Baltic amber has several main uses; it's not just ornamental, being used in the manufacture of amber jewellery, figurines, decorative artwork, furniture and wall panelling. Some of the other uses though may surprise you, and others you might find quite shocking.


Quite often though, when the word 'amber' is spoken or written, it doesn't necessarily refer to Baltic amber, or any other variety of amber; one historic example being 'amber oil' which was actually made from 'gray amber,' or ambergris – a substance found floating on the surface of the ocean. Its origin was initially unknown, but later it was determined to be the regurgitated contents of a sperm whale's stomach. One metaphysical website selling amber oil refers to it as 'a nice combination of resin and floral essences used in the preparation of love spells and everything to do with the sun.'


Amber jewelleryA type of amber oil is made from Baltic amber though. Known as 'spirit of amber,' it was originally produced by pulverising and then distilling the Baltic amber, using a heated sand bath. Its modern name is 'succinic acid' or 'butandioic acid' and was commonly used as a cure for rheumatism and to alleviate the symptoms of chronic gonorrhoea; it was even credited with both curing and protecting people from the Black Death in the Middle Ages. In some eastern European countries it is still used as a cure for a hangover, however its main function nowadays is as a food additive.


Another modern term, 'oil of amber' refers to a thin, colourless or pale yellow oil refined from spirit of amber; which, according to an apothecaries' catalogue published in 1898 was used to induce the menstrual flow and prevent the onset of female hysteria.


A diluted tincture of Baltic amber, produced by stirring amber chips, or even amber dust into pure alcohol and then adding water, is used as a tonic...and the undiluted tincture is now being used as a flavouring for Baltic Amber Vodka; ensuring that none of the amber not actually incorporated into items of Baltic amber jewellery is ever wasted; of course the Stirling silver which is frequently used to mount the amber is easily re-usable.


So, whether it's your newest purchase of amber jewellery, or a cherished family heirloom you're admiring, the many facets to the story of amber are fascinating – not just its formation fifty million years ago, its recovery from the Baltic Sea or nearby land deposits, its possible inclusions of ancient insects or plants and all of the rich folklore concerning its magical and recuperative powers – but also, some of its more obscure and unusual uses.


Of course, you could always just enjoy your amber necklace, pendant, ring or bracelet as a piece of unique and beautiful Baltic amber jewellery. By the way, another popular use of amber is as an aid to teething, due to its relative softness – so if there are toddlers in the house, keep your amber jewellery in a safe place.