Even though Amber is considered to be a gemstone, it is really fossilized tree resin that has been appreciated for it's natural beauty and color for thousands of years. Amber deposits have been found that range in age from 360 and one million years old. As resin oozed from now extinct conifer trees and pine trees, bits of plant life, insects and other small objects became trapped in it. As time passed, the resin became encased in dirt and debris and eventually fossilized. In order to be called Amber, the resin must be several millions years old. Recently hardened resins are called copals. Amber is perhaps one of the oldest gemstones used for human adornment. It has been found in European grave sites dating back to 8000 B.C..
Heating Amber will cause it to soften and eventually burn. if heated over 200 C, it decomposes, leaving behind a black residue known as "amber colophony" or "amber pitch", which, when dissolved in turpentine or linseed oil forms "amber varnish" or "amber lac".
Amber is found in many different colors. Besides the usual yellow-orange-brown that is commonly associated with the name Amber, it is also found in red, also called cherry amber, green amber and even blue amber, which is rare and highly sought after. The most highly prized Amber is transparent. Opaque Amber contains many tiny bubbles and is referred to as honey amber. Although all Dominican Amber is florescent, the rarest Dominican Amber is blue amber. It turns blue in natural sunlight or any other whole or partial ultraviolet light source. Only about 100kg a year are found which is the main reason it is so valued. Amber is a soft gemstone, on the Moh scale it is a 2 1/2-3 and care must be taken when wearing it to avoid scratching or chipping it. Quite a bit of the Amber found in jewelry today is reconstituted which makes a stronger stone. It is made by combining small bits of Amber with linseed oil, and compressing it. One way to tell if a stone is reconstituted is to look at the bubbles in it. Reconstituted stones have elongated bubbles, while natural stones have spherical bubbles. Sometimes the reconstituted Amber is called ambroid.
Gem quality Amber is most often from the Baltic Sea area. About 90% of the world's Amber supply comes from here. Baltic Sea Amber has a high market value. Amber is also found in the Dominican Republic, Russia, Myanmar (Burma), Germany, Romania, Sicily, and Malaysia.
Amber is said to bring wisdom, purification, energy and balance. It is believed to enhance calmness, patience, strength and healing. It is also believed that Amber draws negative energy out of the body and purifies the heart and spirit.