Just like pearls and corals, amber is one of the more fascinating organic gemstones. Shiny and smooth, the stone is easily cut and polished into bright, lightweight gems, mostly into cabochons. Since pre-historic times, amber beads have been worn as amulets, and such fascination has only increased with time.
A product of the fossilisation of a sticky resin from ancient pine forests that existed more than 30 million years ago, each amber piece comes with a unique colour and story. Derived from the Persian word ‘ambar’, amber is created due to high temperatures and pressure of overlying sediments. Over time, it hardens and fossilises. With air bubbles, surrounding materials, and flying insects trapped inside during the hardening process, no two pieces of amber are trult alike. They also vary in size, form, and lustre.
Disproving the myth that amber only comes in golden orange colour, Denmark-based jewellery brand House of Amber features pieces from milky white to golden and dark brown, to orange and reddish – and even the clearest green and black. Amber is usually transparent or opaque, but the most precious ones come with small glittering pockets of air inside. It all depends on where in the world the amber comes from and the conditions under which it was formed.
One of the most captivating aspects of amber is its ability to preserve insects and plants, which are trapped in the resin for over 30 to 50 million years. These irregularities make the pieces even more rare, and the studded jewellery more valuable. Sourced mostly from Russia, the Baltic region in Europe, and Dominican Republic, amber is also found in few deposits in Italy, Romania, China, Japan, Myanmar, Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
Although amber has been used in jewellery for generations, it needs care due to its soft nature, with a Mohs hardness rating of only 2 to 2.5. In this regard, the gemstone is more commonly used in pendants, earrings, and brooches, rather than rings and bracelets. Avant garde designers use it by highlighting the stone’s texture, colour, and rare impurities.
Celebrated for re-defining jewellery in the Art Nouveau period, René Lalique has used dragonfly in countless of his designs and creations. One such piece is the Libellule brooch studded with ambers to represent the ‘nymph with a body of fire’. His Gourmande ring, completely crafted out of amber from 1931, evokes the Art Deco era with is generous form.
In a unique mix of diamonds, amber, gold, and copper, the Hemmerle earrings are one of a kind. Like all their pieces, the pair invokes a desire to see them up close. Lydia Courteille‘s bracelet, on the other hand, takes us into the dark world of reptiles. It features two snakes coiling around a carved amber protecting it as their prized possession. Highlighting the captured elements inside amber is a pair of fire wasp earrings by Tessa Packard — bringing out the unusual features that only amber can offer.
Pomellato takes a sleek route and used smooth cabochon and drop-shaped amber in their Arabesque rings and earrings, in combination with rose gold for a modern touch. Designer Yael Sonia, known for adding movement to jewellery, adds an amber sphere in her pendulum necklace. The bead rotates back and forth, making light twinkle along with each movement.