Amber is a beautiful, deep yellow mineral that is highly prized all over the world. Though most people classify it among precious gems and stones, it is not, in fact, a stone at all, but a resin. It looks delicate but is actually rock hard. It is both a fossil and contains fossils. It is formed from natural tree sap derived from trees that are long extinct, and has been used for healing, in alchemy and in beauty for tens of thousands of years.
But where does amber originate, and where are the primary sources? Learn where amber comes from, how it is gathered, mined and shaped, and how it gets from raw fossil to daily use.
Sources of Amber
Amber can actually be found all over the world. This is because the trees that originally produced the sap from which it is made were widespread and also were carried over a broad geographic range due to millennia of geological activities.
United States Amber
Amber is found throughout the United States. In Kansas, dark amber was once found along the Smoky Hill River, but this area was flooded before less than 50 pounds could be gathered, making it a rare form of the substance. It has also been found in Alaska, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, Texas and Wyoming.
To date, the largest deposit of amber found in the United States has been in Arkansas, where over 900 specimens encasing insects, plants and arachnids have been found in lignite beds. These are reported to have been discovered in the Claiborne Formation from the Eocene era near Malvern, AR.
The kind of amber that is most prized among jewelers, and the most commonly found, is Baltic Amber. This form of amber is most often found in the Baltic region of Russia, west of Kaliningrad. However, it has also been discovered in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and throughout Russia. Sometimes it is even found washed up on the shores of northern Europe in Denmark and Norway and as far away as England.
Other Sources of Amber
Amber can be found spread all over the world. Deposits and isolated finds have occurred in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Sicily, Romania, Mexico, Germany and even Lebanon.
Differences in Amber Deposits
Each amber deposit is unique and has differences that set it apart from other forms of amber. These differences have been used by historians to trace trade routes in the ancient world—an amber piece of artwork originating in England found in a medieval archeological site in Iran, for example, tells us a lot about the trade routes of the world in the Middle Ages.
Even today, as amber becomes ever more precious and rare and sources of amber harder to come by, it is treasured for its beauty, resilience and uses from medicines to essential oils, incense and jewelry. For more about how we use amber, read about our company and explore the various active wear options we have today.