The Complete Amber Guide

Table of Contents

  1. Amber Consumer Information
  2. FOSSILS: world’s Oldest Spiderweb Found in Amber
  3. Amber References in Antique Gemological Books

Amber Consumer Information

As provided and validated by various gemmological organizations, laboratories and the "World Jewelry Confederation CIBJO"


While rings using amber are used, the user must take special care Avoid rough handling, heat and chemicals for all amber They are soft, occasionally brittle, and porous enough to be attacked by acids Cleaning may be performed using a dampened cloth or a moistened soft bristle toothbrush Strong colours in amber are considered collector items, as is any amber containing unusual insects. Entomologists seeking to understand a bygone world often collect these amber samples for further study.


Amber often possess gas bubbles which vary in size and quantity within each piece. In the space between the bubbles, the resin is clear The bubble inclusions actually interfere with the passage of light through the amber, resulting in the dilution and variation of color and opaqueness. For example, there are so many bubbles in milky amber, when examined under the microscope, it resembles sea foam – thus causing the solid milky color.


May be seen in yellow, orange and brown colours and rarely as blue and green. Impurities and organic substances cause colours in amber. Green and blue ambers are so perceived due to strong fluorescence in some amber from the Dominican Republic.


Heating in oil causes some cloudy amber to clarify, or to produce darker amber colours Amber is sometimes dyed to add a darker tone to lighter materials Two factors that affect the color of amber is air and the actual tree source.


Most amber is fashioned as cabochons or rounded or free-form beads, and are rarely faceted

FOSSILS: world’s Oldest Spiderweb Found in Amber

Several a of the major press agencies reported on this discovery. However many of them failed to mention the name of the person who actually found the amber, and in fact a completely new amber deposit in the UK. You can read several personal comments by Jamie Hiscocks as well as view a number of the close-up images provided by him and which have not been available through the major press agencies or newspapers.

The only significant amber deposit in the UK is also an extremely rare one because of its age: there are very few amber deposits anywhere in the world which are over 100 million years old. It was so difficult to find because the deposit lays at a beach where it is covered by the sea most of the time. We are very proud to support the person who spent so many hours salvaging the amber from the tides of the sea.

About Jamie Hiscocks, the person who found the Amber

In his own words: “We are only a small family operation, just myself and my brother. We have been self collecting fossils for over ten years. Amber is only a very recent discovery. The story of the discovery is interesting. I discovered amber quite by accident one day while out searching for vertebrate fossils. I spotted a tiny piece of amber in situ, and I mean tiny – only 4mm x 2 mm! I knew it had to be amber. I began to look more closely at the outcrop of rocks and noticed thin layers of lignite. I managed to find a small quantity of amber. I have been digging for more ever since!

We have done one of the major UK fossil shows, and we hope to do more in the future. We only sell what we find ourselves, we don’t buy and sell. We go out frequently searching for new specimens locally in Sussex. Wealden amber is what I would like to completely focus on now, that is finding more, and making new discoveries in it! For me, discovering amber in the Wealden has opened up a whole new range of possibilities, it’s very exciting.”

He continues….

” We are still searching for insects, but we are limited in having only a small amount of clear amber we can search. They should be there but as it is with all amber, we need a large amount to get the really interesting inclusions. We have found pollen grains fungi spores and other plant matter. I am hoping to find a feather trapped in amber!, that would be an amazing find. It’s not a dream since we know feathers have been found in most other Cretaceous ambers!! We are going to really go for it. We didn’t really make the best out of the discovery when the beds were showing! Only visiting the beds occassionally, instead of getting as much as we could!”

FOSSILS: world's Oldest Spiderweb Found in Amber
Close up of Spider Web Silk (8 x 10), Photo Courtesy Jamie Hiscock

About the World’s Oldest Spiderweb

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent, The Telegraph, UK

Scientists working at Oxford University found tiny threads of spidersilk encased inside a piece of amber that formed around 140 million years ago. The web appears to be similar to those of modern orb web spiders, which weave a spiral web of silk to catch insect prey. The discovery suggests that orb web spinning spiders existed far earlier than had been previously thought, at a time before flowering plants appeared on the planet and triggered an explosion in flying insects.

FOSSILS: world's Oldest Spiderweb Found in Amber
Close up of Spider Web Silk (8 x 10), (Photo Courtesy Jamie Hiscock)
FOSSILS: world's Oldest Spiderweb Found in Amber
Close up of Spider Web Silk (8 x 10), (Photo Courtesy Jamie Hiscock)

The scientists believe the web became trapped in conifer resin in the aftermath of a forest fire and then became fossilised inside the resulting amber. They hope that by studying other pieces ofamber from the same deposits they may learn more about spiders from that time and the prey they ate.

Professor Martin Brasier, a palaeobiologist at Oxford University who led the study, said: “It is absolutely consistent with an orb web spider. The spacing between the threads suggest they were the structural struts onto which a web was spun.

“The treads themselves are made of two pieces joined together just like a modern web. The spider spins the threads from two spinnerets at its back and twirls them together. The amber flow appears to have cut across the web and embalmed it. “We have also found a few tangles of web in the amber. It is amazing to see something so delicate that has survived so many million years.” The amber was found on a beach famous for fossilised dinosaur tracks near Bexhill, in East Sussex, by amateur fossil hunter Jamie Hiscocks.

