Microscopic preparation of amber


Why making so tiny amber pieces - with all the problems of holding them when polishing, trying not to lose them afterwards - instead of making a moderate size preparation, maybe even embedded in epoxy resin for safety?

The answer is simple. If our task is to see the tiny inclusion inside an amber piece, then the image quality will highly depend on the thickness of material. Moreover, most of the microscopic objectives required to see the tiny structures, have rather short working distance, usually one millimeter or less. So, the finer the layer of amber between the inclusion and a microscope's lens and the finer the polishing is, the better image of the fossil is obtainable. The inclusion usually contains the tiniest details of a fossil, so we only need to find a way to see them. And, since we normally want to see the fossil from several sides, the ideal amber preparation would be a rectangular piece, only slightly larger than the inclusion itself.

This is the photo of an amber piece with a mite inclusion in it (arrow). Below, a larger photo of this mite is given, which was made through 1.5mm-thick layer of amber.

Then a smaller piece containing the inclusion was cut from a larger one, and precisely polished (it is shown near the scalebar).

The same preparation, but now the imaging is made through only 0.2mm of amber. This is little enough to be able to use high resolution microscope optics and to see the morphological details.