Amber Meaning and Properties

Amber History

Blame it on Jurassic Park. Or the TV show "Vikings." Either way, this amazing gemstone has been growing in popularity even as it becomes harder and harder to find.

Among the Vikings, amber was believed to be the tears of Freyja, their goddess of love and beauty. She wore a necklace called Brisingamen, made by four dwarven craftsmen of gold and amber. To the ancient Greeks, amber was the tears of the daughters of Apollo, the sun god.

This gem is so popular and valued in northern countries that the Prussian King Frederick William I gave an entire room of it to the Russian Czar Peter the Great. Over the years the decor was expanded, eventually covering 590 square feet of space and using over 13,000 pounds of amber. This was the famous "Amber Room" which disappeared into Nazi hands during World War II and was never recovered. The room was recreated over two decades (1979 to 2003) when the final mosaics were installed in St. Petersburg.

Amber Metaphysical Properties

Amber is thought to help absorb negative energy and to release bright, soothing energy, helping to calm nerves and enliven disposition like a mental sunny day. The different colors of amber are often used on the chakras with corresponding colors to facilitate opening and cleansing. Yellow amber has been used traditionally by natural healers to improve memory, increase mental flexibility and create balanced decision-making.

Amber has also been used, historically, as a talisman for courage and self-confidence, and was thought to bring good luck to warriors in battle. In some cultures, amber symbolizes the renewal of marriage vows and is used to assure promises. It is worn by elders as a symbol of their endurance and wisdom.

Amber Geological Properties

Amber (pronounced AM-bur) is 50-million-year-old, fossilized tree sap (resin) from prehistoric pine forests. The pine trees are thought to have released the sap as a defense against fungus and insect infestation. The molecules in the sap cross-linked, eventually forming the natural "plastic" we know as amber today.

One of the fascinating properties of amber is its electrostatism: the old Roman author and scientist Pliny the Elder was writing about amber's ability to carry static electricity back in 79 AD!

Sometimes, raw amber will contain encased insects, leaves, twigs, flowers, mammalian hair and other organic matter. Pieces containing this material are generally considered more valuable than those without, especially when an entire organism is preserved.

Only 15% of the amber mined today is suitable for jewelry. The remainder is generally used to make "amberoid," a natural-looking pressed form of amber. This material is welded at 284 - 482 degrees Fahrenheit and 3000 atmospheres pressure into a substance that can be easily confused with natural amber.

To determine whether amber is natural or has been combined with resin stabilizers, place the gem in a glass of warm salt water. Natural amber will float, whereas synthesized amber will sink. Another technique for distinguishing between natural and synthesized amber is to heat the tip of a sewing needle until it is white hot. Then, insert the needle into the amber (preferably on the backside of the gem). If a pine scent emits, the amber is likely all-natural. Ambroid will emit an aroma of burning plastic.

The largest deposits of natural amber are along the coasts of Poland, Germany and Russia. Ancient rivers carried the resin deposits downstream from the forest regions to the seabeds, where it was buried under hundreds of feet of sand. Other sources of amber are located in Sicily, Romania, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and along the eastern coast of the United States.

Mineral Information not applicable
Chemical Composition C10H16O
Color Light yellow to brown, red, nearly colorless, mostly white, blue, black, greenish
Hardness 2 to 2-1/2 (Mohs)
Specific Gravity 1.05 - 1.09 (maximum 1.30)
Refractive Index 1.54

Proper Care of Amber

Amber is a highly sensitive gem and must be cared for delicately. It is easily scratched (watch your fingernails!) and affected by chemicals, abrasives, acids, caustic solutions, alcohol and perfume. It is also flammable and can be ignited with a direct flame! Steamers, hot water and ultrasonic cleaners can damage this gem. To clean amber, use mild soap, room temperature tap water and a very soft cloth.

To learn more about amber and other gemstones, order your copy of Walter Schumann's revised and expanded edition of Gemstones of the World.

Designing with Amber

Luminescent, fiery amber is blazing with design possibilities. Whether in drops, chunks, chips, ovals or rounds amber can be paired with gold or silver and almost any other gemstone. For a warm effect, combine amber with gold and other orange-red stones like carnelian, red jasper or red aventurine. For striking appeal, alternate amber drops with black onyx and sterling silver-filled beads.

Amber is a soft and somewhat light gem. It does well when strung on silk thread with cultured pearls and other softer materials, especially when knotted between beads.

View design inspirations featuring amber in the Gallery of Designs

Shop for Amber

**Please note that all metaphysical or healing properties listed are collected from various sources. This information is offered as a service and not meant to treat medical conditions. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® does not guarantee the validity of any of these statements.

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