The English name "amber" probably comes from the Arabic word anbar. In Latin the word succinum means tree juice, yet the Romans called it "amuletum".
Today it is commonly believed that amber is formed from the pine resin of the genus Pinus succinifera. It is assumed that the extracted pine resin is thin enough (running) to preserve in very good state the insects who become trapped in it. Most often they are caught flies, wasps, small lizards and cockroaches.
The mineralogical name is Succinit (from succin - tree juice). It's found in the form of drops, pendants, flow formations with different shapes and sizes. The colour varies from colourless to reddish buff color, translucent or transparent, with a dull glow. The darkening comes from air bubbles trapped when the resin was hardening. The most common varieties are the yellow tones. It has a hardness of 2.5 on the Mohs scale.
Amber is known to mankind since ancient times. It is one of the first gems together with quartz and jade, which the humans paid attention to.
Worldwide, there are many wonderful and magical legends about the amber's origin. Norwegians say that the amber was formed from the tears of the goddess Freya, leaking into the sea. Sophocles believed that these were tears of Indian birds morning Meleagar death. The Roman writer Pliny from the 1st century AD said that this was petrified of bobcat urine - the darker specimens from male and the lighter from females. Another ancient writer called it "juice" from the rays of the setting sun.
The Old Greek name for amber is ηλεκτρον (elektron), "formed by the sun", and it was connected with the sun god (Helios), one of whose titles was Elector or the Awakener. According to the ancient Greeks, amber beads represent the petrified tears of the Heliadite sisters, who mourned the death of their brother Phaeton. The legend reads: "One day Phaeton, son of Helios - the sun god, convinced his father to let him ride the solar chariot. The father agreed, but as soon the fiery horses felt, that the one controlling them is inexperienced, they ran wild and nearly destroying the Earth in a terrible fire. The furious Zeus stroke him down with his thunderbolt and the young man's body fell into the river Eridani. His mother and sisters wept so bitterly, that the gods turned them into poplars. But now transformed into trees, they continued to cry. Tears fell and turned into pieces of "elektron" (amber).
The passion for amber is not only connected with its beauty but also the superstitious notions of its supernatural healing properties. It's said that amber talisman protects from evil eye. There's a belief that it is sufficient even just to touch amber to purify your body. This is why the beads rosaries are usually made out of amber.
The ancient doctors used it widely as it was prescribed to stop the bleeding, to lower the temperature of the patient and even against thyroid disease. Its extraordinary ability to attract small pieces of paper after been rubbed in a cloth is what made people credit amber with a secret magic force.
They believed that amulets of amber have a great defense power. Once popular in Scotland "lamer" (amber) beads were believed to be a very effective magical tool against all evil, different spells and bad luck and even could be used as a medicine against any disease. Many people in Scotland and Europe today have such necklaces. The late Shah of Persia wore a big piece of amber around his neck to protect him from assassins.