Gemstone Guide: Amber
What is Amber?
Amber is one of our favorite gemstones. It’s versatile and makes a beautiful addition to necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and other pieces of jewelry. Jewelry lovers around the world appreciate its deep rich, warm, natural, golden-brown color.
But where does it come from?
Believe it or not, the gemstone we call amber is actually fossilized tree resin!
Millions of years ago, resin dripped from trees and became covered by dirt, decaying plant matter and other materials. A combination of time, heat, and pressure prevented the resin from decaying as it aged. Over time, the resin hardened and fossilized (just like dinosaur bones), turning into the beautiful gemstone we know and love.
What makes amber relatively rare is the fact that not all trees produce the right kind of resin. Most trees produced resin that was too soft and would just decay instead of fossilizing into amber.
Nature’s Time Capsule
Some pieces of amber preserve pieces of prehistoric history. Most commonly, bubbles of air from millions of years are commonly found trapped inside amber stones.
But that’s not all you’ll find. Bits of plants, small feathers from ancient birds, pieces of hair and other organic matter have all been discovered in fossilized amber.
And while the movie Jurassic Park was science fiction, it’s true that some of the most famous pieces have contained entire bugs from the Cretaceous period!
In fact, 2 mites found trapped in a piece of recently-discovered amber are believed to be nearly 230 million years old!
Where is Amber Found?
Like many gemstones, amber can be found all over the world. The most common sources of amber are from mines in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Canada. Amber is also mined throughout Asia, Africa, Australia, and even Europe! In fact, nearly 70% of the world’s supply is believed to be in Russia!
Each region has its own distinct properties, due in part to the different trees that grew across the globe nearly 100 million years ago.
Mexican amber comes mostly from legume trees (cousins of the modern day peanut), while Canadian and European amber was mostly produced by conifers (pine trees). Amber from the Dominican Republic is prized for its pale blue glow, the source of which isn’t fully understood today.
Different Colors of Amber
Even though we traditionally think of amber as having a rich, warm golden-brown color, it actually comes in many shades and colors. Naturally occurring amber may be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown, white, or even black in color! And it may range from completely transparent to fully opaque.
Generally, the more transparent a piece, the more valuable it is. Interestingly, in parts of the Middle East, amber with a milky, butterscotch color is the most sought after!
Amber Throughout History
Amber was first discovered and used in jewelry during the stone age, nearly 13,000 years ago! Ancient Greeks created ornaments and placed them in tombs to honor deceased loved ones.
Amber has also been valued as a folk remedy and is believed to have healing powers. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine create an oil that is added to perfumes and other scents. Early Greek doctors used amber extracts as treatments for a variety of ailments.
Over the years, amber has been important to cultures around the globe. Polished pieces have been used for religious ceremonies, jewelry, and decoration from Mexico to Europe and beyond!
Caring for Your Amber Jewelry
Before I show you my favorite pieces of amber jewelry, you should know that because of its unique nature and composition, amber requires a little more care and maintenance than other gemstones.
First, when wearing amber jewelry, try avoid bright sunlight. Prolonged, direct exposure to direct sunlight can actually make your jewelry become darker in color.
Never ever let your jewelry come into contact with makeup, perfume, hairspray, or chemical jewelry cleaners. These can cause a white film to form on the amber itself. This film may be difficult, or even impossible, to remove.
When you’re wearing your amber jewelry, be careful about exposing it to extreme temperatures or quick changes in temperature. Getting into a hot tub, reaching into the freezer, or jumping into a cold swimming cool may cause the gemstone to crack or even shatter.
If you want to clean a piece of jewelry, use a soft cloth and warm (not hot) water. Rub the stone with a clear neutral oil (olive oil works in a pinch) and then use another soft cloth to remove the excess oil.
By taking a few simple precautions, you’ll be able to wear and love your jewelry for a lifetime.
My Favorite Pieces
Sterling Silver & Amber Floral Cuff Bracelet
This art deco floral cuff bracelet is made from Mexican silver and features a honey-brown inlay. The silver work is highlighted and enhanced by a dark niello finish. Get in touch with us to learn about the other inlay options available.
Silver & Amber Mosaic Motif Adjustable Ring
I just love this silver and amber mosaic ring. The silver adjustable band has a niello finish that punctuates the inlays.
I love the geometric layout of the amber. What a unique piece!
Aubade Beaded Necklace
This vintage-inspired necklace highlights everything that is special, wonderful, and unique about Mexican jewelry.
Sterling silver discs with a floral motif make way for amber beaded inlays. Silver and amethyst inlays are also available.
Teardrop Hanging Panel Earrings
These earrings are just gorgeous. A truly classic floral shape that’s enhanced by the teardrop inlays.
I just know you’ll love them, too! And we’ve got a variety of other inlay options available, too!
Amber Backstage Bead Cuff Bracelet
I love cuff bracelets. They really make a statement and this bead cuff is no exception.
The larger beads are made from pressed amber. This bracelet is also highlighted by small silver beads and a niello darkened finish that punctuates the depth and texture of the piece.
Why Do You Love Amber?
Now that I’ve told you about some of my favorite pieces of jewelry, let me know why you love amber in the comments below.
I’d love to hear about your favorite pieces!