Meet amber – a unique gemstone! Amber is a very popular gemstone but its origins and different variants of that gemstone such as colors, shapes, and kinds may be surprising for many. It is definitely worth knowing this wonderful stone and learn more about its value!
Let’s start from the beginning! Amber is a hard fossil resin of conifers, sometimes also resinous deciduous trees. The oldest polished amber tiles were found in the Leszczyn Upland. This took place in the Paleolithic era (40,000 – 10,000 BC). Interestingly, amber has been around since the beginning of people’s lives on the globe! Amber was popular in the whole of Europe. In Poland, there were many workshops specializing in amber, especially in Gdańsk. What kinds of products were manufactured? There were many for example boxes, figurines, mosaics, secretaries and many more similar objects. In Italy, a famous Awuilee was being made. Italian amber products were transported to the Rome Empire. Amber was considered as a gemstone of great power.
The etymology of the word “amber” is not fully known. One of the first names for this gemstone derived from Greek’s term ‘”elektron” and meant “coming from the sun”, but also “a stone which attracts”. Linguists claim that it is surprising that in ancient Egyptian language the name for amber – “sakal” sounded similar to Lithuanian word “sakas” (sakai – resin). In this language “gin taras” also means “amulet” (an object which protects). In the language of ancient Prussia, the term “gen tar” appeared. This word was adapted by other Slavic languages as “jantar”. Bernstein – the german name of amber, is a mixture of two words: brennen (to burn) and istein (a stone), what could be translated as “a burning stone”. This term was adapted from German to Polish and Hungarian. In English, the term “amber” derives from Latin and Arabian term “anbar” – a cachalot. Similar names can be found in Spanish (ambar) and French (ambre).
Amber’s origins were always fascinating for people. There were many different theories about its origins. In ancient Greece, there were several myths about Phaeton. In 43 BC until 17 AD in Ovid’s poem “Metamorphosis”, he wrote about Pheaton (a son of the God of the sun Helios and a sea nymph Clymene). In that poem, Phateon was supposed to move the sun carriage over the sky. He did not get approval from Helios, but despite that, he completed his task. Being not experienced, he could not control flame horses. He lost control over the carriage and got closer to the Earth, bringing the sun closer to the globe. The heat from the star burnt down the territory of modern Africa and changed the skin color of its residents. Zeus, to save the world from destruction, hit Phaeton with one of his lightenings. He fell into the Eridanus river and died. He was found by his sisters Heliades, who they mourned his death and cursed the gods. They were turned into trees and their tears into amber.
Amber was called by Polish people “jantar” and was a subject of their own myth. They believed that on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, there was an amber castle of the Sea Princess – Jurata. The castle was full of radiant gold colors. Once upon a time, during one of her walks, she met a poor but really handsome fisherman and fell in love with him. The almighty ruler of the Baltic Sea was furious when he found out. He hit the fisherman’s boat with a bolt of lightning and killed him on the spot. Jurata fell into great despair, seeing the ruler, threw another lightning at her and the amber palace, which crumbled into a million crumbs on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. During storms, the sea began to throw gold, beautiful amber onto the beach, which was to remind people of the tragic love and enormous anger of the ruler of the sea.
People leaving near the North Sea and the Baltic have been using amber in the form of decorations since the Paleolithic era. In addition, amber was the object of worship, which from ancient times was called “the gold of the North”, the electron “sun stone”, glaesun (transparent) and succinum (petrified juice). It was transported to the Mediterranean and Egypt and sold there. Currently, the name amber comes from the early German word Börnstein (burning stone).
In Greece, amber was associated with the sun. Amber amulets were believed to deter evil spirits. It was also believed to contain trapped sunshine. It was symbolically associated with longevity. To this day, it is used in traditional medicine and considered to be one of the most effective remedies for sore throats and diseases. It was once believed that the legendary Eridanus River was the place of extraction of amber. According to these beliefs, it had its source in the Country of Hyperboreans, i.e. where the real amber route ran north. Amber was once associated with this mythical, mysterious land, as well as the northern one.
