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Ambergris: Floating Gold


The Crime Branch of the Pimpri Chinchwad police has arrested two persons in Pune and seized 550 grams of ambergris, also known as ‘floating gold’.

  • Ambergris, which means gray amber in French, is a waxy substance that originates from the digestive system of the protected sperm whales.
  • While it is incorrectly referred to as ‘whale vomit,’ one of the theories about its formation suggests that it is produced in the gastrointestinal tract of some of the sperm whales for the passage of hard, sharp objects that are ingested when the whale eats large quantities of marine animals.
  • The ambergris is said to be passed like feces and has a very strong fecal odour combined with a strong marine odour.
  • The freshly passed ambergris is a light yellowish substance and is fatty but as it ages it turns waxy and gets red brownish, sometimes with shades of gray and black in colour and attains a mild, earthy, sweet smell but still with notes of mild marine odour.
  • Investigating agencies from across India who have seized ambergris in the recent past estimate its value to be somewhere between Rs 1 to 2 crores per kilogram, depending on the purity and quality. Being extremely rare contributes to its high demand and high price in the international market.
  • Traditionally, ambergris is used to produce perfumes which have notes of musk.
  • While there are records of it being used to flavor food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco in some cultures in the past, it is rarely used for these purposes presently.