Received a golden necklace, richly wrought,
And set with amber beads, that glowed as if
Amber, a gemstone sought after by ancient Stone Age sun worshippers because its beautiful radiance resembled the sun's rays, well deserved the tittle, "golden gem of the ages". In the civilizations of the early Greeks and Romans, amber was so revered it was available only to nobility. Ladies of the Roman court desired it for its brilliant hue and for the protection from evil spells which it was believed to bestow upon wearer. In reverence to its talismanic powers, gladiators wore amber amulets when venturing into the Coliseum. Throughout Europe, amber was worn as protection against various and sundry illnesses.
Although ancient man and the peoples of many later civilizations treasured amber as highly as gold, little was known of its origin until the age of science brought proof that it originated from the sticky resin which flowed from prehistoric trees. Few gems match amber in respect of its mode of creation, the depth of its history and its transmission of aesthetic pleasure to man. None can match it in the range of human knowledge and scientific information its study reveals.
Amber mask of Dionysos, Roman, 1st Century
Over the centuries, amber primarily came into the hands of man from the seashore and outcroppings of amber-bearing strata near the Baltic Sea; however, small deposits have been found in other places throughout the world. By the late 1800's, the Baltic amber industry had become highly organized, with extensive mining taking place in East Prussia, a region which is now part of Poland, the Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation. During the 1800s, scientists began studying the insects and other evidences of fauna and flora of the past entrapped in amber resin as it flowed from trees and primeval forests in the "Amberland" of the Baltic.
Thus, amber is valued more than ever - not only by connoisseurs and collectors, but also by paleobotanists and paleozoologists, not to mention geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists and ... women who enjoy wearing gorgeous amber jewelry.