The allure of amber has endured for centuries. In ancient civilizations, amber was so prized it vied with gold in value. Although its oldest use was for adornment, amber was also considered to have both mystical and medicinal properties by the Greeks and Romans. Some forms of amber were even used as incense in their temples.
Amber, generally used and classified as a semi-precious gem, is actually entirely organic, as it is a fossilized resin preserved from trees millions of years old. A common misconception holds that amber derives from ancient pine trees; in reality it was formed by various
conifers and by some tropical broad-leaved trees. As the resin solidified, insects and plant material were sometimes mired in the sticky substance and mummified. Only a few areas in the world held the special conditions required to preserve amber in quantities large enough for mining. Northern Europe and Russia, particularly the Baltic Sea area and the Dominican Republic in the Carribean are the main producers of amber.
Although not scientifically known about until the mid 1940's, Dominican amber, found in the central mountains of the island is best known for the exquisite preservations of inclusions or fossils.
Dominican amber is thought to be formed from an extinct species of the "hymenaea" tree based on inclusions of whole or partial leaves and flowers. Formed in the early Miocene (20 million years ago) to about the mid Oligocene Period (30 million years go), Dominican amber is usually quite transparent with hues of clear yellow and gold and more rarely red, blue, and green. While ants are the most common insect found in the amber, spiders,
mosquitoes, bees, and most rarely scorpions and gecko lizards have also been discovered. Assortments of flowers, stems, leaves and seeds are found preserved in the amber as well.