Amber is the fossilized resin from ancient, extinct, pine trees and conifers which grew around 25 to 60 million years ago. 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.
The stone lacks crystal structure because it is derived from the natural source of tree resin that hardened and fossilized over millions of years.
As amber is fossilized, its structure is amorphous, which means that it lacks crystal structure. There are many simulants for amber – such as glass, copal, and plastics – but amber can be distinguished from these by their physical properties and inclusions. The most desired ambers are those with well-preserved flora and fauna which were trapped in the sap and which can be quite exotic and often quite expensive.
The Greek name for amber is electron as the ancient Greeks thought amber to be pieces of the sun, broken off and fallen into the ocean. Due to the piezoelectric property of amber – it will obtain a negative electric charge when rubbed – the quantum particle electron was named after amber.
Amber is found on the shores surrounding the Baltic and East Sea. Being very light, amber has the ability to float in salt water from the sea floor to the shore. Today the main deposit is in a blue clay layer in Samland, near Palmnicken, Kaliningrad, and Russia. Only 15% of the production has an outer appearance suitable to be worn as jewelry -the remaining amber is used to produce glues or cements. Some of this non-jewelry material is also reconstructed by heat and pressure and is marketed as ambroid.
Since long ago, amber has been used for many medicinal and talismanic purposes. The ancient Greeks attributed amber with powers that could cure deafness and improve eyesight while in ancient Rome the gem was worn to prevent insanity. Ancient Egyptians and Indians would burn amber and use it as incense to purify their surroundings. Due to the belief that amber could impede the transmission of diseases, it was widely used as stem-pieces for cigarette holders and pipes. Legend also holds that amber can heighten creativity and that it possesses radiant energy which confers wisdom and knowledge to the wearer along with an ability to draw out negative energy, purifying the heart and spirit.
CARING FOR AMBER
Amber is and extremely soft stone making it a good gem for carving. In jewelry it can be fashioned as beads to be strung or a cabochon to be bezel set. Like other stones, Amber is sensitive to harsh chemicals and perfumes. This gemstone should be put on last when dressing and not worn when swimming or cleaning. Store amber separate from other stones to avoid being scratched. It should only be wiped cleaned with a soft cloth.