Amber

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Amber (or, technically, resinite[citation needed]) is fossilized tree resin (not sap), which has been appreciated for its color and natural organic beauty since Neolithic times.[2] Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents. Because it originates as a soft, sticky tree resin, amber sometimes contains animal and plant material as inclusions.

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History and etymology

The English word amber derives from the Arabic 'anbar, via Medieval Latin ambar and Old French ambre. The word originally referred to a precious oil derived from the Sperm whale (now called ambergris). The sense was extended to fossil resin circa 1400, and this became the main sense as the use of ambergris waned.[3] The two substances were confused because they both were found washed up on beaches. Ambergris is lighter than water and floats; whereas amber is lighter than stone, but not light enough to float.[4] The word "ambar" was brought to Europe by the Crusaders. In French "ambre gris" was then distinguished from "ambre jaune": ambre gris (gray amber) was ambergris; ambre jaune (yellow amber) was the fossil resin we now call amber.

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