Amber is also called succinite. It is the fossilized, hardened resin of the pine tree (Pinus Succinifera). It is formed mainly in the Eocene epoch of the Tertiary period, about 50 million years ago; found mostly in the Baltic, although a younger constituent is found in the Dominican Republic. Yellow, brown, reddish, green and white are the colors of various ambers. Amber has a greasy luster.
Amber and partially fossilized resins are sometimes given mineral-like names depending on where they are found, their degree of fossilization or the presence of other chemical components; such as the resin from the London clay, which resembles copal resin is called copalite.
The word electricity is derived from the Greek name for amber, electrum. This is because when rubbed amber gets electrically charged and attracts small particles. For several thousand years, the largest source of amber has been the large deposits along the Baltic coast, from Gdansk to the coastlines of Denmark and Sweden. It is both mined and recovered from Baltic shores after heavy storms. One of the largest uses of amber was the creation of the “Amber Room” in Catherine the Great’s palace in Russia, a huge room totally lined and decorated with cut amber. It was described as the eighth wonder of the world after its installation in Catherine’s Palace in 1765. Unfortunately, the paneling disappeared during World War II, but it has now been completely recreated.
Amber is sensitive to acids, caustic solutions, and gasoline, as well as alcohol and perfume. It can be ignited by a match, smelling like incense. The largest deposit of Amber in the world is in the west of Kaliningrad, Russia. It is surface-mined with dredging chain buckets. First the amber is washed out, and then picked by hand. Only 15 percent of the amber obtained is suitable for jewelry. The remainder is used for pressed amber or used for technical purposes. It is also found in the Dominican Republic in the mudstone mines of Amber Valley. Burmese amber is called burmite and amber from Sicily is known as simetite.
Amber is said to represent the dividing line between the individual’s sole and the universal soul. It has been used to symbolize divinity; often seen on representations of saints and heroes. The Greek god Apollo wept tears of amber when he was banished from Olympus. It is also believed that a man that keeps a piece of amber on him will never suffer of sexual impotence.
Amber has been used since prehistoric times for jewelry and religious objects, accessories for smokers, also amulets and mascots. The Baltic Amber the “gold of the North,” is among the earliest-used gem materials. Baltic Amber artifacts are found over 600 miles from their place of origin since it was widely valued and traded through centuries. Today, amber is used for ornamental objects, ring stones, pendants, brooches, necklaces, and bracelets.