Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pounds of Amber

I used to read Andre Norton. Maybe everybody who reads in the fantasy field first reads Andre Norton. I dunno. She also wrote sci-fi, and I was kind of torn between her hard sci-fi--All Cats are Gray, and her cross-world sci-fi/fantasies, Forerunner Foray. But my favorite was the Crystal Gryphon, one of her earlier Witch World books. She did a sequel twenty years later, but it was pretty damned boring. I think the only sequel (the kind that comes "decades" later...) that I liked was Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters.

I'd always wanted John and Vicky to get together. Now that she's coming out with a sequel, I'm hoping it's the one set in Minnesota where John gets to meet her family. He's such a sarcastic, snarky jerk and she's so damned oblivious to everything outside her world view. LOVE the sexual tension.

I think I picked up my amber obssession from Andre Norton. Maybe Susan Cooper. When I die, it goes with me. I have a picture of the interior of Newgrange, and this thing about pre-history. Lol, I want to be a Barrow-lord.


Alice Audrey said...

I'm jealous of your collection. I LOVE amber. So how do you tell the fake from the real? Stickiness?

I thought Andre was a guy. I've only read a few Norton books and don't remember the titles. I came into the field through Heinlein's juveniles and Tolkeen.

jodi said...

lol--I love it too. You should see me coated in amber when I'm having a "dragon" moment.

well, green is usually fake. I know it's the current style, but green amber only makes up about 1/2 of one percent of all naturally occuring amber. So if not an outright fake, it's been dyed. Totally clear amber is usally (usually, not always) fake also. Or it's melted amber chips that have been "reconsituted"

anything in amber usually is fake. Things like big lizards, flowers, flies and ants. There's a big trend in Mexico to buy copal (young amber, or fossilized tree resin) melt a hole in it, insert the whatever and harden it up again. People love lizards and scorpions. A big clue is if the insert is too pretty. A real lizard (or whatever) would be squished or partially decomposed, or at least tore-up.

I'm very european in my tastes, I like amber with inclusions, white and butter yellow and sometimes Baltic (the classic amber color)or red. When you lift it to the light, you can see things like pollen, and dirt and mosquitoes and--er, more dirt.

A lot of amber is altered for the american market. Americans like clear amber and they like the "amber" color. A couple decades back, they started accepting "sunburst" amber, the kind with the things that look like flakes of light. These are actually dichrondial stress fractures(yeah, I MUST have spelled that wrong...)that happen when amber is of the "wrong" color and is heat treated for clarity. So green amber is really cheap-grade cloudy amber that has been heat treated for clarity (the more treatment, the more stress fratures)and dyed, which is why you get what looks like a glitter-ball.

The ring I have in the foreground is really a russian tribal "generation" ring. Lots of antique rings were sized with what looks like a cheap bubble gum band so the stone could be handed down through the family without re-sizing. I have a lot of Tibetan silver with the same band style. It's a dark amber with part of a leaf in it, and a spray of pollen. The older amber is, the darker it is. Oxydation. And you also get a faint crazing on the surface as it dries out.

The only way to tell for sure, if you see something you're absolutely not sure of--and lol, most of the time, it really is amber, just not "good" amber, is 1) weight. It has to be light. Very light. It can have almost no heft. Unless you have pebble necklaces like I have in the picture, an amber pendant will kind of ride around on your chest, because it's light enough to stick to you and stay there.

2) smell. If you suspect a fake, take a pin, heat it in a match or on the stove and in a place where it won't show (like the drill hole?) touch it to the stone. If you smell oil or chemical, it's a damned good fake. You should smell pine resin.

3) price. If it's big and cheap and "shiny" and bright-looking, or that "african trade amber" it's copal. A young amber. It's amber, you just need a few million years to make it "real".

lol--and you got me going. I can lecture on amber for a long time and I have stuff to do...

yeah, Andre was a "grand dame", one of the first grandmasters in the field. And I read Tolkien and Heinlein too...I liked Lazarus Long.

Alice Audrey said...

Lazarus was cool. I was mixed about Stranger in a Strange Land. I felt like something was missing but loved most of what was there.

I think it's the Baltic amber I like best, love the dark stuff, but will happily buy copal.

What's really funny is that I love all kinds of jewelry, but hardly ever wear it, even when I'm supposed to.

jodi said...

I think the world is divided into those who wear jewelry and those who don't--unless someone has a gun to their head. I wear my wedding band. Everything else is a health department no-no. I think I've been in the restaurant business too long.

Alice Audrey said...

I don't even wear my wedding band all the time. When it gets cold it makes my finger hurt and my hands tend to swell and unswell (let's just pretend that's a word) all the time so sizing is a serious problem. Luckily Mr. Al understands and puts up with me.