See also: Other origins of amber
Amber in ancient Greece and Rome was being burnt for its soft and pleasant smell. Nowadays amber incense is being produced because it is believed to have a positive effect on the ionic structure of the air. It reduces stress and anxiety level, improves nervous system immunity, has a soothing effect and is a source of a pleasant aroma. In ancient Greece, it was observed that amber, which was believed to be holy, rubbed on cloth, had attractive properties. For ancient Greeks, it was a fascinating and mysterious phenomenon. Thales of Miletus, 640 years BC, believed that amber has a soul. He based this thesis on his observations of the attraction of pieces of grass by amber. The term “electricity” has its source in the Greek word for amber – “elektron”, which means “shines and sparkles”. Other sources translate that name as “coming from the sun”. Mineralogists call amber succinite. This term derives from the Latin word “succus” and means “juice” or “resin”. In Ancient Greece and Rome, amber was used to prepare medications and to decorate jewelry. It was also used during religious ceremonies and in magical practices. Ancient Greeks used amber cubes to play games and used the stones as incense. Roman Gladiators often used amber as their amulets. It was also an ingredient used for medicines and perfume.
In the past Slavic people believed that amber brings luck to its owners and especially the pieces with inclusions were believed to have magical properties. It was believed that a man should hand over an amber piece to his loved lady as a gift, to gain eternal love. There was also another belief that amber could test virginity. If a girl lost her virginity, after drinking amber tincture a stone was supposed to form in her balder.
Since ancient times amber is considered a symbol of happiness and a new beginning. It was valued for his remarkable healing properties. It was believed to help with rheumatic ailments and asthma. Research results have shown that it contains many valuable micronutrients – silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, organic compounds combined with iodine, volatile substances, resin acids, and many others. Many believe that amber helps restore mental balance, well-being, and helps to reduce stress and insomnia. Amber is a source of negative ions, which makes it a natural air ionizer. Currently, many cities fight air pollution (exhaust fumes, pollution from factories, domestic furnaces, concrete, etc.), in which positive ions predominate. The prevalence of positive ions can also be found in many apartments, through high voltage networks, domestic electrical appliances (electric kitchens, washing machines, TV sets), heating devices, etc. Positive ions presence may cause headaches, migraine, affect one’s mood negatively, organism toxication and many more complex diseases. To prevent the negative effects of positive ions it is highly recommended to get natural amber and keep them in the house, especially near equipment which may emit positive ions, for example near a computer, TV set, microwave or washing machine. Negative ions emitted by natural amber, boost blood flow, which leads to an increase of energy, improved concentration, and overall better being. Negative ions help to reduce toxins from the body. Additionally, amber is used in modern oncological prevention, among others to stop the growth of various types of cancer.
What makes amber beneficial for our health?
These salts are very important for human health and body! They are bactericidal, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, have a positive effect on metabolism and digestion. They support the treatment of such diseases as cataracts, myopia, sore throat, throat diseases, heart disease. They prevent such ailments as vomiting, hemoptysis, and also help the excretion of stones from the kidneys and urination. Amber has gained immense popularity in medicine, and this is primarily due to numerous studies on it. Since the XX century amber has been a subject of many types of research. Those researches helped to classify different kinds of amber in order to find those which are the most beneficial for health. In 2016 thanks to the outcomes the first (on a global scale) technology for selecting and crushing amber at low temperature was created. Thanks to that the so-called amber powder was created which preserved all medicinal properties of natural amber. Amber powder is the most effective form that has positive effects on the human body. However, this is worth remembering that only 19 from 60 amber varieties can be modified. Additionally, amber powder has to be gained throughout a unique crushing method at a low temperature. Only this process does not reduce its beneficial effects and can be used as a medicine.
Amber is often used by women as a compontnet of various treatments in beauty and SPA ssalons. The treatments have many advantages – they nourish, smooth and regenerate the skin, help to acchieve radiant and youthful appearance, as well as elasticity. Additiotanlly, the amber treatments help to relax and reduce stress level, thanks to the succinic acid, which has tremendous healing properties. It stimulated the nervous system, has a positive effect on te kidneys and intestines, and anti-inflammatory effects. These properties made amber a demanded igridient in cosmetology.
Amber, just like many other mineral fossils, has some characteristic features and properties. The most important are:
Amber creates irregular stones. The most popular and frequently found amber is the light yellow one. Sometimes transparent, red or greenish amber can also be found. It is also possible that some amber may contain inclusions (from Cretaceous and Cenozoic periods). Usually, these inclusions are pieces of ancient animals and plants (insects, little amphibians, reptiles, plants and plants pieces)
Amber is available in many shades of brown and yellow. However, natural amber is light yellow or honey-yellow (the color of fresh resin). Its shade is not stable tho – it changes into a bright yellow, orange, green, red and reddish-brown! There are many shades! Multicolored pieces can also be found. The most valued shade is white because its the rarest. Also milky, yellow, blueish, purplish, greenish and black are quite rare. The natural black amber is one of the rarest pieces!
