This fossilised vegetable resin is, according to legend, a concretion of birds' tears. The birds were the sisters of Meleager, who never ceased weeping for the death of their brother. —Ovid: Metamorphoses, viii. line 270, etc.
Around thee shall glisten the loveliest amber That ever the sorrowing sea-bird hath wept.
T. Moore: Fire Worshippers.
“You may be disposed to preserve it in your amber.” Notes and
Pretty! in amber, to observe the forms Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms, The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare, But wonder how the devil they got there.
Pope: Ep. to Arbuthnot , 169–72.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894