Amber is the fossilized tree resin of now-extinct conifer trees and ancient pines. Resin, exuded by trees as a protective mechanism against disease and insect infestation, hardened and became preserved in the earth's crust for millions of years. Amber is an amorphous stone, meaning that, like glass, it does not have an ordered structure. It is often imitated by plastics, colored glasses and some modern tree resins, but real amber is much harder than other resins (it doesn't crumble as easily). It can usually be distinguished from plastics and glasses by its inclusions and its ability to float in salt water.
Because it is so soft, amber is easily scratched, so store it carefully. It loses its luster when exposed to ether or alcohol (remember most perfumes and hair sprays contain alcohol). Amber beads should be cleaned in lukewarm (not hot) water with a little dishwashing liquid. Afterward, it's helpful to rub on a little vegetable oil. Broken pieces of amber often can be fixed with epoxy, but to help prevent damage in the first place, tie knots between beads so they don't rub together. Though the use of amber for human adornment is nearly as old as mankind, it has experienced a limited market in recent history. Of course, that was before millions of people saw the movie "Jurassic Park," in which dinosaur DNA was extracted from a mosquito trapped in amber. A worldwide surge in demand for amber jewelry followed the film's release. Could a mosquito trapped in amber really hold dinosaur DNA? No. Most amber is 25 to 50 million years old at most - the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Another lesson in history: the Greeks called amber elektron, or "sunmade," perhaps because it becomes electrically charged when rubbed with a cloth and can attract small particles. And, in The Odyssey, Homer mentions amber jewelry as a princely gift.
Metaphysically, amber is said to bring luck, as well as improve eyesight and ease glandular swellings of the throat and lungs. It also is supposed to balance the endocrine and digestive networks. Major sources of this stone include the Baltic Coast, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Russia and the U.S.A. (New Jersey). See Also: