The physical properties of Baltic amber

The chemical properties of amber

Baltic amber has a non-uniform, amorphous structure. It is made up of by dozens of chemical compounds known as polymers.

As every organic substance, amber is composed of carbon (ca. 80%), oxygen (ca. 10%) and hydrogen (ca. 10%). It can also contain trace quantities of sulphur, nitrogen, nickel and silicon.

Today we know that Baltic amber contains between 3 and 8% of succinic acid, with the largest quantities in its cortex, or outer layer. The acid is obtained in the thermal process of amber’s decomposition. Other products of this process include amber oil and colophony.

Amber is resistant to most organic solvents. It is partially soluble in ethyl alcohol, acetone and benzene.

Amber is known as a living stone. This is because it changes its colour, darkens with time. The uncovered surface oxidises and becomes darker.

It can be dyed using organic substances and also synthetic ones; it can be clarified in a thermal process.