Amber is a golden, amorphous, organic gemstone. The stone lacks crystal structure because it is derived from the natural source of tree resin that hardened and fossilized over millions of years. Many trees create resin, but not all can have the properties to produce amber. To form, tree resin must be exposed to heat and pressure to fend off decay to form "copal", or infant amber. Copal is surprisingly softer than amber and is under a million years old making it less valuable than it's aged counterpart. Our most important resource for amber is the Baltic coast bordering Russia, Germany and Poland. Being very light, amber has the ability to float in salt water from the sea floor to the shore.
Unlike some other gemstones, inclusions in amber are highly prized. Over a thousand plant and fauna species have been identified thanks to their unfortunate fate of being entombed in the sticky trap of tree resin. Scientist and collectors alike have been able to study the perfectly preserved specimens.
Amber can be transparent to opaque with a resinous luster. Cloudier specimens included with bubbles are referred to as "bony amber". Typically transparent stones displaying intact inclusions are more favored.
When you think of amber you think golden yellows, oranges, and rich coffee browns. However, rare selections from the Dominican Republic can be blue. Also rare are red and green varieties of this stone. Red being the most sought after for it's cherry coloring.
Amber has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. It was regarded for it's sunny disposition and believed to remove sickness and negativity from the body. Relics of amber have been found in tombs and homes globally and the gem was clearly an important aspect in everyday life in many cultures.
Ancient Greeks called the stone "elektron", meaning "made by the sun" and would frequently use it in ornamentation.
Early Germans coined the term "bernstein" as they would burn amber to enjoy it's sweet smell.
Amber is extremely soft making it a good gem for carving. In jewelry it will be fashioned as beads to be strung or a cabochon to be bezel set. Because it can be found in large sizes, the cabochons often have the freedom to be substantial and unique in shape.
Amber is also sensitive to harsh chemicals and perfumes. This gemstone's jewelry should be put on last when dressing and put away during activities such as swimming and cleaning. Be sure when storing amber to keep it wrapped to avoid being scratched by harder stones. It should only be wiped cleaned with a soft cloth.