This question is a real mystery for many amber lovers and collectors. Amber is classified as succinite, so its color depends on the environment where it was found. Sea amber usually is more aesthetically pleasing than mine amber. The sea stones usually have much more color variants. It is worth remembering that the type of resin which made the amber does not affect its color! The responsibility for its shade has the environment and the conditions in which the pieces were located. What is known about the history of amber? It was at least 40 million years from its settling in the sea conditions of unchanging humidity, which had a huge impact on its light yellow and white shades, which were less attractive than more rare shades like e.g. green. Amber obtained in Polish conditions from Quaternary deposits has its source in deposits exploited in Sambia. However, for the last million years. It was settled in a younger settlement. These unusual circumstances positively influenced its aesthetics! It made the amber to be set in the highest levels of classification of all types of fossil resins found in the world. The natural aesthetic features made amber one of the most desired gemstone for the jewelry market. The purest amber was made of natural resin, without any contaminants. The small pieces of plants, which contaminated the resin, made it slightly change its color to cognac, honey and cherry. Sometimes a feathery variant can also be found (elements of foamed amber in a transparent stone).
There many different types of amber, which can be grouped according to tho their origins and the place where the stones were found. The variety and aesthetic differences of amber are defined by a type of stone, conditions, environment, region and also the resin which formed amber. Amber is divided into 60 different types. There are some examples:
Amber pine is an extinct species of pine. Its resin was a rich source of Baltic amber. It grew on the Baltic territories (at the beginning of the Tertiary) in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Russia. The theory that this pine was responsible for amber creation was firstly statemented by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia. It was scientifically confirmed in the XX century. Plant inclusions in amber (wood and needles) confirmed the existence of five different types of pine. They were difficult to distinguish, so they were given one common name – Pinus succinifera – resin pine. The rapid development of technique: chemical and physical analysis have refuted that theory. Amber was found to be chemically different from today’s pine resin and two other trees were distinguished: cedar and araucaria of the genus Agathis.
The heaviest Balic amber
In Rarwin (Kamień Pomorski, Poland) 157 years ago, the largest Baltic amber piece weighing approximately 10 kilograms was found! The largest stone to be ever found is Burma Amber weighing 15.25 kilograms. This piece can be admired at the British Museum in London. However, it is retinite – a less noble amber. Definitely among Baltic ambers, the record holder is the one found in Rarwin (weighing 9.75 kg). Such a finding was never expected! However, exploration or extraction of mineral deposits on one’s own (without a concession or an approved geological works project) is an offense under Art. 176 of the Geological and Mining Law. It is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment. The legal and easiest way to find amber is a seaside beach. It is recommended to visit the Baltic Sea, especially during storms. The stones are thrown onto the beaches and with a little luck, you can find really magnificent pieces.
For centuries, amber has been used for expensive and extravagant products (jewelry), or in art creations. One of the most popular and unique works of art made of amber was the Amber Room – made in 1701-1709 by Gottfried Turau and Ernest Schacht, designed by Andreas Schluter. In the Middle Ages, most caskets, vessels, objects of worship, e.g. crosses or rosaries, and amber altars were produced in Europe. Amber was also used to decorate furniture. In the 19th century, amber pipes, ashtrays, and clocks were produced in Austria. In the interwar period, simple jewelry was created, e.g. necklaces of various lengths, bracelets. At the in the 20th and 21st century, artists dealing with amber used more sophisticated methods of its processing in their artistic work. In this way, they wanted to emphasize the aesthetic value and its extraordinary shine. Currently, amber is used primarily in jewelry. Amber is still the most popular and used stone in Poland. Currently, in jewelry, amber is most often combined with silver. Occasionally it also occurs in combination with gold or other precious metals. For a very long time, Gdańsk, along with other Polish brands, has been a leader in the world amber industry (taking into account original jewelry and artistic products).
Amber is mainly used in jewelry, due to its high aesthetic value. Manufacturers of amber jewelry usually combine it with silver, sometimes gold or other precious metals. Baltic amber contains about 8% succinic acid, which distinguishes it from other resins in the world. The beautiful color of the stone, together with the unusual process of its formation, has become a huge inspiration for artists and jewelry designers around the world. Amber is used in original necklaces, earrings, pendants, necklaces, earrings, rings, and bracelets. These accessories are very easily available in Poland and, what is important, they are quite inexpensive. They are available in various colors, sizes, and forms. The great advantage of amber jewelry is its versatility and timelessness. Amber ornaments are perfect for both elegant and everyday outfits. They are a great solution for any occasion. Amber can be safely combined with many colors, patterns, metals – gold and silver, and most importantly, it never goes out of style. For some time rhinestones and crystals of various colors dominated in fashion but amber gains its popularity again. Amber is a great complement to various types of styles such as boho or vintage, but also a subtle addition to more conservative business looks.
