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Amber is fossilized tree resin, which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty. Amber can vary in colour fromyellow to red, from green to blue, butamber’s color is usually honey brown. The best commercial amber istransparent, but some varieties are cloudy. Sometimes insects or pieces of earth, leaves, pine needles and inclusions of small plant and animal fossils are present in the amber. Amber is a fossilized tree resin of now-extinct conifer trees and ancient pine trees. It is an amorphous hydrocarbon and may contain particles of various foreign materials, trapped insects, and air bubbles. Its luster is greasy to resinous.
The modern term amber comes from this stone’s flammable character: an old root BR went through Old German börnsten to give German bernstein (“burning stone”) and through Germanic anbernen (“burn”) then Arabic anbar (“amber”, but also incenses and other perfumes to burn) to give ambra (Latin), ambre (French), amber. The Greek word for amber was êléktron, “resplendent thing”, because of its colour (the sun was poetically called êléktôr); because of its ability to attract dust once rubbed, the name gave the word electricity. Nowadays it is berenikis in reference to the blonde hair of Berenice II, mother of Ptolmy Philopator. In the legend, Phaeton, son of Helios the Sun asked to drive his father’s charriot for one day. But his awkwardness caused disastrous fires and Zeus struck him with a lightning bolt. His sisters the Electrides wept and wept over his body until the gods in pity turned them into poplar trees on the shores of the Eridan river; but inconsolable they wept still, and their tears were now of amber. The Chinese think that amber is the petrification of the soul of the dead Tiger, and so think that it gives strength and courage.
According to Sophocles, amber was the petrified tears of the sisters of the hero Meleagres, who were changed into birds and weep the death of their brother: in the Baltic Sea the stone is sometimes named “seabird tear”. Another Greek historian, Theoprastes, says that they are the tears of the lynx (but lynx may here refer to a people, not the animal). The German people named amber glesse: “luminous”, whence Latin glessum and German and English glass. In Turkey it is considered a “hygienic” stone, hence the fact they don’t minding drinking the narguile from the same pipe as long its mouth is of amber. The Turkish name for amber is kehruba, “straw-thief”: this word means now in Turkish and Arabic “electricity”.

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