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Simetite (Costa dell’Ambra, Lower to Middle Miocene (~20-12 Ma)


Costa dell’Ambra
Pachino, Syracuse Province, Sicily, Italy
Lower to Middle Miocene (~20-12 Ma)
Chemical Composition:
C: 79.25%, H: 10.41%, O: 10.34%, S: 0.52-2.46%
Specific Gravity: 1.056-1.068
Specimen A (Left): 0.6g / 20x10x8mm
Specimen B (Center): 0.2g / 10x7x4mm
Specimen C (Right): 0.4g / 13x8x8mm
140lm LED
Entry six of ten, detailing various rare ambers from European, Asian, and North American localities.
This is an amber with a rich history. Amber from the island of Sicily is thought to have been known of since the end of the Iron Age (43 A.D.), but did not initially see much use in terms of trade or lapidary: Baltic amber was imported and preferred over Simetite, due to its larger size in general, and also possibly because it was more readily available; Simetite was later traded with the Phoenicians. Lapidary work with this amber dates back to the early 1800s, and was worked using lathes or was carved by hand: rings, necklaces, cameos, and even boxes were crafted using Simetite.
Simetite was named after the River Simeto, which originates from the center of the eastern half of the island, flows south past Mt. Etna, and empties into the Mediterranean Sea along Sicily's east coast: historically, this amber was frequently found along Sicily’s eastern coastline below the mouth of the river, and today can still be found in small quantities throughout Sicily’s eastern and southern shores. Although no extensive research has been performed, the in-situ deposits are believed to be located within the center of the island; amber has been noted to become dislodged from clay-filled soil particularly along streams, where it is carried to the ocean. The rivers primarily responsible for the displacement and relocation of amber are: the Simeto and Dittaino, which converge before reaching the sea near Catania, and the Fiume Salso which travels south from the island’s center to the southern shores near Licata.
Precious little research has been done in regards to determining its botanical origin, however recent work by Inez Dorothe van der Werf (2016) has suggested the Fabaceae as the source of Simetite. Low levels of cativic, labdanic, and succinic acids are present within Simetite; it also contains varying levels of sulfur (in turn, altering levels of C, H, and O), believed to be due to sulfate-rich groundwater in the deposits: amber is a permeable substance and has been proven to absorb, retain, and release gases (Hopfenberg et.al., 1988, cited by Poinar 1992): theoretically, this property also extends to resins during their burial. There is a completely black form, that is incredibly rich in sulfur, up to 2.46%: compared to Baltic amber, this variety has nearly six times the concentration of sulfur, and roughly half as much oxygen; the color of this amber is determined mainly by its sulfur content.
"The System of Mineralogy of James Dwight Dana 1837-1868: Descriptive Mineralogy"; p. 1005; Dana 1892
“Life in Amber”; pp. 10, 48; George O. Poinar Jr. 1992
“L’AMBRA SICILIANA Caratterizzazione del più importante materiale gemmologico italiano del Museo di Mineralogia della Sapienza”; pp. 14-17; David Leoni 2011
“The molecular composition of Sicilian amber”; Microchemical Journal 125; van der Werf, et. al. 2016


© Kaegen Lau

From the album:

Fossil Amber and Copal: Worldwide Localities

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Photo Information

  • Taken with SAMSUNG SAMSUNG WB35F/WB36F/WB37F
  • Focal Length 4.3 mm
  • Exposure Time 1/33
  • f Aperture f/3.1
  • ISO Speed 200

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