Amber Symbolism, Origin, and Uses

Written by Nina Phillips
Published: December 22, 2023
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Amber is a unique gem. Though it is a gem, it’s not a stone. Because of this, it has unique properties compared to some other jewels out there. The symbolism of amber is also rather interesting. To learn more about amber symbolism and its history, keep reading below.

What Is Amber?


Amber isn’t a stone but comes from trees.

©Knud Nielsen/iStock via Getty Images

Despite it looking a lot like a stone, amber isn’t one. To be classified as a stone, the materials that compose the gem have to be from rocks and other minerals in the earth. This is why amber can’t be considered a gemstone. However, calling it a gem is perfectly acceptable.

Amber doesn’t come from the earth at all. Instead, it comes from tree resin. It’s fossilized hardened tree resin, to be specific. This is why, when you look at pieces of amber, there are sometimes pieces of plants and insects preserved in the hardened material.

Because it’s not made from a rock, amber is incredibly lightweight. Many people compare it to plastic jewelry because it’s so light and slightly warm to the touch instead of cold like gems.

Though amber is most commonly associated with a bright golden or amber color, that’s only one of the many colors this resin comes in. Some ambers are green, blue, red, black, butterscotch, or white.

Another interesting fact is that amber holds electricity. The Greek word for amber is elektron, which is the word that English stole from to get “electric” and “electricity”. This name came from the fact that when you rub amber against items like wool or silk, the little pieces of amber grow charged.

Because amber is closely associated with the sun, it’s the symbol for the zodiac symbol, Cancer. This makes it an unofficial “birthstone” for July and a bit of June.

History of Amber

Amazing ancient amber stones of different colors and forms on a birch bark on a gray plastered surface. Amber texture.

Polished amber has been used throughout much of history.

©Tetiana Rozvodovska/iStock via Getty Images

The use of amber by humankind dates back as far as 8,000 BCE. That’s just what scientists have discovered so far. The use of amber may go back even further. After all, the oldest amber found to date came from over 230 million years ago.

Some pieces found include ancestors of gnats and mosquitoes, while others contained feathers of dinosaurs and leaves of plants.

As far back as 8,000 BCE, humans turned amber into jewelry and decoration. People made amulets, beads, and pendants from this resin. There’s even evidence showing that amber played an important role in rituals to do with burying the dead.

Some of the importance of amber may have come from the preserved plants and animals found in the resin. The gem is also warm to the touch compared to stones, which might have made the resin feel more magical than it actually was.

The color also played a part. With the slight warmth and the golden color of amber, some people, such as the Ancient Greek historian Nicias, thought that amber came from the sweat of the gods.

This idea of amber coming from gods or heroes formed from several different groups. The idea was that the golden color had to come from the tears or sweat of some higher or stronger power and therefore each stone contained a little bit of magic inside.

Amber Symbolism

Because amber is so closely related to animals and plants, a lot of the symbolism revolves around the natural world. Vikings, for example, carved amber into animals. It was thought that when they do that, the resin contains the characteristics and strength of that animal.

The same theory appeared in Ancient Greece and Rome as well. There, women would wear amber pieces in the shape of certain animals to encourage fertility. The animals are usually associated with a lot of offspring and rapid birth rates, such as rabbits, frogs, and fish.

In China, you’d see similar uses for amber. However, the focus was on one specific animal. It was thought that when tigers died, they turned into amber.

Uses for Amber

male hand holds recently found amber against the sun

Holding pieces of amber like the one above is said to help improve many aspects of your life.

©Bjoern Wylezich/

Though many companies and gem stores sell amber in jewelry, that’s not the best use for it. It’s a rather soft and delicate material. Acids, alcohol, perfume, sweat, and your fingernails all damage amber.

If you are going to wear amber as a ring, necklace, bracelet, or earrings, it shouldn’t be done all the time. It makes for an occasional bold or colorful piece, but not one that you wear out for every adventure.

Instead, use amber for more beneficial purposes. By wearing it on your person or pressing it against the injured area, amber helps with balancing hormones and reducing headaches. Amber also helps with balancing moods and emotions.

As far as non-physical properties, amber is said to bring in good luck and thoughts. Wearing the gem or having it in the same room as you also is said to improve wisdom and patience. It will help to clear your mind so you can focus on the important tasks and events going on in your life, while also clearing your mind of worry.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Michele Ursi/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Nina is a writer at A-Z Animals, FIDIS Travel, and Giant Freakin Robot. Her focus is on wildlife, national parks, and the environment. She has been writing about animals for over three years. Nina holds a Bachelor's in Conservation Biology, which she uses when talking about animals and their natural habitats. In her free time, Nina also enjoys working on writing her novels and short stories. As a resident of Colorado, Nina enjoys getting out in nature, traveling, and watching snow hit the mountains from her enclosed porch.

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