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Beach combing is one of the most absorbing pastimes. You never know what you will find. Strolling along you may glance down only to find a glinting piece of amber, fossil or relic of times past.
Amber is fossilized tree sap from the time of the dinosaurs and is widely used in jewelry. It is rare, but the two pieces shown below have been found on the Bacton beach by the owners
Amber comes in many different colours, from white to black and yellow to a deep orange. It can be transparent or translucent. The colours and transparency depend on the amount of air and earth trapped inside before it became fossilized. If you are extremely lucky you may even find a piece with an insect inside which was trapped in the sticky sap millions of years ago.
Amber is extremely light and has the weight of dense plastic. To test if a sample is amber, fill a glass with water and add salt until a good covering is visible on the bottom of the glass. Put in your sample and if it is amber it will float.
Amber is easy to polish, the examples above were polished first using a Brillo pad and then the final shine was added using a kitchen cream cleaner.
Agate is often confused with amber especially with smaller samples. The salt water test for amber will help you distinguish the two as agate sinks quickly to the bottom of the glass. Another good way to identify agate is to hold it up to the light, agate often reveals a number of orange bands running through the clearer sections. It is not easy to polish like amber, the example shown below was polished using a rotary stone polisher.
The beach is rich in fossils. The most common of which are the bullet shaped belemnites. A belemnite is the fossil remains of the internal shell of a small squid like animal from the Jurassic period.
The beach is also littered with what at first glance appear to be small pieces of driftwood. It is only when you pick them up that you realise that they are actually made of stone. Some of this fossilized wood originates from the cliffs between Bacton and Mundesly which is known to contain the remains of a petrified forest.
Fossilized sea urchins are also quite common. Some examples of these are shown right. They have been found in a variety of sizes and some have a characteristic heart shape.