Amber is fossilized resin from coniferous trees that lived on Earth many millions of years ago, and has been valued and traded by people since Neolithic times. It’s of particular interest to naturalists because it has proven a unique method of preservation, and is responsible for fossilizing plants and animals that would not otherwise be part of the surviving fossil record. And it’s of interest to archaeologists because when it’s found far from the places where it formed, it’s evidence of human travel and trade. It’s found all over the world, with Baltic amber being the most prolific and famous.
Since about 3000 B.C., the Phoenicians traded amber as a prime commodity with the ancient Baltic peoples. The “amber routes” spread the substance across much of the world.
For thousands of years amber was believed to provide divine protection from harm to the bearer of amber jewelry. As such, it also became to be used as an ingredient in medicines and for religious purposes by both pagans and Christians. Around 58 A.D., the emperor Nero sent a Roman soldier on a search for the “Gold of the North” and brought hundreds of pounds of amber to Rome.
In the 13th century the Teutonic Knights, after returning from the crusades, forbade average citizens from collecting amber from beaches on the Baltic coastline under their jurisdiction – trying to maintain the monopoly on the prized substance. Amber can still be found by beachcombers today, though in much smaller quantities, and it’s also mined.
Its most spectacular use was probably the creation of a room that was entirely coated in amber, the famous Amber Room that the Prussian King Friedrich I began in the first years of the 18th century, and was completed 50 years later. It served as a showpiece throughout the reigns of several rulers before being stolen by the Nazis in WWII; its location has never been positively determined. A replica of the room was created using the memories of survivors of the war as well as photographs, with craftsmen using traditional techniques to complete the work.
Metaphysical: Many believe that amber provides decisiveness, strengthens your memory intellect, and helps with emotional calming and centering. It is said to be an excellent grounding crystal, one that transmutes negative energy to positive. Astrologers believe that it’s a stone of twins as well as the birthstone of the Taurus and Leo zodiac signs.
We’ve got a lot of beautiful amber in the store, and a few nice pieces here in our Etsy store.