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UVF "Blue" Amber

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#1 Adrian

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 11:33

Whilst searching eBay for a good specimen of an insect encased in amber, I came across several specimens of "Blue" Amber, all from Sumatra, Indonesia. It is around 10 - 20 myo (Miocene). I had not seen this before so bought a piece to try out. It fluoresces very brightly (My usual exposure when light painting is around 10 - 15 seconds at f/16. This was exposed at 5 seconds at f/22). I have included both frontal lighting (left) where the specimen is very dark, and a transmitted light version (right), showing a more amber like property.
Note: "normal" Baltic or Dominican amber fluoresces blue as well, and UVF is used to distinguish it from plastic fakes, which abound!

Technical Details:
Nikon D850, 105mm micro Nikkor lens. "Nemo" torch, light painted. UVF: 5 seconds @ f/22

Attached Images

  • Attached Image: blue amber comp 2.jpg
  • Attached Image: blue amber comp 3.jpg

Adrian Davies
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#2 UlfW

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 12:18

Your images are very nice and interesting.
How big is the piece of amber?

View PostAdrian, on 16 February 2021 - 11:33, said:

Note: "normal" Baltic or Dominican amber fluoresces blue as well, and UVF is used to distinguish it from plastic fakes, which abound!

That is not true at all at least for Baltic amber.

As a kid i did quite some beachcombing looking for amber together with my parents.
I still have a bag off hundreds of rather small pieces we found, and none of them fluoresces blue.
The most common was milky yellowish followed by transparent yellow and orange.
I searched for fluoresces with a Convoy S2+ and and most of them fluoresces pale brownish

According to some sources on the web there are a few very rare cases with blue baltic amber.
As blue amber is rare there is a high risk of forgery.

The best time for searching was in the autumn and spring when the water was cold and then directly after a storm when the heavy winds had come against the shore, from the west.

This leads me to a linguistic question about English.
In Swedish a storm (same word) is always very windy.
In English I think you to have windless storms too, with a lot of rain. Is that correct?
In my ears that sound very funny.

Edited by UlfW, 16 February 2021 - 12:21.

Ulf Wilhelmson
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#3 Adrian

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 12:29

Thanks for your reply UlfW. Maybe my other pieces of amber are Dominican, because they fluoresce blue (see below).
There is an excellent book about Amber: "Amber - The Natural Time Capsule":, by Andrew Ross, pub. Natural History Museum, London (2009) I contacted Dr Ross, when I was researching a book, and he told me that whilst it was not infallible, UVF was used extensively to identify fakes.

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  • Attached Image: UVF Amber.jpg

Adrian Davies
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#4 JMC

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 14:11

Wow, that's beautiful Adrian. Thanks for sharing.
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#5 Bernard Foot

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 14:48

Lovely pictures, Adrian. I particularly like the later one with the insects - I'd heard of insects encased in amber, but never actually seen a photograph. I've never really understood how these come about - I would have thought the flowing resin would have damaged the insect rather than flowing neatly around it.
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#6 Bernard Foot

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 15:12

View PostUlfW, on 16 February 2021 - 12:18, said:


This leads me to a linguistic question about English.
In Swedish a storm (same word) is always very windy.
In English I think you to have windless storms too, with a lot of rain. Is that correct?
In my ears that sound very funny.

Interesting question that got me thinking ...

I'd always associated storms with wind. But we do also use the terms rainstorm and hailstorm to refer to heavy precipitation.

The definition in the Oxford English Dictionary begins:
  • Violent disturbance of the atmosphere with thunder (Thunderstorm), strong wind, or heavy rain or snow (snowstorm) or hail (hailstorm).
  • (Meteorol.) Wind intermediate between gale and hurricane
So high wind is right up there - but note the use of "or" in the first definition. But heavy precipitation (as opposed to rain that just goes on and on and on ...) is nearly always the result of cumulonimbus clouds, which generally also generate high winds (which makes them dangerous for aircraft and why these clouds are specifically identified in aviation weather forecasts).

So I think the way to look at this is what is uppermost in the speaker's mind. If they say "storm" they are probably expecting that the most noticeable effect will be high (often destructive) winds, which may have a by-product of precipitation. If they say "snowstorm", hailstorm", "rainstorm" then the most noticeable effect will be the precipitation, which is probably associated with high (but perhaps not destructive) wind.