How to take care of your amber jewelry?
Amber jewelry requires special care. It should be cleaned regularly (dry or wet). Remember, however, not to use hot water. It is recommended to add spirit or soap to the water. Amber jewelry should be stored covered by a soft cloth to avoid all kinds of scratches and damage. Amber should also be protected against contact with perfumes, cosmetics, and other chemical substances. It should not be exposed to sunlight.
Natural amber is called the gold of the sea, because it is a precious gemstone, thanks to its aesthetic values, inclusions, healing properties or its age. Every year amber gains value and it looks like it will not change soon. Amber is a precious material for jewelry makers. How much is amber worth? The price is usually given per kilogram, but it also depends on the stone size. Little pieces are worth only a few hundred PLN, while a huge stone can be worth a few thousand PLN.
Amber price per kilogam:
One of the most expensive pieces are stones which weigh over 200g. A piece like that can be worth more than 20 000 PLN. However, even pricier pieces are those with inclusions (pieces of ancient plants, insects, animals). A price for such a stone is always individual. The most precious is honey amber. Its condition (no scratches and cracks) is also important for its value.
Amber with inclusins
As mentioned above, amber with natural inclusions is the most expensive piece. The most precious are those in which inclusion is in a good condition (for example an insect can be easily noticed with all its elements). A stone like that can be sold for over 20 000 PLN/kg.
Amber is a precious gemstone, which tends to be counterfeited a lot. It is hard to check its authenticity, but it does not mean that it is impossible to find counterfeits. The first possibility is so-called the brine method: just add 250 grams of salt to 250 milliliters of water and add amber to this mixture. If it is a real stone, it will float on the surface of the water or slowly sink. A counterfeited stone will sink quickly. Another method to check amber authenticity is to rub it over a piece of cloth. Electrified amber should attract strands of hair. If it does not attract them, it may mean that it was made of glass, plastic or other material. Additionally, a real stone emits a pleasant resin aroma. A less complicated method to test your amber is to use light. Simply expose the stone to the direct light and observe how it changes. If the light after going through amber is blueish, the stone is real. There are also more professional methods, by special equipment is required. To confirm amber authenticity it is recommended to use a spectrometer. In Poland, this type of analysis is conducted at the Gdańsk University of Technology, Warsaw University of Technology and the Amber Museum in Krakow. The test consists of checking whether the elements characteristic for natural amber are visible on the stone.
To find the best pieces of amber it is crucial to take into consideration various different factors such as season, weather and a place. The best season for amber searching is spring and autumn. These seasons are known as stormy sea seasons. It is the biggest probability that amber will be washed out on the shore and then found on the beaches. It is best to start in the morning. Amber can be obtained thanks to a special net or flashlight. The second method is however not recommended by professional amber hunters. Your equipment should consist of special rubber pants, wellingtons, a waterproof jacket, and a fishing bucket. The overall price of this set is around 100 PLN. The bigger and more valuable pieces can be found in shallow spots near the seashore, hidden among seaweed, shells, and plants. Amber hunters also say that it is worth to observe seagulls, as they tend to search for so-called “sea trash islands” which are one of the best spots to find rare amber stones.
Amber art – where can it be found?
Amber is a huge part of art, culture, and architecture. Every amber lover can learn more about amber in the Amber Museum in the Prison Tower. Many interesting and precious pieces can be found there. The most popular item is the amber piece with an ancient lizard inclusion. Another museum that exponents amber in many different shapes, colors and forms is the Archaeological Museum at the Mary’s Church. The most admirable items are the great amber monstrance, as well as the amber altar in the Church of St. Bridget. It is also worth visiting Mariacka Street in Gdańsk where many workshops and shops specializing in amber can be found. There are many amber pieces available but the most beautiful ones can be found in Gdańsk!
See also: amber cup found in Hove
The most breathtaking creation of the Gdańsk amber manufactures is the popular Amber Chamber. It was ordered by King Fredrick William I, who wanted a room fully decorated with amber from the Gdańsk amber craftsmen. The chamber was a part of the Mon Bijou palace. The Amber Chamber consisted of several different elements: amber frames, cartouches, medallions, reliefs depicting biblical scenes, statues of Roman goddesses Minerva and Pomona. It was considered a real work of art and was 55 m2 big. The chamber was considered the “lost treasure” for many years. It was owned by many other owners for centuries, and in 1941 was stolen by the Germans. In the same year, it was transported to King’s Castle. In 1944 the chamber was moved to the castle’s dungeon and stored in boxes. It was the last time it was seen. On April 9, 1945, the King’s Castle was conquered but the Amber Chamber was not found.
