Amber in Poland June 18 2014


Amber. That intriguing fossilised resin, with its golden colours, its molten ways and its ability to bring the past into the present. Described as an organic gem, amber is the result of a natural wound or cut that occurred in certain trees, usually pines, millions of years ago. In response to the damage, resin would seep from the site, in an effort to seal the wound and prevent disease developing. It was this resin, in descending, that sometimes encased insects, pollen or fragments of surrounding plants that may have lodged in the bark. Poland is perhaps the best known location for amber, often referred to as Baltic Amber. It is on a very recent trip to Poland that I saw two very good displays of this interesting material. In Krakow, a store with amber jewellery showcased in the first room, also had a small museum in an adjoining room. There seemed no limit to the crafted amber jewellery, with a good range of both contemporary and more classic designs. In the adjoining room were many pieces of amber, either natural or polished or crafted into decorative items, each seeking to bring out the best in each piece. Intricate silverwork might embellish a rich, honey-coloured, translucent amber piece, whilst another polished specimen, in soft yellow opaque colours, might be carved into a beautiful three-dimensional ornament. All of these showcased the beauty and form of amber.
The other place I visited was the Museum of the Earth in Warsaw. Here, they too displayed a wonderful variety of crafted jewellery and carvings. Polished amber, often larger than a hand would sit alongside a natural, untouched piece, with its orange, red or yellow runnels and ‘frozen’ flows somehow fleshing out its ancient story. No amber display would be complete without showing the insect, plant and sometimes vertebrate inclusions, illuminated or backlit, the better to view the life forms from the past. I had only ever seen small pieces of amber before, so to go to Poland and see these wonderful displays was a special part of my journey.