Allure Of Ambergris : Perfume companies use ambergris to preserve the smell of their fragrances. Ambergris is a fixative that retains the aroma of spices for a long time.

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By Noah Cyrus
Sperm whales Vomit ambergris

Ambergris, a solid waxy substance excreted by sperm whales because of undigested material from its intestine. This happens when this particular being feels itself as its stomach has become large. Ambergris, French for grey amber, is generally referred to as whale vomit is an odorous substance found only in the digestive systems of sperm whales. According to the UK's Natural History Museum, the substance is often called the "treasure of the sea" and "floating gold" because of how rare it is.

Ambergris is particularly valuable for its use making perfumes' scents last longer. Perfume makers in the Middle east countries use it as a fixative to make perfumes long-lasting.

How is Ambergris formed ?

Scientists believe that the rare substance is produced because of the huge volume of cephalopods (including squid and octopus) that sperm whales consume. The whales are unable to digest the sharp beaks of these cephalopods. On rare occasions, the mass of squid beaks and other biological material may be combined with a waxy secretion from the whale's intestines, forming ambergris. Rarely, it's only made by a small percentage of sperm whales, as a result of indigestion. Sometimes it can be found in the abdomens of dead sperm whales.

Millions Worth? Ambergris ?? Why Is ‘Whale Vomit’ So Valuable

A substance found in the carcass of a whale is valuable and worth millions of dollars. It is one of the most bizarre natural substances discovered on the planet. Ambergris is extremely rare, occurring in just 1–5% of the whole sperm whale population, and sperm whales are the sole producers of ambergris. The smell of ambergris itself varies from piece to piece, ranging from earthy to musky to sweet. If a perfume house's "nose"—the person responsible for choosing scents—likes the aroma, the ambergris can be worth thousands an ounce.

Ambergris feels a little waxy, and smells very complex: a mixture of dung and the ocean, and old wood, and tobacco, and moist earth, and ozone. Viscous, black, stinky blocks of freshly expelled ambergris float on the ocean's surface. Sun, air and salt water oxidize the mass, and water continually evaporates. It hardens, breaks into smaller chunks and eventually becomes grey and waxy, embedded with small black squid beaks. The weathered chunks exude a sweet, earthy aroma likened to tobacco, pine or mulch. The quality—and value—of any given chunk depend on how much time it had spent floating or otherwise aging.

For hundreds of years, perfumers have categorized the quality of ambergris according to its colour, with the finest perfumes made from pure white varieties. Black ambergris is the least valuable because it contains the least ambrein. Ambergris masses change colour with oxidation, which happens when exposed to the sea and air for long periods of time. Between black and white, the colours range from grey to brown.

Why is it illegal? Why are the laws on Ambergris?

With sperm whale numbers down from the 1.1 million estimated prior to whaling to approximately 350,000 today, less ambergris floats on the seas. Possession of ambergris has been a criminal offense when sperm whales were listed as endangered. Since the sperm whale is a protected species, hunting of the whale is not allowed. Due to its high value, Ambergris has been a target for smugglers especially in coastal areas. However, smugglers are known to have illegally targeted the fish in order to obtain the valuable Ambergris from its stomach. However, Ambergris is produced only by an estimated one per cent of sperm whales.

Though it is illegal to use ambergris in perfumes in the developed countries because of the sperm whale's endangered status, foreign markets, especially French, remain strong. For thousands of years this sea treasure has been highly prized. Middle Easterners historically powdered and ingested it to increase strength and virility, combat heart and brain ailments, or to spice food and drink. The Chinese called it "dragon's spittle fragrance." Ancient Egyptians burned it as incense.