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Amber is a rare and unusual substance. Put simply, amber is a fossilized tree resin or sap. Ancient forests were believed to be very dense and only the strongest trees would survive. If a tree were wounded it would produce healing resin or sap in great quantities. The pinus succinfera or “Amber Pine,” as it was more commonly called, was one of these trees. Through the passage of time this sap hardened and fossilized. Amber may be anywhere from 1 million years old to 200 million years old; however, most amber today is 30 million to 60 million years old.
Amber may be found in several different colours, including creamy white-yellows (butterscotch), green, lemon (yellow), cherry (red), and orange/ browns called cognac. Amber experts estimate there are over 200 subtle shades of amber. Ombré Amber is a variety of amber that features a colour fade of two or more shades. Amber may be found with pine needles, leaves and sunspangles (inclusions caused by heat that resemble fish scales). On occasion, amber is found with insects preserved inside.
Amber jewellery from as long ago as 8000 B.C. has turned up in graves in northern Europe. Stone age graves in Europe indicate that numerous tribes, obviously in awe of amber’s unusual properties, wore pieces as amulets to ward off evil spirits. In ancient Rome, gladiators fought in clothing studded with amber for luck. Amber was also used to make spindles for spinning as spirits were thought to place hexes on thread, and amber would nullify the hex. Ancient Egyptians also treasured amber. Amber may have been used as an early form of currency, it is also believed that an amber trinket was once worth more than a slave in ancient times. It was during the Middle Ages when guilds of amber artisans sprang up. They supplied finely crafted rosaries, chalices, and crosses made of amber. Amber was bartered extensively for iron, copper, and bronze.
Amber was also believed to have medicinal properties. Amber was hung around the neck for tonsillitis, fever, and other ailments. Ground up with honey and rose oil, it was said to combat ear infections and poor eyesight. Some believe it may help with allergies, and may help your overall sense of wellbeing.