Amber is a wonderful bounty of nature. It is a fossilized resin of trees which were growing in northern Europe 50 million years ago. Specific climatic conditions along the Baltic Sea coast resulted in 90% of the world’s amber reserves being concentrated there.
Amber comes in many varieties characterized by different degree of transparency and color. The internal structure and color of amber varieties is subject to change dependent on air, humidity and light levels and other weathering processes. Amber appears naturally in over 350 colors: from white to green, red, yellow, light beige, blue amber. Blue and green amber is found only in the Dominican Republic. This blue color is only seen in reflected light, in transmitted light it will show a more common amber color (such as yellow, orange, red).
Amber is one of the most beautiful ‘stones’ which was considered the sacred one in many countries. Previously, only royal families and emperor dynasties could wear it. The market price for amber increases if it includes insects and leaves. During the long amber history it was used by people for many centuries. Archeologists revealed amber artifacts dated 8000 B.C. It was also used in ancient cultures of Assyria, Egypt, Phoenicia and Greece. In some cultures it was called ‘gold of the North”, Greeks gave it a name of ‘electron’. When amber is rubbed with cloth, an electric charge is created in it which attracts light objects such as small paper pieces, feathers and dust.
It was related to the Sun due to its common color. The sister trees are found in Ovid's Metamorphoses, where they weep for their brother Phaeton, lost in a quest for recognition by the Sun. And of course they weep Amber, the Tears of the Sun. This gemstone is also mentioned in Odyssey by Homer and works of Pliny. Only elite Romans could buy amber, though, gladiators who have lucked into amber wore it as an amulet due to its protective properties.
Amber when burnt has pleasant odor, it was widely used in Asian temples. Prayer beads were made of amber in medieval Europe. That time it was worn with an aim to prevent from illnesses. In 18th century amber was used for room decoration: wall panels, door and window frames coating.
Amber items were of great interest as far back as in Ancient Rome. The sunstone was used in necklaces, carved accessories, figurines, wine caps, alabastrons, portraits, bas-reliefs. In spite of its high price, the most affluent patricians covered their country houses and swimming pools with it. By order of the Emperor Neron, who was fond of this gemstone, the arena for gladiators’ fights was covered by amber.
In ancient times in China and Japan red and cherry amber was mostly appreciated, being associated with dried blood spots of sacred animal – dragon. To wear accessories with these stones was considered the privilege for emperor and his minions for long time until Japan launched mass production of miniatures, known as netsuke. These figurines were carved from various materials, including amber.
Amber has a set of useful features. Aside from unique decorative peculiarities, it has a plenty of properties due to which it can be used for different purposes, for production of jewellery, expensive souvenirs and it can be a raw material for industrial products as well.