Amber jewellery has become popular in recent years, although it has been used by humans since the Stone Age. This crystal is actually a natural resin from an extinct form of pine that was submerged under the sea 60,000,000 years ago. It can hold an electric charge and will attract pieces of paper when rubbed.
, amber was known as ‘Soul of the Tiger’, and thought to protect against fire and water. In China amber was given to gladiators for courage, and in the Middle Ages it was thought that placing amber upon a breast of a wife while she slept would make her confess of all her evil deeds. Rome
There has been a range of beliefs about how amber was formed, including that it was the fossilised tears of Indian birds; congealed rays of the setting Sun found on the seashore; the dew of sunbeams, or that is was exuded from warm mud. Regardless of the beliefs about its creation, amber has been celebrated in many ancient cultures as a bringer of courage and honesty, and protector against fire and water.
As well as its usual yellow colour, amber is also found in a range of other varieties, including white (bone amber), black, blue and green. Amber which has a cloudy appearance due to internal bubbles is known as bastard amber. The blue and green forms also contain trapped air bubbles, which cause colouring of fluorescent light. Reddish amber is known as ruby amber.
Types of amber are also named after their place of origin; for example, becalite is found in
Baja California; burmite is sourced in Myanmar, formally Burma, and roumanite is found in . The most common amber is succinite, found in the Baltic. It is sometimes referred to as ‘true amber’. Romania
The Romans considered amber to be a stone of courage, and believed it assisted to improve memory loss. It was also used centuries ago in wealth spells, suggested by its colour association with the Sun. This may also be relevant to the fact that only the wealthy could afford to wear amber in ancient times.
Amber also has a long history of medicinal use and is still used today in the form of Oil of Amber; also known as Oil of Succinate. This oil is used in the preparation of liniments. In the Middle Ages, amber was used against complaints such as arthritic pain, asthma, heart and stomach problems, plague, poisons, diseases, vertigo, protection for unborn children and for easing childbirth.
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