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Amber Quick Facts: Mythology & Symbolism of Amber
Quick Facts

  • Amber stores static electricity, named elektron by the ancient Greeks. Elektron evolved into the English term "electricity."
  • When rubbed, the gem attracts lint. Amber was used to remove lint by the Phoenicians & Etruscans & was therefore nicknamed "Straw Thief" in Turkey.
  • Amber is the lightest weight & softest of all gems (a diamond is hardest). It is one of only a handful of gems of vegetative, not mineral, origin. The others are pearl, jet & coral.
  • Amber is warm against the skin. In contrast, minerals and glass are heavier and cooler than room temperature. Stones like jade, lapis and turquoise feel cool or even cold to the touch, but amber feels warm. This, along with its obvious sunny colour, is why it is known as -sunshine- to  Lithuanians.
  • True amber is light enough to float in salt water, if not weighed down by other substances (like silver), but it won't float to the top, it floats like soap would in a bathtub. This quality probably helped in its discovery-inhabitants of the Baltic Sea area can still find raw amber washed up on the shore after storms.

Colors of Amber
Baltic amber appears in 256 identified shades-from a nearly black brownish-red, orange, green, yellow & cream to white and very rarely, even blue & tints of violet. Baltic Amber typically marketed as "blue amber" is heavily treated. Legitimate "blue" amber does occur but tends to be Dominican, not Baltic, in origin. You may learn more about blue amber & larimar from the Dominican Republic here: AmbericaWest on Blue Amber

The staggering variety of colour, variations in translucency & the fact that no two pieces are identical contribute greatly to the appeal of the gem.

Amber through the Ages
Because amber both contains plant & animal life, it was thought to be a vessel of eternal youth. Historically, amber is tied to preservation. Roman ladies of the court played with amber, holding it in their hands and stroking it, as contact with amber was thought to guarantee a youthful look. Amber has been located in Egyptian tombs, where it was probably used not as adornment, but rather as a powerful desiccant (preservative).

In Neolithic times, this -Gold of the North- served as a sacred symbol of the sun. Entrapped insects also led to the belief that pieces of amber are the resting places of departed souls.

The Slavic tribes thought amber magical because of its warm feel, its lightness and luster. Some believed amber was the petrified tears of gods.

In Lithuania, an amber necklace was placed around a child to prevent kidnapping. Amber extends general protection to the wearer, especially children. Beaded amber necklaces are still a traditional gift for a child.

In Latvia, bands of amber rings were used in wedding ceremonies to ensure an eternal bond. Today, amber represents renewed fidelity in marriage.

The Phoenicians, Etruscans and Romans believed amber warded off evil spirits.

The Chinese burned chunks of raw amber as a sign of their wealth. In addition, amber was thought to be associated with fiery dragon's blood.

In some Greek myths, amber represents the tears of Apollo's daughters (Apollo himself was the God of the Sun). Alternately, some Greeks  believed amber was solidified sunshine, broken away from the heavens and sunk into the sea.

Priestesses wore beads of amber as a confirmation of the exalted energy stored in these beautiful stones.

In classical times, amber was once crushed and eaten with honey as a cure for headaches and toothaches. Amber beads were thought to protect the wearer from rheumatism, toothache, rickets and jaundice.

Amber was one of the reasons the Emperor Nero opened the trade routes with the Germanic tribes.  

Famous for her beauty, Empress Poppaea, the wife of Emperor Nero, made amber so popular that women dyed their hair to match its color, described as amber.

Copernicus listed amber as an ingredient in his healing cordial.

Roman citizens carried amber beads in their hands to cool them during the summer heat (the slight scent of pine generated by rubbing the stone fought off other odors).

Roman women played with amber in the same way we might use a -worry-stone- today. This extended contact with amber was believed to promote a youthful look.

Amber amulets were worn to enhance fertility.

Gladiators sewed pieces of amber into their clothing for success in fighting.

Middle Ages
Extreme measures were taken to control the amber trade. Gallows were erected along the Baltic Sea to hang amber pirates.

The Celtic Sun God, Ambres, derives his name from the fossilized resin. Ancient Celtic amberworks created by Anglo-Saxons are famous for their beauty and fine craftsmanship.

In Pomerania, an amber necklace was a mandatory object for a bride-ideally, the largest bead should contain an inclusion (flora or fauna fossil).

Amber incense was burned in churches and amber was sometimes left on the collection plate in place of coins.

On St. John's Night, amber was thought to chase away evil spirits and was generally worn for protection.

Native American
Amber represents the East Wind, the wind of Grandfather Sun, creation and new beginnings-sunstone. In contrast, in Finland, amber is known as  "sea-stone."

The Healing Properties of Amber
Amber acid is a bio-stimulant and has been used for ages to promote healing. Amber fights depression, and serves as a magnet to attract joy to the wearer.

Amber allows the body to heal by absorbing and transmuting negative energy into positive energy (ions). It is believed that wearing amber brings purification of mind, body and spirit.

New Age practitioners believe amber opens the 3rd Chakra (solar plexus). This is thought to provide mental clarity, balance moods & instill confidence in the wearer.

Amber, especially the inhalation of amber incense or vapors, has a long history of medicinal use. It was used well into the nineteenth century throughout Europe for medicinal purposes & is still used in Russia. It was said to protect one from ailments of the throat as well as a host of other maladies.

Symbolism of Amber
Amber was first worn as a talisman of good luck.

Amber serves as a symbol of renewal in marriage & continued fidelity. It also represents an everlasting bond of eternal love. In some cultures, it evokes eternal life & youth.

Amber is an alternate birthstone for November, replacing topaz.

Amber has always been association with good luck & general protection, particularly the ability to ward of the evil eye.

Amber is associated with the signs Leo and Aquarius.

In dreams, amber signifies a voyage.

Amber represents the tenth wedding anniversary.

Happy Hunting on your amber voyage!