All are invited to visit our exhibition titled “The Time of Amber”. The exhibit is on the history of forming amber and different methods of its treatment and usage through the centuries. You will find out where amber derives from and why it can be found in such a wide variety. You will get to know old and new techniques of its excavation and treatment, the paths it took and takes to reach clients all over the world. You will discover beliefs and myths connected with amber, and its scientifically proved healing features. It's open every day 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Entry is free of charge.
Where amber comes from?
Where amber comes from?
Baltic amber is a fossil resin from coniferous trees which used to cover the area of Scandinavian countries. To convince oneself of its origin there is no need to conduct any complicated analysis. It is enough to look at amber lumps carefully to notice that they have retained some bark, tree fiber and twigs.
Dribbling out of the broken trunks, branches or roots, the resin covered or filled up cracks in trunks and roots. Thanks to its disinfective properties the resin protected trees against bacteria, viruses and fungi. It was a specialized self-defence system of these tree species, which today is exactly the same even after so many years. There is a high probability that in the place of the Baltic Sea there was a river system, which transported trees with hardening resin to a shallow sea. Trees decomposed very quickly, but the resin covered with sand hardened and became amber.
Forty million years ago the hardening resin of amber trees trapped a piece of that world. The ancient mountains, whose majestic peaks graced the sky, long since turned to dust . Those seas got dry, in their place fertile plains came into being, the previous plains became mountains and the valleys turned into seas. The world in amber has not changed. The animals which forty million years ago did not manage to get out of the sticky trap were mummified and have been preserved up to now. Today we can observe flower petals, which dropped at the end of the spring, and autumn rain droplets. That is a kind of time machine thanks to which we can take a look at the past.
Apparently the oldest and the easiest method of acquiring amber is collecting it on the beach. During storms, amber stored in the seafloor crust is dumped out on the shore together with a big amount of organic debris, mostly sea algae and pieces of wood, creating bings on the beach called wash margin. Before amber is thrown out on the coast it is rolled for a while in the tact of waving in the shallow offshore water. Then it is possible to collect it straight from the water with devices similar to slight fishnets stretched on the edges and tied to a long stick. Even nowadays amber is acquired in such a way, and in the places where it is dumped out on the shore amber-seekers can be found.
In the past the most popular mines were shaft ones. Most often these were a few-meter-deep holes in the ground protected with a wooden shuttering. This type of excavating was mostly dominant deep inland where, thanks to the activity of Scandinavian land, the crust of blue soil containing amber was moved, often in the form of dozen-tons lumps trapped in ice. Nowadays the biggest amount of amber is exploited using strip mining. Once such mines were small, but today these are huge amber industrial groups which provide 90% of the total amount of the raw material.
Before a rough amber lump changes into a beautiful pendant or a ring it must go through a long process. At the beginning, extracted or bought amber is selected and sorted out. To make the best use of the raw material each amber lump, even the smallest one, is examined carefully, and such evaluation decides about the future of the individual amber lumps, and what will happen to them. The biggest lumps, called curios, are immediately sent to the warehouse at once without any treatment, becoming a material for a work of art or become a ready-made product for collectors. The rest of the raw material is segregated according to its size, shape and tenacity, and then sent to further stages of its treatment. The first stage is grinding an outer weather-beaten layer.
The lumps destined to the production of semi-finished products are cut to achieve desired shapes with a stone cutting saw using water-coolant. Cut angular pieces of amber are further treated in ball- and cabochon-makers, where during grinding with appropriately selected and cambered diamond shields they change into spherical beads or classical jewellery “eyes”. The elements of amber achieved due to these treatments are polished manually or in polishing barrels. The final product of these processes are ready-to-use elements which are assembled manually or with the help of simple jewellery tools into silver or gold settings.
The feature which distinguishes Baltic amber from other fossil resins is a big amount of amber acid in it – 3-8%.
Thanks to a big amount of amber acid, Baltic amber has an influence on the human body and the stone increases its immunity and improves the energy balance of the body. Although the properties were researched and described in contemporary times, they had already been known in antiquity. Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder mentioned amber properties in their works. Afterwards the properties have been researched and described by modern scientists such as Saint Hildegard, Avicenna and Agricola. All of them indicate the undoubted effectiveness of amber in preventing infections, relieving rheumatic and migraine pain, and also its favourable influence on the thyroid gland. Raw natural amber worn directly on the skin has the greatest influence on the body as the biggest amount of amber acid is in the outer weathered layer of the stone.
Having been cut, heated and singed in autoclave, or pressed, Baltic amber does not lose its properties, because it still includes a sufficient amount of amber acid. Most mineral resins coming from different parts of the world do not have this ingredient. Apart from well-known amber liqueur, there are a lot of sets of cosmetics for body care and homeopathic remedies which contain amber in their ingredients.