What is copal?

To say copal is “amber imitation” is pure nonsense, as it is just tree resin of younger age, which has not yet undergone some mythical transformation that is never described. Amber is only a bit harder due to age, but it is also being treated for additional effects.

Where is the age limit? There is much theory and commercial interest. Some set the limit at 20 million years, others earlier. But, regardless of age, once the material has hardened –  according to many scientists, there is no important scientific distinction to be made.

Fact is, we have no dates or specific geological information on Colombian copal or Colombian amber. Because of it’s color and hardness, some scientists believe it may be Pliocene or Pleistocene, probably about 2 to 3 million years old, in some regions even up to 16 million years old, but in others much, much younger (Santander) and may only count with some thousands, or some hundreds of years.

But opinions, theories and scientific researches and their methods vary. For example, Terrance M. Allen (Entomologist, Paleontologist) writes: “I believe, based on the fact that stellate oak (floral) hair (Family: Faqaceae, Genua: Quercus sp.) was discovered in Colombian copal/amber by this author (T.M. Allen, April 2010), and that stellate oak hair is used as an indicator fossil species found in Dominican Amber, Chiapas (Mexico) Amber, and Baltic Amber scientifically aged to be 20 million, 25 million, and 40 million years old respectively, that some Colombian copal / amber can be dated to be approximately 20 million years of age and can be termed to be true fossilized “Colombian Amber”.

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All debates aside, about whether “fossilized” tree or plant resins from different or designated localities around the world should be termed “amber” or “copal”, as long as it is qualified and recorded as to where the samples of prehistoric resins originate, the arthropod (and other faunal) and plant inclusions are all valuable scientific specimens. Even if we assume that Colombian Copal is only 2 to 3 million years old or younger, it still is extremely important to study biodiversity, biogeography, ecology and other related subjects based on its inclusions.

Others are aware of its use for jewelry or industrial purposes.