A heavy downpour without wind would just be referred to as "heavy rain" rather than as a storm.
Bernard Foot

#7 UlfW

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 16:49

Thank you Bernhard for the summary.
It is interesting with linguistic differences.

In Swedish a wether situation is always as point 2. in your answer above, but we can add other phenomena like snow.
So the key word here is "OR" for English

Some words are more local, not following the national borders. The word grin is present in Danish and Swedish ( grine, grina ).
Here in the southern part of Sweden the meaning is similar to the English :grin: , but as always in Stockholm they get things backwards. There grina means to cry :angry:.
They say Grin-Olle equivalent to cry-baby.

Sorry for the linguistic tangent, but I find similarities and differences in languages interesting and want to understand what causes them.
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#8 StephanN

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 19:04

Well, it is the last day of Fasching (or carnival), so I'll chip in with the German version :smile:

In German (Austrian German, that is), "Sturm" is as in Swedish, a very, very strong wind indeed. Then we have Schneesturm (snow storm), Gewitter (thunderstorm with rain), Hagelgewitter (hail storm), Wirbelsturm (tornado/hurricane/cyclone), Sandsturm (sand storm), Wetterleuchten (you see some lightning, but it's far off), Föhnsturm (very strong Foehn wind, living on the Northern side of the Alps, this is very common for me); Wolkenbruch (which literally means broken cloud, and no, I don't think it's related to this https://en.wikipedia...iki/Cloudbuster ) and Platzregen are very short, strong rains (in recent years, this is being referred to as Starkregen).
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#9 OlDoinyo

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 19:56

In the US, a synoptic-scale low-pressure system is often referred to as a 'storm' or 'storm system' without direct reference to the weather it contains. That said, such weather patterns are typically associated with events such as wind disturbances and/or precipitation. An individual local event can also be referred to as a 'storm', e.g. a thunderstorm.

#10 Bernard Foot

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 21:13

Stephan's German version sounds very much like my UK English version.

Amazing how a forum on UV Phtography has started discussing etymology and meterology ...
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#11 Andrea B.

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Posted 16 February 2021 - 22:13

Amazing how a forum on UV Phtography has started discussing etymology and meterology ...

From amber to bugs to storms -- I love this aspect of our forum !!

I think American English does use the word 'storm' in a slightly broader sense than does Swedish or German, but the word usually is intended to mean something worse than just a slow, gentle day-long spring rain. Where I lived a lot of my life (the central Prairies of the US), when you hear that a "storm is coming on quick", then you make sure you are close to shelter because the winds could be whirling. :grin:
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#12 dabateman

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Posted 17 February 2021 - 07:32

In the USA we also have "storm off", which is typically what your wife will do when you tell her how much that lens or camera cost.


#13 Adrian

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Posted 17 February 2021 - 09:34

At the risk of creating a storm of protest (!), can I ask if anyone here has photographed both Dominican and Baltic amber in UVF? It would be good to know if they do fluoresce different colours. If not I may buy a piece of each (certificated as to source) and try it.

To answer Bernard's question about how insects get stuck, I can only say the resin is extremely sticky, and once trapped the insect cannot get away.
A few years ago I was in southern Portugal, and came across a conifer plantation being "tapped" for resin. I understand this was sent to China to make Turpentine.

If I ever get the chance again I will take a UV torch with me and photograph the tree at night!

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  • Attached Image: resin.jpg
  • Attached Image: resin insect.jpg

Adrian Davies
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#14 Bernard Foot

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Posted 17 February 2021 - 10:00

View PostAdrian, on 17 February 2021 - 09:34, said:


To answer Bernard's question about how insects get stuck, I can only say the resin is extremely sticky, and once trapped the insect cannot get away.


I get that - the insects feet get stuck on the goo and it can't move. But it's what happens after that that I don't understand. Presumably the resin flows slowly and engulfs the insect. But the insect is very fragile while the resin must be relatively dense, unstoppable, and firm. So why does the resin not break off the legs or crush its body?
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#15 Adrian

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Posted 17 February 2021 - 10:37

I can only assume that once he insect is trapped it dies from starvation, then the resin gradually flows over it.
Adrian Davies
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#16 Andy Perrin

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Posted 17 February 2021 - 16:06

Bernard, I think you are imagining the insect to be more fragile than it is. Ants can carry ten times their own weight, etc. The resin moves extremely slowly and the forces are not large also.

Edited by Andy Perrin, 17 February 2021 - 16:07.