amber in edinburgh

We mentioned the amber exhibition at the Edinburgh museum this year in the last issue, as we’d be passing through the city we thought we’d take a peek, hearing that they also have an impressive mineral collection as well it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

After a rather splendid lunch at the museums ‘Castle Restaurant’, (which was really a case of miss direction we really were just looking for a café) we ventured off to find the exhibition.

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rock and gem magazine issue 61 autumn 2013

Getting distracted along the way with old grand prix cars, ancient stone pots, large slabs of minerals, jewellery artifacts, ammonites and fossil fish. Although you could take pictures in the main areas disappointingly picture taking was prohibited within the amber exhibition, unfortunate from an education and every device has a camera level!

Obviously amber exhibits on the whole aren’t huge so the exhibition was presented with a smaller number of larger pieces and a variety of wall mounted and desktop display cases with some pieces contained in draws. Descriptions of all the pieces were well presented and informative, we were informed that amber has been used in Scotland for the last 5,500 years.
Thought to protect from evil and to have special powers including to the power to cure illnesses amber found it’s way into may amulets and charms. Amber from various continents were represented including samples from Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Burma with natural colours ranging from ‘amber’, green, red, blue.

Also displayed were treated examples which have undergone various processes such as heating, compression and being mixed with other compounds. It is becoming increasingly difficult to determine real amber from some modern treatments of copal unless specifically examined by experts.

There’s also a wealth of amber with various insects and plant leaves, also present is a homage to the 2nd Jurassic movie ‘The Lost World’ with the ‘Plastic Amber’ headed cane which contains a crane fly.
Leading us conveniently on to ‘fakes’ with examples of plastics, copal and celluloid objects, most with perfect inclusions, some very old and only recently discovered to be from other materials.

Lots of objects made with amber, set amber in jewellery, lots of beads, bottles, amber cases, pipes, mouth pieces even an amber skull and religious relief carvings. It was easy to lose a lot of time once engrossed in the exhibition.

Onto looking for minerals, unfortunately for opportunist visitors the majority of the Heddle mineral collection is located away from the main building and access requires making a prior appointment so we were restricted to the various examples placed around the building.

Examples of marble, quartz, galena, mica, tektites, Libyan desert glass to name but a few.

Also on display was stone artwork created by Ilana Halperin who created a unique formation of limestone in the Fontaines Pétrifiantes in the Auvergne region of France.
Where carbonate rich water falls over ladder structures to create the same effect as naturally forming stalactites only a lot quicker!

I’m not sure about yourselves but I find there’s only so much mental observation you can absorb in a day so we set forth onward to our next destination.

Steve Breeson.


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To see a list of mineral, crystal, gemstone, fossil shows/events both UK and worldwide visit our show page, if you organise or know of a show please get in touch to list it here.

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