Learn about the Gemstone Amber and its use in jewelry

Amber has a unique formation coming from the abnormal development of resin in living trees, called the process of succinosis. Living things continuously evolve to adapt and become more resilient to the environment. Trees do this by growing thicker bark or thorns or changing to prevent premature death or increase their reproduction.  

Million years ago, the family of trees called Pinaceae started excreting a sticky and dark orange-colored substance, giving them a very convenient defense against troublesome little insects trying to penetrate the stump. The resin, produced in the stump’s center, slowly flows outwards to cover any holes or scrapes in the bark. The resin self-hardens, fill the tree’s wounds and prevents external stimuli from entering the bark. The antibacterial properties prevent infectious disease from entering and the stickiness prevents grinding insects from further harming the tree. The resin hardens with the same principle as superglue turns from a liquid to a solid material. When the resin turns into more complex and harder shapes, it finally reaches the stage of being Amber.


amber with preserved prehistoric insect, mosquito with blood or DNA preserved in amber

As mentioned above, Amber is actually not a stone, but a fossilized tree resin that lived tens of millions of years ago in trees. Romans also called amber succinum. The word Amber is derived from the Arabic word “anbar” which later on was adopted in Middle English in the 14th century, now known as ambergris, meaning grey Amber. Adorned fragments of Amber have been found in remains from the Stone Age.

Several versions from different places have something to say about how Amber became known, these stories are listed down below.

According to Pytheas, a Greek geographer, the Gutone tribe (ancient Germanic people who have lived in Poland) lived on the shores of the mouth of the river called Mentonomon, and their territory stretched over 6,000 fields. Just a day away from this region lies the island of Abarth, on whose shores a concrete form of sea exudate, Amber, is rolled up by spring waves. Residents also use this Amber as fuel and sell it to their German neighbors.

Amber has a long history of use in China with the its written record from 200 B.C.E.

Ancient Greeks used amber stones as amulets and talismans.

The first reports of Amber in America were in the 19th century.  

Where They are Mined

The main rule for Amber to form is not just where there is a presence of resin. Instead, the resin must be millions of years old and deposited in a protected location, where it has been untouched by organisms and oxygen for a long time. 

The best place to find the resin is at the bottom of a lake or sea, where resin has been deposited a few million years ago and has been given time to mature into Amber. The Baltic Sea in northern Europe is the most famous of these sea floors, where all parameters within the past million years match. 

The Baltic Sea had only an average depth of around 55 meters, makings the sea floor susceptible to stronger storms that stir up Amber and set them free. The perfect amber gemstones float in the water and are carried to the shore, which makes it easier for amber enthusiasts to collect them. 

There are also a lot of shorelines around the globe that are popular locations to collect Amber. This includes places such as Italy, Germany, Myanmar, Mexico, Canada, Arkansas, and New Jersey. The world’s largest deposits of Amber can be found in Russia and the Baltic area, which was mentioned already. 

The best time to find Amber is after a storm since they need to be stirred up from the sea floor.


Amber is said to be heterogenous, meaning uniform in composition, but it comprises several viscous bodies more or less soluble in alcohol. Amber rates 2.5 on the hardness scale, making it soft yet easy to carve. Amber’s refractive index (a measure of sparkle) ranges from 1.5 to 1.6.  


Amber on a beach of the Baltic Sea

Amber is normally a golden yellow to golden orange color, blue and green, and ranges from transparent to semi-translucent. It can be dyed to a different color and was one of the first substances used for personal adornment. Impurities are often present in Amber when the resin is dropped onto the ground. Such impurities can include plant and other substances, which gives Amber an unexpected mixture of color. 

Popular Usage

Amber can be used as jewelry, such as a bracelet, necklace, earrings, and anklets. It can also be used as a decorative item and a Feng Shui item.

The most popular usage of Amber is to help soothe a teething child by letting them wear a necklace or bracelet. The ancestors believe that when the beads of Amber are worn next to the skin, succinis acid is released into the body, relieving pain. Although several people claim it is practical, authorities do not recommend and support using Amber as a soothing medication for teething babies.


Amber is relatively common and found all over the world: there is no huge issue with its scarcity. However, some color variants of Amber, such as blue, green, and violet, are rare. Common shades of Amber, such as yellow, orange, and brown, are treated or dyed to produce rare colors.  

Interesting Facts

  • In the earliest times, ancient people buried their dead with amber objects and amulets, for they believed the stone would protect them in the afterlife. One of the influential people in the earliest times connected with practice was the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. He was buried with pieces of carved amber gemstones inside his tomb.
  • Greeks called Amber “Elektron” (electron) because it produces static energy when rubbed against a cloth.
  • In the Middle Ages, Amber was used as an antiseptic to prevent the spread of a plague.  
  • Since Amber is mixed on the ground, it has a lot of inclusion inside, such as plants and animals remaining from prehistoric ecosystems, making them helpful to scientists.
  • Amber has a warm texture.
  • Metaphysical characteristics of Amber include its ability as a powerful cleanser. It is said as something helpful in drawing disease from the body and promoting tissue revitalization. It is also said to resonate with the throat and is used for treating throat problems and goiters.
  • Other metaphysical characteristics of Amber include the ability to absorb negative energy and transmute them into positive energy.
  • It is also said to be a gemstone that calms the balance of yin and yang (pertains to a philosophical concept between opposite but interrelated forces).  
  • Astrological signs associated with the gemstone Amber is both Leo and Aquarius.

General Cost

Amber can be bought from $1 to 30 per carat. But for amber variations that have inclusions, the price is much higher. For Amber with inclusions, the price could be $15 to 30 dollars or much higher

Final Thoughts

The gemstone Amber’s unique origin makes us appreciate our world’s many wonders. There are those like Amber that is made because of some unexpected changes in the environment. They are not accidental, but are made with a greater purpose.