2 Apr 2016

Amber: world market and discoveries in amber

From This Way Up, 1:10 pm on 2 April 2016

Imagine you're an ant, a lizard or a mayfly happily going about your business walking along a tree branch when a great big glob of pine resin falls on you, trapping you and causing your slow and painful demise through suffocation. Bummer!

Now it probably won't cheer you up much but if you fast forward 100 million years the fossilised tree resin you're entombed in will have become a valuable gemstone called amber that can fetch top dollar on the open market, and even more because it's got you in it.

The world amber market is booming; driven by demand from China prices have risen tenfold over the past 5 years, but there are fears that this demand might be slowing. Alex Duval Smith has just been to Amberif, the world's annual amber trade fair in Poland, to see the deals getting done.

George Poinar working in the Amber Lab

George Poinar working in the Amber Lab Photo: (Supplied)

George Poinar of Oregon State University has been studying amber and its intrusions for 50-odd years. It was his work extracting DNA from insects fossilized in amber that inspired Michael Crichton to write Jurassic Park, the book that gave birth to a massive film franchise.