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Interesting Facts

Amber is fossil tree resin from long-extinct coniferous (pine) tress. Amber has been found throughout the world, but the largest and most significant deposits occur along the shores of the Baltic Sea in sands between 40 and 60 million years old. Amber has been treasured and used for millennia; beads, necklaces, buttons, and other ornamental carved objects have been made from this gemstone. Stone Age peoples believed that amber contained the resting place of the spirit, or soul, and that amber possessed supernatural properties. For this reason it was a very powerful material from which to fashion magical amulets. Archaeologists have found amber pendants, beads, brooches and statuettes of people at excavation sites of Stone Age settlements, and believe that the statuettes and amulets represented protectors - world rulers - of those times.

Amber Cabochon Gemstone:

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An enormous collection of ancient amber amulets was discovered in 1860. The amulets dated back to the 3rd millennium B.C., and were known collectively as the "Juodkrante Treasure". Consisting of 434 ancient pieces, all were described in the book "Stone Age Amber Adornments" published in 1882. Unfortunately the entire collection disappeared during World War II, and has never been located. Amber had great value and significance to the Assyrians, Egyptians, Etruscans, Phoenicians, and Greeks. During the 2nd millennium B.C., amber was partly responsible for a network of roads built to facilitate the trade. The first trade roads archaeologists have evidence for are from the ancient Biblical/Mesopotamian city of Ur (home of Abraham). By about 1500 B.C. many of the roads in eastern and central Europe had linked together into an extensive trading network known as the "Amber Routes". The ancient amber trade route ran from the Baltic Sea, down the Elbe River, and on to the Danube. From there roads led overland through the Brenner Pass into Italy, the heart of the Roman Empire. From Rome the roads wove throughout the far-flung empire. One principal route ran all the way from Italy to Spain via Marseille and nearby Heraclea, close to present-day Avignon. These roads were constructed of multiple layers of logs, and remnants of some of these roads dating back to before 1,500 B.C. still exist. Read more inside.

For the better part of a millennium, Rome was the undisputed center of the amber industry in the ancient world. The Romans sent armies to conquer and control amber producing areas. Exotic ornaments made of amber were in great demand. The Romans apparently valued amber even more than the Baltic slaves who harvested the amber. During the reign of Nero, who was himself a great connoisseur of amber, the great Roman historian Pliny wrote that the price of an amber figurine, no matter how small, exceeded the price of a living healthy slave. Not until the third century A.D., when wars with the Goths made such trade in luxury items unsustainable, did the Roman domination of the amber industry come to an end. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Baltic region eventually came under the rule of the Dukes of Pomerania and, later, the Teutonic Knights, who exercised absolute control over all aspects of the amber trade. They even prohibited the unsupervised collection of amber on beaches under penalty of hanging, and required fishermen to swear an oath that they would not retain the amber that came up with their nets. Even the mere possession of raw amber was illegal in most of Europe by the year 1400. As the Knight's power waned, trade guilds became increasingly important players in the amber trade. The amber guild established in Danzig in 1477 still exists today. During medieval times, especially within the Byzantine Empire, amber was considered the best material for rosary beads due to its smooth silky feel. The Germans burned amber as incense, so they called it bernstein, or "burn stone."