Facts about amber

Amber, also known as succinite, has been called the “Gold of the North”. It was produced some 40 million years ago as a result of deposits in geological layers during the Eocene period. Amber is petrified resin from prehistoric trees: the Pinus succinifera pine is described as the “mother tree” of Baltic amber and the name “succinite” comes from the scientific name for the tree.

Amber is flammable, waxy and has a distinct scent. Its flammability comes from the composition of its organic elements, that is, about 80% carbon, 10% oxygen and 10% hydrogen. The stone is light and sinks to the bottom in freshwater (1.0 g/cm3), but it floats in concentrated saline solution. It is a good insulator: when rubbed on silk or wool it creates static electricity and picks up feathers and bits of paper.

The most famous of all amber is Baltic amber. Its name comes from “Mare Balticum”, the Latin name for the Baltic Sea. The richest sources lie on the south coasts of the Baltic Sea around Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), in the area that was formerly East Prussia and near the Sambia Peninsula.

What is so special about amber is its variety and its palaeological significance, and the enormous and fascinating range of colours to be found, which has developed over millions of years depending on the different conditions under which the resin has solidified. The palette of colours stretches fromyellow, white, red and green to blue, brown and black, and to silver and gold, and it is typical of amber that the predominant colour comes in beautiful combinations with other shades in a single stone.

Cultural history

Amber has always held a fascination for mankind. As early as the Early and Late Stone Ages, amber was seen as a status symbol and used for amulets and grave goods, and was also a valued object of barter exchange. Later, in the Bronze and Iron Ages, it played a significant role in developing trade routes.

>From the later high cultures of the Phoenicians, Mycenaeans and Egyptians until the time of Ancient Greece and Rome, amber was considered a precious stone, including in the form of beads, and was used in barter exchange for luxury goods of all sorts, as was mentioned and described by Homer and Pliny the Elder. Many important trade routes in those times were known as “amber roads”.

At the time of Imperial Rome amber represented extraordinary luxury. The wealthy would drink from amber vessels and amber was used to decorate all items of value, while rich ladies had their hair coloured to look like amber. Martial wrote in one of his epigrams that his lover’s kisses had the fragrance of rubbed amber.

In all the important dynasties of the past amber was a symbol of luxury and power. The absolute non plus ultra of luxury in this connection was the famous Amber Room, which was presented by Friedrich Wilhelm I (1688-1740) to Peter the Great (1672-1725) in Russia and exhibited thereafter at Tsarskoye Selo, near St. Petersburg, on the order of Tsarina Elisabeth. During the Second World War German troops dismantled it and displayed part of it in Königsberg Castle. In 1945 it was packed into 20 crates for transport. All trace of the unique work of art, an artefact that had been called the Eighth Wonder of the World, was lost from that moment on. Its whereabouts are still unknown, but a reconstruction of the Amber Room can be seen by visitors to the museum of Tsarskoye Selo.

The increasing popularity of amber and the prices reached mean that more and more fake pieces and imitations are appearing on the market. Genuine Baltic amber can only be reliably identified by means of absorption spectroscopy. Authenticity can only be guaranteed by buying from a trustworthy firm that is certified by the International Amber Association, based in Danzig, the world’s amber capital. Certification is granted only to firms that follow the Association’s system of classification and rules, and have a spotless reputation.

Our firm has been awarded certification by the International Amber Association.


Prehistoric inclusions

Amber is unique in often having inclusions, that is, prehistoric plants and organisms trapped in the stone.

Thus we speak of fossil “traps” in the history of the Earth, in that living things from former times have been encapsulated and preserved until today, which gives them both high aesthetic value and extraordinary interest for scientific research.

Prehistoric insects, perhaps attracted by the aromatic scent or the colour of the still sticky and viscous resin, alighted on it and were unable to escape, becoming encased in the hardening resin and thus surviving to this day.

One of the most fascinating secrets that amber reveals is the picture of the forests that flourished millions of years ago and have been preserved in amber as mummified remains. Thanks to the structure of amber they did not mineralize.

The oldest fossil amber deposits are over 130 million years old. Dinosaurs, in contrast, developed some 300 million years ago, until they became extinct following, it is thought, a huge meteor striking the Earth 30-65 million years ago. However, as yet only one example of a 3.5 cm fully preserved lizard of the Lacertidae family has been discovered. The actual amber age is that of the modern period, some 30-65 million years old.

Healing properties

Amber is one of the most effective and versatile healing stones that exists. It helps with allergies, eczema and rashes, for example, animal allergies, hay fever and pollen allergies.

Amber is flammable and produces an aromatic scent, so that many types of amber have been – and still are – used in the most varied cultures, burned as incense in ritual ceremonies. The aromatic fumes have been used for their liberating and anti-spasmodic effect in the treatment of respiratory diseases since the time of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1178). Amber relieves toothache in children and pain experienced by adults after dental work and oral infections. However, its main use is clearly in the treatment of arthritis, osteoarthritis, non-articular rheumatic syndrome, rheumatism and back pain. [Amber ointment]

Amber also works well against sore throats, influenza, high temperature, eye pain, earache and bronchial asthma. It strengthens the metabolism and promotes liver and thyroid functions. It also speeds up the healing of wounds and inflammation, for example of the knee, ankle and hip, and tendonitis.

Amber encourages self-healing, takes away anxiety and produces a feeling of equanimity. It strengthens decision-making capability and prevents hasty panic decisions.

Natural amber contains 3-8% of succinic acid in its outer crust, which is the source of its healing properties. Unpolished, natural necklaces, pendants and bracelets are thus especially suited to therapeutic purposes. Amber is electronegative and when it is in direct contact with the body the latter is ionized, thus improving electrolytic balance significantly.