Since ancient times, the word “amber“ had only one meaning – Baltic amber. This amber was formed from a particular type of pine (Pinus succinifera) and is called succinite. It contains 3-8 percent of amber acid. For a long time this feature of the Baltic amber distinguished it from other fossil resin, which was found in different places. Amber definition refers to the fact, that many different fossil resins were unknown. Now are known more kinds of amber, which also contain amber acid. So, this feature is no more a defining characteristic of the Baltic amber. Recent studies have shown that geological knowledge of each fossil resin is important to their botanical classification. Even when fossil resin comes from the same plants, it might be different since it got fossilized in different conditions.

According to Schlee (1978, 1980), all fossil resin, which is more than a few million years old, should be called amber. However, in order to be more accurate a place name, eg. Siberian amber, Borneo amber, New Jersey amber, Dominican amber or Baltic amber, should be given.

At present there are nearly 200 known amber deposits throughout the world and new ones are discovered every year. Amber has been found on all continents except Antarctica. Only a few of the deposits have achieved economic importance, but each is of scientific interest. Scientific research of amber formed in Cretaceous period (Lebanon amber, Jordan amber, Spain amber, Burmese amber), gave unexpected results in terms of evolution.

The Jordan amber, being 130 million-years-old, allowed to detect families of mosquitoes and flies also found in Baltic amber (35-50 million-years-old), and still exist today completely unchanged. It means that evolution of insects began much earlier than it was previously thought.

Here are 31 examples: amber, fossil resin or Copal from different parts of the world, with a description of their main features; where it was found, age, mother-plant, colors, inclusions and their special characteristics. 

1. Dolomites amber

Found: in sandstones of Upper-Triassic age in the Southern Alps (Italy)
Age: 230 Ma. (Late Triassic period)
Mother plant: affinity to a conifer family
Colours: yellow to brown
Inclusions: small fungi, and micro-organisms
Special characteristis: oldest known amber with oldest inclusions world-wide

2. Lebanon amber

Found: amber beds are located in the district of Jezzine
Age: 125 Ma. (Early Cretaceous period)
Mother-plant: Agathis (Araucariaceae) 
Colours: ranging from translucent yellow to faintly translucent dark brown to honey colour
Inclusions: many inclusions, but poor preservation
Special characteristics: many different deposits

3. Jordan amber

Found: in the Kurnub sandstone of Wadi Zerka north of Amman
Age: 130 Ma. (Early Cretaceous period)
Mother-plant: Agathis (Araucariaceae)
Colours: mostly yellow, brown, and dark red
Inclusions: quite rare, not well preserved, quite similar to those of Libanon amber
Special characteristics: Agathislike plants occur in the amber-bearing-strata.

4. Golling amber from Austria

Found: in coal-rich sediments of the Austrian alps near Golling/Salzburg
Age: 130-120 Ma. (Early Cretaceous period)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: mostly from dark brown to black
Inclusions: very rare, not well preserved because of natural heating
Special characteristics: structures caused by the folding of the Austrian alps

5. Spain amber

Found: Pe?acerrada-Moraz?n region, the northern parts of Spain
Age: 110Ma. (Early Cretaceous)
Mother-plant: Araucaria
Colours: blue
Inclusions: abundant
Special characteristics: bluish pieces of amber with inclusions

6. Taimyr amber

Found: in the coastal area on the beaches of the Taimyr peninsula, near Yantardakh
Age: 105-80 Ma. (Late Cretaceous)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: yellow transparent
Inclusions: common
Special characteristics: this amber is found only onthe seaside

7. Japanese amber

Found: mostly in Kuji (North Japan), also in Mizunami and Chosi. Amber from Kuji is deposited on the mountain‘s slopes at about 600 metres depth.
Age: Kuji amber is 85 Ma. (Late Cretaceous period), Chosi amber is 110 Ma. (Cretaceous period)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: from green to black, Chosi amber is a type with a very varied spectrum of colours, Mizunami amber is dark, brown or intensiv red colour
Inclusions: rare
Special characteristics: most of the pieces are cracked because of seismic tremors and the high pressure at considerable depths. The cracks often contain quartz crystals.

8. Burmese amber “Burmite”

Found: mainly in the Hukong Valley (Northern Burma) where it occurs in clay deposits and coal seams
Age: 100 Ma. (Early Cretaceous period)
Mother-plantAgathis (Araucariaceae)
Colours: often clear and transparent, varying from red to brown
Inclusions: contains many inclusions
Special characteristics: inclusions from the Cretaceous period are well-preserved

9Canadian amber

Found: in various regions of Canada. The term „Canadian amber“ generally refers to amber collected in the vicinity of Cedar Lake, Manitoba.
Age: 95-70 Ma. (Cretaceous period)
Mother-plant: Agathis (Araucariaceae)
Colours: red, brown
Inclusions: contains many inclusions, mainly flies, bugs, and arachnids
Special characteristics: It is found in areas where amber and dinosaur bones occur together.

