Maggie’s Green Amber

Maggie Campbell Pedersen, the author of Gem and Ornamental Materials of Organic Origin and a contributor to the new sixth edition of GEMS, is a specialist in organic gems such as amber, antler, bone, copal, coral, horn, ivory, jet, pearl, shell, and tortoiseshell. She describes a piece of green amber in material from the Dominican Republic she bought recently from a dealer: “[The dealer] is reputable, and I have dealt with him before. … I was thrilled to be able to obtain a piece, especially as he assured me that ‘it really is green.’ I was also assured that it was the first piece that he had seen in five years.

“I am still delighted with the piece, but not because it really is green, thus proving that the material does exist, but rather because it is not really green, thus proving the opposite and confirming my belief. It is, however, a glorious dark green by reflected light, but not by transmitted light (when it turns a lovely golden color). It cost me $100, but it is unusual and a valid part of my collection. Coincidently, I then discovered that I already had a small polished piece of ‘green’ DR amber in a bagful of bits that I had bought for $10 on eBay!”

Pedersen has a hypothesis about the green effect: “Both pieces have a lot of black debris in them, and I believe that the green effect is a mixture of light reflecting off this, and fluorescence.” She notes that this may explain the burning or backing of Baltic amber cabs to make them look green.

“I have yet to purchase a piece of the DR amber, which is relatively clear but has a slight greenish tint, and examine it properly,” she says.

She also thinks so-called blue amber is a phenomenon of fluorescence: “True ‘blue amber’ does not exist, though some would like us to believe that it does,” she says. “Again, the highly fluorescent DR blue is expensive and I have yet to pluck up courage to buy a rough piece of decent size.

“On my recent trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, I bought a piece of ‘green amber.’ It is a plastic, possibly a co-polymer of styrene and polyester, and of the type used to make fake amber with bug inclusions. Interesting that they are now using it to fake ‘green’ amber! Green really is all the rage, isn’t it?”