When asked the question, “Are you familiar with Mexican amber?”, most people answer, “No, I’m not.” If they have heard of it, they associate it with another fossilized resin, copal, amber’s softer and less mature cousin. Though it is not as well known as Baltic or Dominican, Mexican amber is bona fide, high quality amber. It is our great pleasure to let you in on the amber world’s best kept secret.
Amber and Los Maya
Mexican amber, a.k.a. Chiapan amber, is mainly found near the small town of Simojovel, Chiapas in the southern most state of Mexico. It was certainly known by the ancient Maya in these parts, who naturally traded it with the Aztecs. They subsequently documented it along with other things from the Chiapas region in one of their books now known as the Mendoza Codex. It is said that Montezuma, the famous Aztec emperor used an amber spoon to stir his chocolate.
Mexican Amber Goes Public
The modern world first became aware of Mexican amber in the early 1950’s. Archaeologist and authority on Mayan culture, Frans Blom, discovered it’s presence in Chiapas. He eventually sent samples with insect inclusions to the University of California. This led to a group of scientists from California’s Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley coming to Chiapas to visit the amber deposits in Simojovel first hand. They returned from that expedition with inclusion samples and a new species of stingless bee was discovered.
Charateristics of Mexican Amber
Mexican amber is dated 22-30 million years old. Registering on the higher end of 2-3 on the Mohs scale, it is harder than amber from other places and therefore does not scratch or chip as easy. This makes it an excellent source for sculpture and carvings.
Unlike most Baltic amber, Mexican amber is 100% natural and not treated, heated, or pressed in any way.
Mexican amber has a diverse palette of colors from rich, lustrous reds to perfectly clear golden yellow and everything in between. Often it has unique displays of botanical matter and inclusions of insects and enhydros. It truly is a joy and a delight to behold.
Mexican Amber and Fluorescence
One of the most fantastic features of Mexican amber is that it fluoresces blue green in natural and UV light. Blue/green fluorescent amber is unique to tropical ambers. It is found only in Chiapas, the Dominican Republic, and Indonesia where the now extinct Hymenaea Protera tree once thrived.
It is the presence of the hydrocarbon perylene in the amber that causes this blue green fluorescence. Perylene is formed when organic matter is burnt. It is believed that smoke containing perylene was deposited into the sticky resin leaking from the trees during forest fires, and is therefore present in the fossilized resin today.
Fluorescence is the light that molecules give off when they’ve gone into an excited or energized electronic state. When natural light passes through Mexican amber on a white surface, it is refracted by the white surface and generally passes right through the amber. On a black surface, the ultraviolet light is refracted by the actual amber itself and is converted by hydrocarbons to a lower frequency, reflecting the blue/green that our eyes can see.
The play of color and light that Mexican amber exhibits is incomparable. Here at Samora Minerals and Amber Co we just can’t get enough of it. We offer something for everyone… from high quality AAA grade fine jewelry, to everyday wear; from exquisite sculptures by world renowned artists, to artisan carvings on a variety of themes.
We procure extremely rare, museum quality specimens as well as small inclusion pieces that a young person can afford. In Tucson this past February, a youngster left our booth thrilled with his piece of amber with a little bug in it : )
Now that you are familiar with Mexican amber, browse our shops to see the magnificence of Mexican amber and what we have to offer…