Jewellery is not just about metals or stones formed in the ground over millions of years; amber offers a beautiful alternative produced by trees long ago.
Fashion jewellery is not merely the custom to wear certain gems or metals. It refers to much more than that: to fulfilling one’s fantasies and enriching lives by satisfying psychological needs, to peppering existence with a variety of colours, shapes and textures, to tickling senses and giving wings to dreams. Considering this, let’s take the example of amber jewellery, one of the oldest and most astonishing creations of beauty lovers. Fashion has a strong word to say in sustaining amber jewellery and every year new beautiful creations are available on the market.
Combined with precious metals, amber can become an exquisite jewel. The beauty of amber jewellery is a result of good polishing and precise cut of a variety of amber stones. The colour of the stones used to make amber jewellery is often gold, but amber can also come into many various unusual colours like: black, green, ivory, yellow, red, orange and even white. Natural amber may also contain insects, feathers or flowers.
Amber’s prehistoric treasures
Its colours are a feast to the eye and it is unique due to the fact that it imprisons something, unlike other precious stones. There are amber stones 30-90 million years old and they really represent frozen moments in time. Those treasures are a way to look back into well preserved moments of a life that existed in the past. Fossil hunters have discovered a wealth of knowledge from them, even if the idea that dinosaur blood could be contained in them - as in Jurassic Park - is fanciful. You may not be able to get much DNA out of it, but you can certainly enjoy a level of beauty, fascination and a moment of natural history trapped forever.
Amber jewellery is also an original choice because it has some interesting properties. It has a nice pine smell when you rub it on a piece of cloth, it’s warm and it contains succinic acid (a substance known for its therapeutic properties). The stone is not really a stone, but a resin that can become soft and malleable when heated and that can be chiselled very easily by jewel makers. Amber can be shaped in the most wonderful ways creating unique pieces.
This unusual stone is not used only for jewellery. It is in fashion and, therefore, artists use it to create amber sculptures and to decorate beautiful unique items with it. Amber jewellery is often used as magical amulets which protect from bad luck. It is also thought that amber jewellery can heal diseases from sore throats to anxiety. So, amber is an organic gem that people love not only for decorative purposes.
Amber and fickle fashion
The versatility of amber might make it seem like something that will never go out of fashion, but, remarkably, that has not always turned out to be the case at all. Amber jewellery was not always in fashion. A long time ago, the amber stone was considered to have flaws and was rejected from an esthetical point of view. Although it had periods in which its beauty was denied, there were moments in time in which amber jewellery was used as a diplomatic gift for princesses and princes. In the meantime, people found other uses for it as it was included in powders for curative purposes.
Because it began to be much appreciated, people started faking amber jewellery and they created quite an industry. Fake amber jewellery is everywhere nowadays, but there are some inexpensive ways to see if your stone is man-made or not. You can test your amber gem’s authenticity by putting a heated needle on it. If the smoke smells like pine the gem is amber, but if it smells like plastic it’s definitely fake. Of course, this does mean you can damage the plastic gem, so first make sure you are happy to discard it should it turn out to be fake.
For a non-destructive way of testing, you can also rub the amber gem with a piece of cloth and smell it. If it smells like pine, it is a natural resin. The bad taste can tell you whether it is made of plastic not. If obtained through a chemical process, the just washed amber can taste poorly. Some other clues can also tell the truth about it. Amber does not melt, but it will burn. It will float in a bowl where you put one part salt and two parts water, while plastic and copal will sink.
If you do own real amber jewellery, you have to know how to protect it and save its value for many years to come. To clean your amber jewellery all you need is warm water and a clean piece of cloth. You mustn’t use any soap or detergent on it because they might ruin the amber’s structure. Even salad oil, butter or lard can destroy the resin. Amber jewellery has to be protected from heat or excessive cold because extreme temperatures may deteriorate it. A soft cloth is needed for wrapping each piece of amber jewellery in order to avoid contact, get scratched or become dirty.
Myths and legends
There are many legends built around amber - and not all of them are about dinosaurs! It is said that the yellow resin is made of tears from the sun or (in Greece) from a nymph. Amber is also present in Ovid’s work as an incredible god-like material which is out of this world.
Even if you don’t believe that amber has incredible powers, there is no possibility of denial that amber jewellery is special. Wearing amber jewellery will give a more mysterious and unique look because the amber stone is itself an enigmatic gem which preserves history and charms the eye.
So while you may not carry the DNA of T-Rex with you, amber will still be a sight to behold whenever you wear it.