Guide to Amber Gemstones: Properties, Meanings, and Uses
The amber gemstone is a radiant and highly popular gem, often making its way into collections and jewelry pieces. Its warm glow brings smiles to the faces of many, and its striking appearance helps it stand out as an accessory.
While many people are aware of amber, not everyone chooses to learn more about its origins, properties, uses, and the amber crystal meaning. If you’re curious about amber gemstones, here’s what you need to know.
Amber Properties: What Exactly Is Amber?
Amber isn’t a mineral gemstone like most other gems used in jewelry or for similar ornamental purposes. Instead, amber is hardened resin. As the tree resin hardens, it ends up with gem-like qualities, maintaining its form and polishing nicely.
Is Amber a Real Gemstone?
As mentioned above, amber isn’t a mineral-based gemstone. Instead, it’s generally considered an organic gem due to its composition. Amber is created when pine tree resin hardens, giving it a stone-like consistency. It’s real in that it’s naturally occurring, though it’s not stone in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s more classically considered a fossilized resin or an organic gem.
If you’re wondering, “How can you tell good quality amber from fakes?” the process of separating the two is reasonably easy. Authentic amber is light for its size, so the weight of a piece may give you clues. Classically, it feels warmer to the touch, whereas many fakes seem cold.
Additionally, amber floats in salt water. Imperfections or shifts in coloration also commonly occur with genuine amber. Scratch and hot needle tests may also help a person identify natural amber, but it does run the risk of damaging the stone.
Is Amber Rare?
Amber isn’t overly rare overall. However, some versions are incredibly scarce. As a result, if you’re wondering, “Is amber an expensive stone?” the answer is, “It depends.”
Usually, the rarest and most expensive pieces of amber contain insect inclusions, such as mosquitos. The insects became trapped in the tree resin when it was still wet. As the amber coated them, it essentially encased the insect, preserving its body within the hardening material. Since amber is classically a transparent material once polished, the insect remains visible within the pressed amber, which is attractive to collectors.
Amber may also contain other trapped organic materials, like leaves. However, while these have scientific value, they aren’t as popular as versions containing insects. As a result, the plant material-containing versions aren’t overly expensive.
When it comes to amber without inclusions, those specimens are relatively common. As a result, the price is typically quite affordable. The only exception is large pieces of amber. Even without inclusions, bigger specimens are rare, which makes them quite expensive.
Amber Gemstone Colors
Generally speaking, amber is classically known for its rich golden coloring. The hues can vary from shades of slightly earthy yellows to deep brownish oranges, though some fall closer to true brown with slight yellow tinges.
However, amber does come in other hues. Red amber does exist, as well as white amber and yellow amber too. There is also green amber found sometimes, though it tends to look a bit earthy. Blue amber is also naturally occurring.
Some amber also features a bluish white or greenish fluorescence. Those pieces are highly prized due to their rarity, making them favorites among collectors.
The History of Amber Gemstone
Amber is potentially one of the first gemstones used broadly for ornamental purposes. Evidence shows it’s been used since the stone age. Unlike most other gems, you don’t necessarily have to dig into the earth to find it. As a result, it was highly accessible to cultures well before mining, and the use of similar industrial practices became the norm.
Amber also served other purposes historically. It was used as a fuel source in some cases. Additionally, many ancient healing and medicinal practices involve amber.
Amber was associated with the sun throughout the years due to its coloring, particularly when illuminated. Many cultures connect amber crystal properties to the natural world; some even believe that amber stones are the tears of gods or ancient heroes.
Since amber was easy to carve, it was also used to imbue the wearer of amber amulets with the strengths of certain animals. Ancient Romans and Greeks viewed amber rabbits, frogs, and fish as means of ensuring fertility. Chinese cultures thought amber held the souls of tigers, while Vikings used a variety of animals to take on key characteristics they associated with them.
There are also associations with magic. Many think that connection is related to the electrostatic properties of amber. When properly charged, it creates a static pull, which isn’t common among other stones. The Greeks even referred to amber as “elektron,” which is the basis for current terms like “electron” and “electricity.”
While some of those beliefs diminished with time, amber remained a popular jewelry and ornamental stone. Its golden amber glow is both warm and comforting. As a result, it was a favored stone by many.
Where Does Amber Come From?
