Description: Amber is a fossilized resin from pine tree deposits which has been found in deposits that are over 150 million years old. Most amber used in necklaces today is between 20-90 million years old. Copal is a younger version of amber which has not completely fossilized. The color of amber also varies from region to region. Amber may vary in color from dark brown to a light almost clear lemon yellow. Russian Amber may be green in color, where Lituanian Amber is a rich amber yellow and sometimes a wine color. White amber is said to be the oldest amber. Amber is not a rock or a mineral but is rather classified as a colored lightweight organic gemstone. Amber is a very light precious “stone” that floats. As the fossilized resin oozed from the trees sometimes trapped insects, leaves. flowers and even small animals became part of the preserved remains.
History: In the 14th century guilds of craftsmen created ornamentation and jewelry from Amber. The most famous use of Amber was the “Amber Room” in Russia’s Catherine’s Palace. The room was destroyed during WWII but restored using a newer amber. I was on a buying/vacation trip in 2013 and found the room to be an exquisite site.
Location: The oldest ambers have been found in the Baltic region particularly along the coasts of Poland and the USSR. Younger ambers are known from the Dominican Republic. There are many kinds of amber which are named for the places they are found: Romanian-rumanite, Baltic-succinite, Sicilian-simetite, Myanmar-burmite Amber.
Folklore: Legend has it that Amber in ancient times provided magicians with special enhanced powers. Today it is said to be a calming stone for hyperactive or stressed individuals transferring negative energy into positive energy. It is also purported to have a number of medicinal uses and is said to aid in healing. It has been used for centuries and was sacred to the Native Americans.
Care: Amber is sensitive to pressure, acids, caustic solutions, gasoline, alcohols, and perfumes. It can be ignited by a match and smells like incense. When rubbed with a soft cloth it becomes electrically charged. Amber is very soft and should be protected from bumps and scratching. It requires great care and should be stored separately from other jewelry. Ultrasonic or steam cleaning can cause amber to shatter. Clean with warm water and a soft cloth.
As a novice to test your amber, make a solution of saturated table salt and water and place a piece of amber in the mixture. If it floats, it is Amber. If it sinks it is man-made (some natural copals will also sink and would need further scientific tests to make the determination if they are real. If you have a piece of jewelry which has pearls, sterling, crystals included with your amber, please do not try this test as the other items may be damaged and be too heavy to accurately perform the test. The test generally refers to single and loose pieces of amber to later be placed in necklaces or used as a pendant.