Tears of Amber

Feb 13, 2012

You want a good story, check out the Greek myths.

The Greek word for amber is elektron, which means “formed by the sun.” As such, it is associated with the sun god Helios. According to myth, when Helios’ son Phaëton had a bit of a tantrum and insisted on driving his father’s sun chariot, which led to a wild ride where the chariot came too close to Earth and scorched it, creating the African deserts, causing rivers and lakes to dry up, and ushering our planet to the brink of destruction, Zeus was forced to intercede and save the world by killing Phaëton. Apparently, his sisters were so distraught that they turned into poplar trees and their tears became the origin of elektron, amber.

However it came into being, amber is now beloved by many. It is a fossilized tree resin that when heated in an oil bath becomes soft and flexible. Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, 23 AD – 79 AD) was the naturalist who originally theorized that amber must at some point be in a liquid state in order for it to cover the bodies of insects (see photos).

Amber is normally thought of as yellow-orange-brown in color, but actually ranges from a whitish color through pale lemon, a red that is called “cherry” amber, green amber, and the rare and highly-prized blue amber.

This weekend, Kidspace is offering an “Amber Polishing Science Workshop,” where children 6 years and up will be allowed to polish and take home their own piece of this scientifically fascinating and mythically alluring stone.

Amber Polishing Science Workshop
Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18-19, 2 p.m.
Fee: $7 per child and accompanying adult, in addition to regular Museum admission.
For more info and to register, call 626.449.9144 or email
Kidspace Museum,  480 Arroyo Blvd.,



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