ROMANCE, HISTORY & LORE
Amber, a gold-colored gem made of fossilized tree resin, has ensnared the curiosity of man for millennia.
An ancient Greek tale describes amber as the “nectar of the setting sun,” pooling like gold in the evening seas. Medieval clerics crafted fine amber into rosary beads. The gemstone was so treasured that by 1400 A.D., knights controlled the European amber trade, and possession of its raw form was banned by commoners.
Amber dates between 25 and 50 million years old, and can be found throughout the world.
Baltic amber is particularly prized; it comes from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Russia. Occasionally, fine specimens grace the shores of the Baltic Sea as far away as Denmark, Norway, and England.
Other amber sources include the Dominican Republic, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Lebanon, Sicily, Mexico, Romania, Germany, and Canada.
Because of its soft, fragile nature, natural amber does not tolerate enhancements or treatments.
The exception is ambroid, or “pressed amber.” Often mistaken for true amber, ambroid is created when small fragments of genuine amber are welded into a single form.
Though millions of years old, amber is quite soft and brittle, and should be delicately cared for.
To keep amber pieces in pristine condition, avoid wearing them while applying soaps, detergents, shampoos, commercial cleaning agents, perfumes, etc. These harsh compounds tend to dull the gemstone’s finish and leave a white residue.
To clean amber, use lukewarm water and a soft flannel cloth to gently remove dust and dirt. Dry with another soft flannel cloth, then polish the stones with a high-quality olive oil to restore their sheen. Remove excess oil, and store in a soft cloth to ensure that it does not contact other metals or jewelry. Never use an ultrasonic or steam cleaner, at the risk of shattering the delicate gemstone.