By Alexandra Donaldson My hair has always been a sponge…
Amber: It’s associated with jewelry, supermodels, one infamous mosquito and perfume. It’s luxe and comforting, so perfect for our turbulent times.
Technically speaking, amber is tree sap or more specifically the fossilized resin derived from 50-million-year-old conifer trees in the Baltic region. When it’s collected, polished and set into jewellery, it transforms into the pretty, golden-hued stones dangling from your earlobes. Or better yet, a cocktail ring with a 20-year-old beetle captured in its centre.
Amber in the Jurassic period
Because amber starts out as a sticky liquid, all kinds of things have gotten stuck in it and as a result, have evolved from it, including the book and blockbuster movie Jurassic Park. The Hollywood triptych’s premise originated from a dinosaur-blood-infused mosquito found in fossilized resin. Fictitious to be sure, but it certainly made us look at bejewelled insects in a different way. Bugs however, aren’t the only thing amber is equated with—it’s also synonymous with beauty.
Modern muses: The Ambers
Renowned for being on the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, the Ambers: Valletta and Le Bon, to be exact, are the epitome of the resin’s supermodel status. For over a decade, the Ambers have aligned their eponymous name with the catwalk, to ad campaigns for bigwig brands like Calvin Klein and Redken, to the movie credits in Hitch and alongside parents Yasmin and Simon, respectively.
An impressive pedigree and yet, we’ve saved the best for last: amber’s role and longevity as a note in perfumery.
Favoured by perfumers for decades, amber is also a key ingredient swirled into Oriental eaus, including iconic bottles such as Coco by Chanel, Euphoria by Calvin Klein and Ambre Elixir Precieux by Christian Dior. “It’s renowned for the soft, seductive warmth and comfortable feeling it evokes,” says Will Andrews, the principal scientist on the fragrance design team for P&G prestige perfumes. The golden resin’s scent boasts depth, making it the ideal note to “create a sensual impression, reminiscent of a warm-skin feeling.”
While once formerly integrated into elixirs to soften bolder ingredients like patchouli, incense and jasmine, things have since changed. “Before the mid 1990s, ambery notes would be hidden in men’s fragrances, because they would have been regarded as too soft and feminine,” Andrews explains. “With the new breed of successful metrosexual men’s iconic eaus, like Boss Bottled, we are able to present the softer side of ambery vanilla as a stand-out key character in fragrance.”
In women’s scents, amber remains consistent, albeit playing a bigger role in its context with more overtly sensual and confident blends on the rise, “like those found in Gucci’s Guilty,” says the scientist.
And why not? In a society where entropy reigns thanks to a depreciating dollar and an ever-changing and more complex digital landscape, amber perfume’s surge in popularity can be attributed to our increased desire for intimacy and comfort. “It makes us think warm and fuzzy feelings,” affirms Andrews.
“Ambery notes create a sense of comfort and sensuality and both emotions are being driven by our less predictable and turbulent world.”
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sunset in Salina, $112 (100 ml), www.thebay.com
Salvatore Ferragamo Golden Acacia, $265 (50 ml), www.holtrenfrew.com
Thierry Mugler Alien Eau Extraordinaire Gold Shimmer, $70 (60 ml), www.thebay.com
Calvin Klein Eternity Now for Women EDP, $78 (50 ml), www.thebay.com
Acqua Di Parma Colonia Ambra EDCC, $220 (3.4 oz), www.holtrenfrew.com
Michael Kors Sexy Amber EDP, $87 (50 ml), www.thebay.com