amber symbolism - floral motif earringamber symbolism - floral motif earring

Amber Symbolism

Amber has a long history of ornamental use and popular associations with animals, energy, and the Sun. Learn more about amber symbolism and lore.

1 Minute Read

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.
Dangling Flower earring
Dangling flower amber earring. Photo by Choon Hong Yap. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Organic Inclusions and Amber Symbolism

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.

Baltic amber
Many ancient cultures traded for amber, especially highly prized pieces from the Baltic Sea area. Archeologists have found Baltic amber as far away as Egypt and in the celebrated graves of Mycenae in Greece. Insects in Baltic amber. Photo by Brocken Inaglory. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

Amber Sunshine

Amber's bright, sunshine colors also enhanced this connection. The Ancient Greek historian Nicias believed amber to be congealed droplets of sweat formed on the Earth as The Sun set beneath the waves. Other ancient writers depicted these "droplets" of fossilized sap as the tears of gods or heroes on various quests.

Animals and Amber Symbolism

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.

amber symbolism - bear
"The Amber Bear of Happiness."Photo source:, Michał Słupczewski.

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.

 gecko in amber
Gecko in amber, on display at the Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum, Bathurst, NSW Australia. Photo by PG Palmer. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

Amber's Magical Associations

Not surprisingly, magic workers would often wear amber necklaces, believed to be charged with powerful energies. The possession or gift of such a necklace indicated great power and esteem. In The Odyssey, Penelope's suitors hope to impress her with gifts. They send their servants to fetch magnificent presents to outdo one another. Of one such gift, Homer writes:


Received a golden necklace, richly wrought,

And set with amber beads, that glowed as if

With sunshine.

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!

Pre-Hispanic ear jewelry
Pre-Hispanic ear jewelry, on display at the Museum of Amber, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

International Gem Society

Never Stop Learning

When you join the IGS community, you get trusted diamond & gemstone information when you need it.

Become a Member

Get Gemology Insights

Get started with the International Gem Society’s free guide to gemstone identification. Join our weekly newsletter & get a free copy of the Gem ID Checklist!