Since amber is a form of hardened tree resin, amber is found in countries all around the world. Austria, Canada, China, Columbia, India, Jordan, Sweden, Syria, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many other nations are sources of amber.
However, certain types of amber have relatively specific origins. Here’s a closer look at different types of amber.
Baltic amber is amber from the Baltic region, including counties like Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. Compared to other versions of amber, it contains higher levels of succinic acid. As a result, it’s referred to as succinite at times. Historically, it was also called Prussian amber.
Originating from the Dominican Republic, Dominican amber originates from the Hymenaea protera tree, which is now an extinct species. Generally, Dominican amber resin is nearly always transparent, while some other versions may exhibit cloudiness. Additionally, the occurrence of organic material being trapped inside and preserved is higher.
Dominican amber typically comes from one of three major mining sites in the country. While it usually has a traditional golden hue, some specimens are another hue. Dominican blue amber is naturally occurring, and it’s quite rare. Specific conditions created by the Hymenaea protera tree species are required for this coloration, so it isn’t found in many amber forms in other regions of the world.
Burmese amber originates from a specific region in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Some specimens date back approximately 100 million years, and organic inclusions found within them provide clues about the environment and animal species during that period. As a result, it’s highly valued by collectors and the scientific community.
Amber Jewelry Pieces
Amber jewelry has been popular since ancient times and is still widely worn today. Generally, you won’t see much amber jewelry in chain stores, primarily since its colorations can vary and inclusions are common. Mass jewelry production usually relies on consistency, which is hard to capture with amber.
However, independent jewelers work with amber regularly. Independent designers can typically do small runs or one-off pieces to take advantage of uniquely beautiful pieces of amber. As a result, finding amber jewelry isn’t overly difficult.
Usually, amber isn’t faceted. Instead, it’s left in organic shapes and tumbled or polished. Amber beads are also popular, and you’ll also find cabochons in many cases. At times, amber is carved into different shapes for decorative objects, such as hearts or animal figures.
Amber is popular for a wide variety of jewelry types since it’s relatively lightweight. Necklaces, earrings, pendants, and rings are all widely available. Amber also makes appearances in pendulums.
Amber Stone Meaning and Symbolism
As with most gemstones, the amber stone meaning and symbolism vary by a person’s belief system. Some of the symbolism associated with amber crystals was discussed previously, as they played a significant role in the stone’s history.
However, there are also more modern amber gemstone meanings to consider. Many people associate amber with good fortune. Warriors often viewed amber as a protective stone, as it was said to promote courage and good luck. Some view amber as a stone for promoting self-confidence and personal power, as well.
Many people think that amber is a soothing and calming stone, partially due to its sunny-like qualities. Due to its coloring, the amber chakra is the sacral chakra, though yellower versions may also connect to the solar plexus chakra.
Amber Healing Properties
When it comes to the amber healing properties, those also vary depending on a person’s belief systems and their thoughts on the symbolism of amber. From a mental health perspective, amber is considered a balancing stone that helps combat negativity and fear. It’s also associated with patience, mental clarity, and the growth of wisdom.
Some say that amber can assist with developing healthy boundaries, offering a supportive energy that makes focusing on self-care over people-pleasing easier. Others also feel it promotes energy flow, partially due to its association with tree growth and healing.
On the physical side, specific belief systems state that amber can reduce fatigue or boost immunity. Due to its associations with warmth, some think it can assist with common ailments like colds or flu. Some people feel that amber can reduce headaches or chronic pain.
However, what’s critical to remember is that there isn’t any scientific evidence that wearing, holding, or meditating on stones like amber provide any health benefits. While using amber as part of a spiritual practice isn’t likely to cause harm, amber isn’t a substitute for genuine medical care from a healthcare professional. As a result, don’t use any stone in lieu of medical care if you have a physical or mental health concern.
Stones Similar to Amber
While amber is a unique gemstone, other gems can exhibit similar coloration. For example, citrine can have a similar hue if you’re looking for a substitute for yellow ambers. Topaz, golden beryl, and specific garnets may also have golden or orangish hues classically connected to amber.
If you’re interested in amber for its organic origins, there are other organic gemstones to consider. Pearl, coral, and jet are organic stones, though they don’t visually resemble amber. Additionally, there are gems where organic materials, such as opal and petrified wood, were mineralized over time, giving them organic origins.