Amber is the fossilized resin of the pine tree, Pinus succinifera, formed mainly in the Eocene epoch of the Tertiary period, about 50 million years ago. Most amber is drop or nodular shaped, often with a weathered crust. Pieces weighing over 22lb (10 kg) have been found. Yellow and brown are the predominant colours with variations tending to honey or reddish brown, from golden yellow to golden orange. Some green, red, violet or even black amber has been found. Some amber may contain insects and even (though rarely), frogs and small lizards, which were trapped millions of years ago when the resin was still sticky.
The largest amber deposit in the world is west of Kaliningrad, Russia, on the Baltic Sea. There are also large reserves on the sea bed of the Baltic itself and amber has been found on the beaches and shallow waters of the Baltic after heavy storms. It is also found in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Burma, China and Japan.
Amber is quite possibly the earliest of gem materials known to man, jewellery and religious objects having been found dating back to the Stone Age. The word “electricity” is derived from the Greek name for amber “electrum” This is because amber can acquire an electric charge when rubbed. Amber has been widely traded since ancient times and was often referred to as “The Gold of the North”. A number of medicinal uses have been attributed to amber. It is said to represent the dividing line between individual and cosmic energy, the individual soul and the universal soul. It has been used to symbolize divinity, and the colour of amber is often seen on representations of saints and heroes. The Greek god Apollo wept tears of amber when he was banished from Olympus. An ancient writer declared that amber was the essence of the setting sun congealed in the sea and cast up on the shore. The Romans sent armies to conquer and control amber producing areas. Between 1895 and 1900, a million kilos of Baltic amber were produced for use in jewellery!