Amber, succinite or amber?

November 15, 2019 /  

The names of precious and semi-precious stones have different origins, often they result from the characteristics of a given stone. Terminological complexities are also associated with our national treasure - Baltic amber.

Name succinite is derived from the Latin word Succinum meaning juice[1]. The first mention of this name appeared in the work of Pliny the Elder written in the first century BC "Natural History". "Our ancestors also believed that amber is a juice (from Latin. sucus) wood, calling it succinum for this reason. "[2]. Amber was called in ancient Greece electron - "the stone that attracts", as well as the stone "coming from the Sun." Term jantar has Finno-Ugric roots and is close to Lithuanian gintaras (amulet). The Phoenicians, ancient inhabitants of the eastern-southern part of the Mediterranean coast, called succinite jainitar, which means sea resin[3].

Polish name "amber"Comes from a German word Bernstein (which meant a burning stone), because after burning it burns with a bright flame, intensely kicking and emitting a pleasant resinous smell[3]. Succinite is commonly called depending on the place of extraction: Baltic amber (Poland, Russia, Lithuania), Saxon Amber or Bitterfeld amber (Bitterfeld, Germany), orUkrainian amber[1]. All the resins mentioned above have a common genesis, often combined with one parent tree, properties and chemistry. These factors depend on the environmental conditions during formation, sedimentation, deposition, diagenesis and transport of the lump. When mining the main mineral in succinite mines, the accompanying minerals: gedanite, glessite, gedano-succinite are found. these resins differ from succinite by the features listed above[1].

Complexity of terminology is also associated with the word "amber". Gemmological nomenclature has assumed that this name is reserved for succinite because it is associated with the origin of amber, the area of occurrence (the Baltic Sea basin) and chemistry. On the market of gemstones, other fossil resins that have no common past or chemical composition with succinite are also incorrectly called amber, e.g. fossil resin from Borneo, Mexico or the Dominican Republic. It is often even used to describe subfossil resins, e.g. African amber, which is in fact a copal from Tanzania or Congo[4].

In summary - each of the above names is correct. We can use the terms amber, amber or succinite interchangeably. The only thing to be avoided is to call "amber" resins outside the Baltic Sea region.


  1. Kosmowska-Ceranowicz, B., 2012. Amber in Poland and in the world. first edition edited by Warsaw: University of Warsaw Publishing House.
  2. Pliny the Elder, 1st century AD. Naturalis Historia. Book XXXVII edited by Rome:
  3. Heflik, W. and Natkaniec-Nowak, L., 2011. Gemmology. second edition edited by Kraków: Antykwa.
  4. Matuszewska, A., 2017. Amber mistakes, errors, imitations, forgery. Gems & Jewelry, Issue VII, pp. 22-31.

Author: Karolina Drąg

Visiting the exhibition Amber Museum

Ladies and Gentlemen! From November 2023 the form of our Amber Museum is changing. The current exhibition is smaller and available to you as part of the Boruni Gallery.

Adults and children with guardians can visit the Museum without prior reservation during the museum's opening hours.

Opening hours:
Mon - Thu 10:00-20:00
Fri - Sun 10:00 - 20:00
Admission is free.
Telephone: +48 513 511 512

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