He took the amber to Professor Brasier and his student Laura Cotton, who will reveal their findings at the annual meeting of the Palaeontological Association in Glasgow this week. Using advanced microscope techniques, the scientists were able to peer into the amber to build up a picture of what was inside. By merging 40 image slices taken through the amber, they discovered threads of spider web each more than a millimetre in length.

FOSSILS: world's Oldest Spiderweb Found in Amber
Close up of Spider Web Silk (8 x 10), (Photo Courtesy Jamie Hiscock)

Pieces of charred bark and burnt sap inside the amber suggest the trees that produced the fossilised resin had been damaged in a fire and produced the droplets of resin to protect itself from infection. Fossilised charcoal was also found in the fossil beds near to the amber along with fossilised tracks of Iguanodon, large plant eating dinosaurs.

Until now the oldest known spider web was found in 130-million-year-old amber discovered in Lebanon and the earliest fossilised orb spider was found in a fragment of amber 120-million-years-old. This latest discovery proves that the web-spinning arachnids were around millions of years earlier still. Delicate structures like spider webs are not normally fossilised and can only be preserved if they have been caught up in resin such as amber.

FOSSILS: world's Oldest Spiderweb Found in Amber
Close up of Spider Web Silk (8 x 10), (Photo Courtesy Jamie Hiscock)

Professor Brasier said: “The amber appears to have been flowing through lower parts of the trees near to the ground so we can imagine little cobwebs forming in the very lower parts of the tree trunk. “Webs are used to catch things flying through the air and we know that all sorts of insect groups were starting to become quite adept at flying at this time. Many of the modern fly group, mosquitoes, bees and wasps all take off at this time.

“These webs were around in a conifer dominated world before flowering plants, but it is clear it was already gearing up for the huge diversity of flowers brought with them. The spiders appeared to be keeping up with the other evolutionary patterns in the insects.”

Ancient amber deposits more than 100-million-year-old are extremely rare and scientists hope the Bexhill amber will reveal yet more secrets. The amber deposit, which is hidden beneath the tide for much of the time, is also believed to be the first significant amber deposit in Britain. Most famous amber deposits have been found in France, Germany, the Caribbean and Lebanon.

Amber deposits, which form from fossilised tree resin, have attracted intense public attention in the wake of the hit film Jurassic Park where scientists used dinosaur blood extracted from mosquitoes preserved in amber to clone dinosaurs.

Dr Samuel Zschokke, an expert in ancient spider webs at Basel University, Switzerland, who discovered the 130-million-year-old spider web in Lebanese amber, said: “This sounds rather exciting. It appears that a new record has been set. “Spider silk probably evolved back inthe Devonian period and it has probably been used to build webs for some 200 million years. The limiting factor for the oldest fossil spider silk is not the occurrence of silk at these early times but the existence of fossil bearing amber.”

Amber References in Antique Gemological Books

Works before 1600 on Amber

Greeks: “Theophrastus”: discussion of a stone that turns out to be amber (10 pages). Read of Roman, Greek uses and Damigeron as well.

10th century Persian Scientist “Al-Biruni” writes on amber and its different origins as known in Iran at the time

Also try amber chapter by early 16th century (pseudo-) Albertus Magnus

“Georg Agricola” in De Natura Fossilium” 10 pages on “amber

“Samuel Chapuzeau” in History of Jewels on “amber

“Nicols” in A Lapidary or History of Gemstones on “amber


Extensive overviews: Amber mines and geology

Occurence and paragenesis of Amber by Streeter.

George Frederick Kunz on amber finds in the USA

Famous Jeweler Castellani also gives a brief history on amber including more recent occurences.

Famous 17th century French Traveller Tavernier and Gem dealer (Hope Diamond) on “amber mines in the Orient


19th century writers on amber in Antiquity

Rev. King in History of Precious Stones writes an extensive summary of all antique writers about amber. He writes more about amber here.
George Frederick Kunz in his Curious Lore of Precious Stones om “Amber Talismans

More on Talismans and use in Antiquity (Romans) in his Book “Magic of Jewels

Feuchtwanger wrote an excellent treaty of 19th century locations and quality levels of amber

Dieulefait writes extensively about amber and occurences as well as history and appreciation. Ths illustration comes from that book.

US Geol. Survey on amber

George Frederick Kunz did the reporting until 1907:

USGS 1883: Amber : Location. Descriptions, Values

USGS 1905: Amber USA, Burma

USGS 1907: Large amber block in Prussia

USGS 1908: Amber location


Amber Overviews

Prof. Oliver Farrington: includes 19th century history, treatments and other gemstone info on amber

Burnham reviews historical knowledge and localities of amber

Which amber colors were popular when and where ?

Fernie: Gemstones for Curative Wear: amber (8 pages overview, medical, talisman applications)


World of amber by Professor Aber

Very rarely will we recommend another site in our library pages (we have the WWW Virtual Library for that). However an overview of “amber” would not be complete without visiting the “Amber Portal” of Prof. Aber. Many pages, images, discussions, reviews and links are given on these pages. And she has therefore built one of the most extensive and knowledgeable resources online.


Baltic amber

Baltic amber exported to the Far East (Asia)

Description of Baltic amber finds and geology

Prussia Baltic amber Production (1886)

Greek, Phoenician trade in “Baltic amber”

Some large Collectable Baltic amber Pieces

Several External amber References

Of course..there is always the Wikipedia. Webmineral has a great factsheet on amber.

A great German fact-sheet on amber is by Mineralienatlas.