Amber has a long history since the ancient times. Most older and previously discovered amber deposits were in Europe and you will still see today ho widely amber is used and cherished in Europe.
Ancient Amber Trade
Amber has been traded since earliest times and was considered a mystic and religious material. Over the "amber routes" it was distributed throughout Europe and to the entire known ancient world. Already the Phoenicians traded amber as a prime commodity with the ancient Baltic peoples. Since about 3000 B.C., Baltic amber was exchanged for goods from southern Europe and there were even 'highways' or trade routes crossing Europe and leading into the Far East.
In Central America, the Olmec civilization also was mining amber around 3000 B.C. There are legends in Mexico that mention the use of amber in adorning, consuming and using it for stress reduction as a natural remedy.
A Precious Substance
For thousands of years amber was regarded as a precious substance, and for its mysterious origin considered as a divine protection from harm to the bearer of amber jewelry. As such, it also became to be used as an ingredient in medicines and for religious purposes by "pagans" and "Christians". Around 58 A.D., the Roman Emperor Nero sent a Roman knight on a search for this "Gold of the North" and brought hundreds of pounds of amber to Rome.
Amber was One of the Most Sought after Treasures
In later days, from 1283 on, the Teutonic Knights, after returning from the crusades, became absolute rulers of Prussia and the Baltic sources of amber, as well as the manufacture of objects made of amber, punishing transgressors with death by hanging. For the next 500 years, amber was used again for mainly a religious purpose: Rosary beads, used by Catholics and Moslems alike.
Columbus Received Gifts of Amber in the Caribbean
When Columbus and his men arrived in 1492 at the Caribbean island of "La Hispaniola", they were not interested in amber, but in gold and for this reason the existence of amber from the Dominican Republic was little known for a long time. But history tells us that Columbus received from a young Taino prince a pair of shoes decorated with Caribbean amber, in exchange for a strand of Baltic amber beads that he had offered.
Baltic Amber was Popular for Jewelry
Baltic Amber is the most sought after and valuable for making amber jewelry. It is called succinite (from the Latin succinum) by geologists and mineralogists and it has enjoyed enduring popularity over the millennia. This is due to its many virtues, but mainly to the conspicuous beauty of its innumerable varieties. That is comparatively easy to work it with the use of many techniques is equally important. The abundance of amber's resources in deposits and accumulations as well as its occurrence both in the form of fine grains and quite large nuggets enable a wide variety of uses. The largest nugget, excavated in 2005, weighs 5,960 grams. Such large specimens appear extremely rarely and usually end up in museum collections rather than in a jeweler's studio.
Much more common are nuggets which weigh from a dozen grams to a kilogram, which given amber's low density, from 0.96 to 1.096 g/cm3, are quite large. This allows them to be used not only as gemstones, but also as a highly valued artistic material for sculptures and diverse decorative objects.
Large amber nuggets are well known to have provided the material for luxury jewelry boxes and furniture, and even for compositions on an architectural scale, such as the famous Amber Room or the Amber Altar, currently being built in Gdansk.