; but now amber and all its products have disappeared from the standard pharmacopoeias. Its composition is, according to SchriitterCarbon 78.94 Hydrogen 10.53 Oxygen 10.53 and miueralogically it belongs to Dana's class of oxygenated hydrocarbons. It burns with a pale yellow flame, with a good deal of black smoke, evolving an agreeable odour, and leaving a shining black carbonaceous residue.
It is said that by exposing amber covered with sand in an iron pot to the influence of heat for forty hours, or boiling it for twenty hours in rape oil, it will become transparent, and pieces will cement and mould together. The great size of vessels of amber which have come down from ancient times suggests the probability of some such art being practised in remote periods. It is now applied to few useful purposes among western nations beyond forming the mouthpieces for tobacco-pipes and cigar-holders. Fine pieces are in some demand for public collections and for the purposes of the carver. In the East, besides its being highly prized for ornamental purposes, a feeling of veneration for its mystic properties still enhances its value. The Turks esteem it highly as a mouthpiece for tobacco pipes, and believe that it resists the transmission of infection. The principal demand for the amber of commerce is among the Armenians, through whom it is conveyed to Egypt, Persia, China, and Japan ; and a great quantity is purchased to be consumed at the shrine of Mahomet by the pilgrims bound to Mecca. The value of amber depends upon its colour, its lustre, and its size. In 1576 a mass weighing 11 lb was found in Prussia, and deemed worthy of being presented to the emperor; later, a mass of 13 lb was found, for 'which it is said 5000 dollars were refused. In the royal cabinet at Berlin a piece is shown weighing 18 lb; but such masses are of very great rarity.