For many years, the Amber Chamber was sought by many people, including the officials of the ministries of culture of Poland, Germany, and the USSR, as well as several special services. Even Clairvoyants were employed to find this great work of art. A special list of places where the chamber can be potentially hidden was prepared. Kraków, Neringa, Pasłęk, Castle in Człuchów, Castle in Szymbark, Bolków, Giżycko, Olecko, Nysa, Trzcińsko-Zdrój and Szklarska Poręba were included on the list. Many other places were also taken into account, especially in Kaliningrad, e.g. the church on Steindamm. The remains of the chamber were also sought in the remains of the sunken German ship on the Baltic Sea. Some believe that the Amber Chamber was being transported in a plane that was sunk in the Resko Przymorskie lake, near Rogów. There are several other theories about the mysterious disappearance of the Amber Chamber, e.g. the fire of the Königsberg Castle.
In 2003, a copy of the Amber Chamber was completed. It is located in the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. In 1979, the work of the reconstruction began. They were carried out based on the preserved sources: pictures, photos, sketches, and documents. However, a perfect reconstruction of the Amber Chamber turned out to be harder than expected. The main problem was the reconstruction of colors of the amber because all remaining sources were black and white. To solve this problem, black and white pictures of amber were taken with modern cameras and then the photos were compared to the old ones. It helped to determine what amber colors should be used in particular fragments of the new Amber Chamber. Another huge problem was the method used by Gdańsk amber master to attach amber pieces to the construction. To copy that, modern craftsmen began a process of trial and error. Thanks to that, it was possible to reconstruct most of the Amber Chamber. It was also hard to reconstruct shapes and designs. The whole investment cost 11.5 million dollars and was successfully completed. It was ceremonially opened during the celebration of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg by Vladimir Putin, Gerhard Schröder and George Bush.
Amberif is an international trade fair of amber, amber jewelry and gemstones in Gdańsk, organized every year since 1994. The event is considered the most important for the amber industry in the whole world and is one of the largest in Central and Eastern Europe. Amberif includes 470 exhibitors from all over the world, including 6000 participants from 54 countries, including Poland, Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Ukraine, China, United Kingdom, Sweden, Latvia, Denmark, Italy, France, United States, Finland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, and Canada. The originator of the fair was a Gdańsk artist – Giedymin Jabłoński. It is conducted by the Gdańsk International Fair. During the very first edition, only 49 exhibitors gather, and then, in 2000, the number increased to 372. In 2007, the number reached as many as 478. By 2013 it varied between 440 and 480. In 2013, the 20th edition took place, which was attended by 450 exhibitors from 14 countries. For the first time, it was conducted in the Ambereecpo Exhibition and Congress Center. During the amber exhibition an international scientific conference of amber researchers is held, and, starting from the third edition, the International Amberif Amber Design Competiton is organized. Since 2009, the fair has been organized only for jewelry craftsmen and amber industry. In 2007 diamonds worth around 1.5 million dollars were stolen during the event. The fair offers three exhibition rooms of a total size of 12000 m2, a press conference center, offices of the total area of 6000m2 and a restaurant. The construction of this object was started in 2011 by the Doraco Construction Corporation.
See also: World’s capital of amber
The amber road was an ancient trade route between the European countries of the Mediterranean region and the areas of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. The main object of trade was Baltic Amber. In the beginning, amber was a very precious object of trade among the Celts. In the V century BC, the first trips from southern Europe were organized. Interestingly, amber was not sent to the Baltic Sea regions, instead, it was bought from the Celtic intermediaries. However, after the conquest of the area near the central Danube was completed, the Romans began the amber trade on a totally new level.
They organize several expeditions from Pannonia to the Baltic Sea, particularly to Sambia. The largest development of the amber trade is dated back to the III century AD and lasted for the following century. In the IV century AD, Amber Road began to slowly die. Aquileia was considered the main amber trading spot in Rome.
Wandering groups of traveling merchants have left many memorials. It was the effect of the trades between them. Archaeologists discovered many Roman amber objects on the Slavic graveyards. In Wroclaw, the remains of a huge amber warehouse were found. It is said that it could store up to 1500 kg of amber.
Amber is highly appreciated in the Middle East and Asia. Arabs value amber rosaries. The rosaries made of special amber beads have been known in Muslim countries since ancient times. Muslims began to use them after the Babylonians and the Assyrians. Chinese, Hindus and Burmese people also love amber.