Today, I had one of those really interesting conversations that sometimes happens at the Etsy Forums - someone posted with a request for "raw amber incense" and it sparked a wonderful debate on what exactly it was that the poster was really looking for.
Liquidambar Orientalis, sometimes used in incense:
[see the first photo; also known as storax]
"Indian" amber resin, which is what's commonly sold as amber resin [for scent]
[from http://www.somaluna.com/ ]
Here's a piece of "raw" amber of the type used in jewelry:
[from http://homepage.mac.com/shelobmarian/ ]
And here's ambergris, an ancient scent additive and fixative, especially in perfumery, which is exuded by whales:
[from http://www.ambergris.net.nz ]
As you can see, they are all very different, yet their common names are close enough to cause some serious confusion, even in a customer who has previously purchased the sort of "amber" that they're looking for!
The moral of this story? Probably that you should make sure that you're dealing with a reputable and knowledgeable herbalist, bath and body person, incense maker, perfumer, or lapidary worker/jeweler before you make a purchase of anything titled "amber" - or you could end up with whale vomit! [okay, not likely with the price difference, but you have to admit that it sounded alarming!]
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