Amber History

HISTORY OF AMBER

 

Amber Jewellery / Amber JewelryAmber is the fossilised resin produced by the sap of ancient trees which were living many millions of years ago. Although classified as a gemstone, it is unique in that it isn't a mineral; attested by the occasional appearance of 'inclusions' within the amber – leaves, stalks, flowers and even complete insects which were trapped by the sticky sap and eventually entombed.

Baltic amber, dating from about fifty million years ago is found along the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It isn't mined or quarried; it washes up naturally on the beaches and has been prized and sought after for its beauty and mystery for thousands of years, to be used in not only jewellery, but also in ancient religious ceremonies as a magic or spiritual charm by priests and shamans; traded over long distances between different cultures, all entranced by this unique gem...and its origins speculated over by scientists and philosophers throughout the generations.



THE AMBER ROUTE


Amber Jewellery / Amber JewelryDespite amber being found mainly along the Baltic Sea shore, the origin of the word is 'anbar', an Arabic term brought to Europe by the Crusaders in the Middle Ages. There isn't any naturally occurring amber in the Eastern Mediterranean, yet jewellery made from the translucent gemstone was very popular with wealthy Arabs at the time; the amber having been brought to the region by trading caravans travelling along the long and difficult route from Eastern Europe.

There were three main branches of the 'Amber Route', one going via the Adriatic coast, Venice, Hungary, Moravia and Poland, another taking the maritime route westwards across the Mediterranean, past Gibraltar, the English Channel and eventually to Germany; the final route went through Constantinople, the Black Sea and the long, wide navigable rivers of Russia and the Ukraine – a route first used by the Romans.

Although popularised by Knights returning from their battles with the Saracens, amber has been used in Britain for thousands of years, as attested by the recent discovery of an amber necklace which was found buried with the skeleton of a boy who lived during the Bronze Age near to Stonehenge.

Due to its rarity, uniqueness and beauty, amber is used in jewellery wherever it is found, and further afield, beyond the Amber Route, in parts of China and India a similar pattern of trade developed, transporting the raw material to skilled craftsmen and then sold on by merchants. This amber, produced from local sources in Asia is acknowledged to be inferior to the genuine Baltic Amber used in our jewellery.



AMBER ROOM


Amber jewellery in UK Often referred to as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World' due to its breathtaking beauty and unrivalled opulence and extravagance, the Amber Room is a large chamber within the Catherine Palace, near to St. Petersburg in Russia. From floor to ceiling the room is intricately decorated with amber panels incorporating gold leaf designs and jewelled mirrors.

Unfortunately though, the room we see today is not the original, but an exact copy; the contents of the early eighteenth century Baroque masterpiece being either destroyed or removed by invading German military forces during the Second World War – historians are uncertain about what actually happened.

Amber jewellery - Green amber - UKConstructed by both Russian and German craftsmen between 1701and 1709, the Amber Room was originally based at the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin; but in 1716 it was given to the Russian czar by the Prussian king at a time when the two countries were allies. Moved piece by piece to St. Petersburg and then expanded, after several subsequent renovations the chamber covered more than sixty square yards and contained over six tons of Baltic amber.

In 1979 efforts began to rebuild the Amber Room, the task finally being completed in 2003 to mark the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of the former Imperial Russian capital city.



AMBER JEWELLERY


Unique Baltic Amber and Sterling Silver JewelleryThe earliest evidence of the use of amber dates from over fifteen thousand years ago by ancient central and eastern European cultures, in the form of religious amulets worn to ensure a safe and successful hunt, and beads and pendants probably for decorative purposes.

By about 8000 B.C. amber was being carved into small animal figurines at sites all over the region and by the time of the Egyptian pharoahs, people were being buried with amber objects among their grave goods.

Amber necklaces have been recovered from Etruscan tombs and jewellery incorporating amber was very popular throughout the Roman Empire.

At the turn of the eleventh century Gdansk (also known as Danzig) had become the centre of amber production. With the recent introduction of Christianity into the area, amber crosses had become very popular; as well as necklaces, rings and chess pieces.

In the sixteenth century, Duke Albert, the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order was commissioning beer mugs, caskets, mirror frames and cutlery from local artisans, and the following century is considered to be the golden age of amber when distinguished craftsmen produced a wide variety of amber artefacts, culminating in the construction of the Amber Room in 1709.

The Baltic amber jewellery sold today is still produced by local craftsmen in Poland, utilising these traditional skills and techniques handed down through the generations and is the modern expression of a culture and history stretching back to before the last Ice Age.