Hot Rocks: Amber

by Linda McMurray, G.G., A.J.P

I was introduced to Amber when I was a small child. My grandmother came back from a visit to Poland wearing some beautiful dark honey colored beads. She told me the lovely beaded necklace was Amber and the beads had strong healing powers. I can still remember the smooth warm feel of her special Amber beads as she let me hold them.

European and Jordanian Ambers date back to over 200+ million years old, with Dominican Amber dating to about 55 million years ago. (Interesting note: In the movie Jurassic Park, the scientists used 55 million year old Dominican Amber and extracted the dinosaur DNA from that. Since Dominican Amber is 55 million years old, and the dinosaurs died out 65 million years old there was a “slight” 10 million year technical flaw in their thinking.)

Known as an organic gemstone, Amber is the product of living organisms. It was formed from tree resin, mostly from pines that fossilized millions of years ago. To be called Amber, the hardened resin has to be at least a million years old. Immature Amber is called copal. This sticky resin would sometimes trap insects, leaves, pine needles or flower parts before it hardened and fossilized. Amber inclusions like these are highly sought after and could bring a commendable price depending on what got trapped in the Amber.

Amber is one of the earliest gems to be discovered and was highly valued as adornments. These golden gems where found along the Baltic Sea by cavemen. Archeologists have found Amber artifacts, everything from beads to small sculptures, dating from 10,000 BC. The ancients also used to burn Amber because of the sweet smell it emitted.

The famed Amber Room was originally designed for Charlottenburg Palace, the home of the first king of Prussia. Peter the Great admired the room, so later the entire room was shipped, as gift, to the Winter House in St Petersburg, Russia. It was later destroyed during WWII and disappeared forever. It was recreated in 2003. The original room had 6 tons of gold leaf backed amber and was worth $142 million of today’s dollars.

Amber is warm to the touch and surprisingly very light weight. It comes in many natural colors; different shades of amber, (fact: the color is named after Amber) yellow, cherry reds, red orange, blue and green. Amber sometimes is treated by heat or oil to make the gem more transparent. There is also Amber that is translucent (a silky look) or opaque (cannot see through.) Heat treatment at times leaves crackled like marks called sun spangles inside the Amber.

Amber is used in jewelry as cabochons, faceted into gems, carved objects and beads. It is a soft gemstone and can easily be scratched. It is 2 to 2.5 on the Mohs scale for hardness. You should always keep your Amber away from chemicals, solvents and perfumes. Wrap your Amber piece or jewelry in a soft cloth when storing for added protection. Amber can crack from too much heat or pressure.

Amber Folklore

Amber possesses electrostatic properties. For centuries it was used for healing purposes and continues to be utilized as such.  Amber is a powerful chakra cleanser and healer. It is said that Amber saturates the body with vitality and has the power to draw disease out of the body. Amber absorbs pain and negative energy. It allows the body to rebalance itself and heal. Amber is said to be an excellent natural antibiotic.  In fact, you may have noticed babies wearing Amber necklaces recently, as they have grown in popularity as an all natural, drug-free teething remedy.

Amber is said to be able to strengthen your memory and intellect. It helps with emotional calming and centering, and transmutes negative energy to positive. Wearing Amber jewelry gives you the energy of the stone all day long. It is said that wearing Amber neutralizes your negative energy, allowing the body to heal itself.


Simple test to confirm your Amber is genuine and not plastic.

You will need:
Water Glass
Table salt
Plastic bead

Use a clear glass, preferably so you can see the results. Take 1 part table salt (a little more if you are using Kosher salt) and 2 parts water, mix till dissolved. Drop the Amber and the plastic bead in the water. The Amber (if it is real) will be buoyant and float. The plastic bead or an Amber imposter will sink to the bottom. Neat!

Linda McMurray is co-owner of Best Cut Gems in Beverly Hills, FL and is a certified Gemologist. Visit her online store for a wide selection of gemstones, cabochons, finished jewelry and more gemstone facts.

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Posted in Hot Rocks
2 comments on “Hot Rocks: Amber
  1. Diane says:

    I was introduced to amber in middle school from a book. I had a love of jewelry from my Grandma from a very young age and a love of science as well. Once I found out that amber sometimes contains insects, I wanted my own piece. My sister lived in Scandinavia and when taking a trip to the Soviet Union (was still Soviet at the times) she asked if there was anything I wanted. Of course it was amber with a bug! When she returned for a visit, she gave me a beautiful amber ring, but no bug. Then she brought out this amazing large cabochon with a rather large bug inside! I was so excited! Unfortunately, my amber, as well as many other pieces of jewelry, including what I inherited from my Grandma, was stolen and now a piece of amber like that would be way too expensive. I miss the jewelry prices of the 80s!

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