Although amber is a popular gemstone, it isn’t actually a stone. This material, actually the hardened resin of ancient trees, often contains bits of plants and small animals, such as insects. These inclusions of preserved remains, coupled with amber’s warm feel, may have stimulated the beginnings of amber symbolism. Cultures from all over the world have associated amber with spirits of the natural world and The Sun.
Stone Age gravesites dating back to 8,000 BCE have yielded amulets with spiral patterns, beads, and pendants carved from amber. One of the first materials used for ornamentation, amber’s placement with the dead in ritualistic formations indicates prehistoric peoples revered this gemstone. Today, the lore of amber continues to inspire people.
Amber symbolism also encompasses the animal world. The Vikings carved amber pieces into animal shapes believed to contain the strengths of the animals. In Ancient Greek and Roman times, women wore amber fish, frog, and rabbit figurines to ensure fertility. The early Chinese believed the souls of tigers became amber upon their release from this plane.
Since amber frequently holds once living things, the classical worshippers of the Mother Goddess believed amber possessed the essence of life itself. Akasha, this animating principle or “fifth element,” bound together the other elements of earth, air, fire, and water.
Another quality, frictional electricity, may have reinforced the connection between magic and amber symbolism. If you rub amber against wool or silk it becomes electrically charged. In fact, the Greek word for amber, elektron, has given us the words electron and electricity.
In Chinese cosmology, there are five elements. The fifth element is metal, a great conductor of electricity. The fifth element of Akashic beliefs is thought to reside in amber, which can hold an electric charge. Now that’s quite an odd coincidence!
Amber up to 2.5cm. are found in yellow colour with a greenish tinge and occasional plant inclusions along the Quesnel River near Quesnel. Nodules are found in shaly sandstone along the Peace River Canyon, and sizable nodules off the Pacific coast on Graham Island of the Queen Charlottes. It is also found in the Coalmont area, Hat Creek, and along the Nechako River near Fort Fraser.