10. Ethiopian amber

Found: Debre Lebanon, in the northern part of Addis Ababa 
Age: 95-93 Ma. (Cretaceous period)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: yellow
Inclusions: abundant (plant fragments, flying insects, arachnids, microorganisms)
Special characteristics:The first real amber in Africa

11. New Jersey amber (USA)

Found: in lignite layers just a few feet below surface, near the town Sayreville (New Jersey)
Age: 80 Ma. (Late Cretaceous period)
Mother-plant: Metasequoia (Taxodiaceae)
Colours: yellow to red, translucent
Inclusions: abundant, up to 100 unknown species of insects and plants were found
Special characteristics: Amazing inclusions: the oldest known bee „Trigona prisca“.

12. Chinese amber

Found: in coal-beds of the Guchenzgi formation, near the city Fu Shun, province Liaoning
Age: 60-55 Ma. (Late Paleocene to Early Eocene period)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: usually with a black weathering crust, after polishing transparent, yellow to brown
Inclusions: contains many inclusions
Special characteristics: The inclusions are badly preserved because of natural heating of the amber.

13. Sachalin amber

Found: on the shores of the island Sachalin
Age: 55-52 Ma. (Palaeocene period) 
Mother- plant: unknown
Colours: dark yellow to brown
Inclusions: common
Special characteristics: only small pieces occur

14. French (Oise) amber

Found: near the Oise river just outside Paris, in sandy, lignitic layers
Age: 55 Ma. (Early Eocene period) 
Mother-plant: the Hymenaea tree
Colours: single pieces with a typical frosted surface; after polishing mostly yellow transparent
Inclusions: many inclusions, mainly arthropods, few plant fragments
Special characteristics: The pollen extracted from the amber are close to a modern Hymenaea species, which today is found only in the Amazonas rainforest.

15. India amber

Found: north-west coast of India, Gujarat Province
Age: 53 Ma. (Late Eocene period) 
Mother- plant: Dipterocarpaceae
Colours: brown
Inclusions: many insects and plants
Special characteristics: inclusions can be removed from theamber

16. Amber from Switzerland

Found: in lignite sandstones, near Fribourg and Bern
Age: 50 Ma. (Late Eocene period)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: honey-yellow to orange-brown, transparent
Inclusions: few plants inclusions
Special characteristics: Under UV light the amber shows an intensive blue-white fluorescence.

17. Ukrainian amber

Found: in sands above and below the groundwater level in Western Ukraine (Parcew Delta, Klesov Delta)
Age: 50-45 Ma (Eocene period)
Mother-plant: pine tree Pinus succinifera
Colours: mostly brown, brown-yellow, yellow transparent-red, light green, blue-greenish-yellow; translucent-light green; white with a green or blue tint
Inclusions: less inclusions than in Baltic amber, due to the smaller amout of layered amber
Special characteristics: Amber pieces above the groundwater level are usually covered with a typical dark-brown to black weathering crust.

18. Australia amber

Found: Queensland, Cape York
Age: 50 Ma. (Eocene period)
Mother-plant: Kauri
Colours: mostly brown, brown-yellow, yellow, sometimes red-transparent
Inclusions: many inclusions
Special characteristics: washed ashore with a variety of resin and the pumice

19. Rumanite, amber from Romania

Found: in sandstones from the banks of the River Buzau, in the East Carpathians
Age: 32-28 Ma. (Early Oligocene)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: brownish-yellow, red-brown, black
Inclusions: very rare, not well preserved because of natural heating
Special characteristics: famous for rich colours, ranging from brownish-yelllow to deep brown. Pieces of brownish red amber reflect a blue-green fluorescence, similar to that of the “blue amber” from the Dominican Republic.

20. Italy amber (Simetite)

Found: in Sicily (South Italy) on the banks of the Simetus river
Age: 25-22 Ma. (Early Mioceneperiod)
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: raw-material black; after polishing, famous for its dark-red colours; also pieces with blue fluorescence
Inclusions: rare
Special characteristics: the famous Simetite collection of the Prince Ingnatius Piscary from Catania, which was mentioned by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe during his journey to Italy in the year 1787.

