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Contemporary Works in Amber

Few European designers work with amber today, in part because of Modernism’s rejection of decorative elements and in part because of amber’s limited availability. However, a renewed interest in traditional arts and crafts has led to creative and often startling uses of amber, for instance on furniture and ornamental objects. In the Baltic regions, artists are consciously reappropriating amber that for thousands of years has represented their culture. Their new explorations highlight amber’s multi-faceted role as an independent object, a compositional element, and a decorative feature within an overarching design.


Coda: Fake Amber

The history of fake amber is almost as long as that of amber itself. Both Roman and ancient Chinese authors document materials mimicking amber to deceive buyers. Over the ages more sophisticated means have produced better imitations, especially with the use of 20th- and 21st-century technology. For instance, synthetic materials can simulate the translucent quality and texture of amber, while adding amber powder to replicate its smell. These make it more difficult to distinguish the true from the false, although a few traditional methods might still work: by the weight of the piece (amber is extremely light and floats in water); by its smell when heated (it emits a pinecone odour); and by its appearance under ultraviolet light (amber will glow blue or green).