Mayan amber, or pauch (pronounced PA-OOCH) in the Maya Tzotzil dialect, is some of the highest quality amber in the world. It is harder than most other ambers, which makes it less fragile and ideal for carving and jewelry. Untreated, it can be found in colors much more diverse than the common yellow: Wine, honey, cognac, green (extremely rare) and blue, as well as beautiful translucent shades of aqua and violet. Mexican amber is especially well-known for its deep red, which is extremely uncommon in other amber-rich areas of the world.
Our Mexican amber is mined from the state of Chiapas, in Southern Mexico, where the veins running through the strata are estimated to be some 24-30 million years old. Here, the amber was formed from the resin of an ancient tropical tree (genus Hymenaec), the same genus of tree that produces the prized amber of the Dominican Republic. As a fossilized resin, amber is not a mineral substance like most other gems, and it is this organic quality that makes amber unique.
This pre-historic gem has existed alongside man, following the rise and fall of human civilization for over ten thousand years. In the ancient Maya Codices—some of the only existing documents that survived the Spanish conquest—large, clear amber bricks and amber tubes with gold were listed as tributes brought to the king. After the fall of the Maya kingdom over 500 years ago, local cultures seemed to have lost interest in using amber as a gem, and experts say that it was mainly just burned at alters as incense called copalli. It took until 1953, when a Danish archaeologist named Frans Blom started bumbling around the jungles of Chiapas, before Mexican amber was put on the map again. There, in the lands of the humble, present-day Maya, Blom stumbled upon unexploited amber deposits.
Made famous in recent times by the Jurassic Park books and films, amber around the world often has fossilized inclusions frozen inside it, and Mexican amber is no exception. Looking at an insect or seed trapped in Mexican amber is being able to peek into a moment of time from over 24 million years ago.