21. Amber from Nicaragua

Found: in sandstones at the Caribbean sea-shore of Nicaragua
Age: 23-18 Ma. (Early Miocene period)
Mother-plant: the Hymenaea tree
Colours: varying from transparent yellow to red
Inclusions: only a few up to now
Special characteristics: newly discovered amber deposit.

22. Dominican amber

Found: in sand and claystones of the Northern and Eastern Mountain Ranges at elevations between 500 and 1,200 metres 
Age: 23-20 Ma. (Early Mioceneperiod)
Mother-plant: the Hymenaea tree
Colours: yellow, red, green, sometimes blue shades, 90% is trasparent amber
Inclusions: many inclusions, fauna and flora reflect a dry tropical climate with many groups of organisms
Special characteristics: There exist single amber lumps with an amazing number of inclusions, pieces with 10-50 ants or flies are not rare, but also such with 500-1000 occur. An unusally fluorescent variety which occurs only in limited areas is called „blue amber“.

23. Mexican (Chiapas) amber

Found: deposited in lignite layers, mainly in Chiapas, to the East in the Lacondon jungle
Age: 23-20 Ma. (Early Miocene period)
Mother-plant: the Hymenaea tree
Colours: varying from yellow to red/brown; special red translutient pieces and fluorescent blue green varieties are also found
Inclusions: because of natural heating usually not well preserved
Special characteristics: large Mexican amber lumps are often covered with large fossil oyster shells.

24. Borneo (Sarawak) amber

Found: within a coal-seam of the Merit-Pila coal-mine in Sarawak, North Borneo, Malaysia
Age: 23-15 Ma. (Late-middle Miocene period)
Mother-plant: angiosperm tree of the Dipterocarpaceae family
Colours: mainly dark-brown to yellow-brown, partly whitish
Special characteristics: Worlwide largest pieces of amber, up to 30 kg..

25. North Carolina amber

Foundin the area of Aurora, North Carolina, U.S.A 
Age: 23-16 Ma. (Neogene period) 
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: dark-brown, opaque 
Inclusions: unknown 
Special characteristics: thedark-brown colours 

26. Duxite from Czech Republic

Found: in Bohemia, near the village Dux
Age: 20 Ma. (Neogene period)
Mother-plant: Cupressaceae
Colours: mostly opaque, dark yellow to brown
Inclusions: none
Special characteristics: occurs attached to or inside fossilized wood.

27. Colombian copal

Found: Pena Blanca
Age: between 5000 and some hundred years
Mother-plant: the Hymenaea tree
Colours: pale yellow
Inclusions: abundant, but modern fauna and flora
Special characteristics: Larger pieces could be filled with some hundreds of termites.

28. Madagascar copal

Found: embedded in about one half or one metre depth of the western coastal area of Madagascar
Age: between 50 and 500years
Mother-plant: the Hymenaea tree
Colours: mostly transparent and pale yellow or brown
Inclusions: many inclusions, but modern fauna and flora
Special characteristics: All copal is soft and smears when it is ground or polished.

29. Borneo copal

Found: West Borneo, Indonesia
Age: very young, from today to max. 500 years
Mother-plant: unknown
Colours: dark red with white dots
Inclusions: unknown 
Special characteristics: strange colours

30. Phillipines copal (Manila copal)

Found: on some islands of the Phillipines Republic
Age: very young, from today to max. some hundred years
Mother-plant: different trees of the order Dipterocarpaceae (Dammar tree)
Colours: varying from clear-yellow (fresh) to dark grey (fossil)
Inclusions: rare
Special characteristics: –

31. Todays Dammar gum

Found: in Indian and East Asian forests, mostly by tapping the trees, some collected fossilized from the ground 
Age: recent
Mother-plant: Dammar tree, from the family Dipterocerapaceae
Colours: from clear to pale yellow, fossilized form grey-brown
Inclusions: rare
Special characteristics: Dammar was firstly used as a picture varnish in 1862, and is commonly referred to as Dammar varnish.

In conclusion, some observations should be made: the oldest amber in the world is Dolomites amber (about 230 million years old); Borneo amber is found in largest lumps, up to 30 kg.; New Jersey amber is impressive with its inclusions: here the oldest mushroom and a bee were found in amber. What is more interesting, Canadian amber is found in the areas of Canada with dinosaurs‘ bones.

After all, the Baltic amber is the most important one:

  • known since the Stone Age
  • later extracted in enormous quantities
  • of widest colour diversity
  • of highest ornamental value
  • best manufacturing quality
  • a sourse of scientific studies in many faculties for more than 150 years
  • up to 5500 animal and plant species