Amber is tree resin, fossilised across millions of years into gemstones that vary from translucent to opaque and from white to characteristic amber orange.
Amber has ties to humanity’s exploration of electricity. The word “amber” in Greek was ἤλεκτρον ‘elektron’, from which the word “electricity” comes. When you rub amber against a piece of cloth, the amber will attract dust under static electricity, known as the triboelectric effect or amber effect. English word appears to have come from Arabic[source].
Insects in amber
Because Amber is not as common in other parts of the world, it is mostly associated with Jurassic Park and its revival of dinosaurs from amber, where pieces of DNA were supposedly trapped and can be recovered. That turns out to be impossible, as there is no amber found that had blood in it from which DNA could be extracted[source]. Reportedly, a 1999 estimation claimed DNA in amber could last even 100 million years, which would give us dinosaur DNA indeed, but apparently most estimations claim 1 million years under idea conditions(source J.L. Bada, X.S. Wang, H. Hamilton (1999). “Preservation of key biomolecules in the fossil record: Current knowledge and future challenges”. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Vol. 354. p. 77-87., cited after Wikipedia), and apparently there are failures to extract DNA from Holocene era – which is where we live[source]. For now, we need to abandon the idea of reviving animals from DNA trapped in amber. However, we do get some insight into what very old insects even looked like, if someone is into that. Photo below – from Malbork castle museum.
Old amber workshop
So what we are left with is human work on amber. Naturally, most of that refers to jewelry. It seems it was used as such in stone age as far back as 13,000 years ago [source: reportedly in Grimaldi, D. (2009). “Pushing Back Amber Production”. Science. 326 (5949): 51–2., I was unable to verify due to lack of access to the document]. Amulets, beads and pendants were carved from amber as far back as 8,000 BCE [source]. How was this made? I assume that Malbork museum on amber, which was the capital of a country where amber was a big resource, can give us some insight. See below.
Naturally, amber was not used as decoration only in ancient times. It was used extensively by later eras, all the way up to recent years, and surely will be used in art in the future. See below the gallery of top amber artefacts that I was able to gather from my visit in Malbork museum of amber.