Eighty percent of the world's amber is Baltic amber. Baltic amber is found along the south-eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in the countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation; and even occasionally as far west as the North Sea coast of England – being carried there by ocean currents and storms. Amber floats just below the surface in choppy water; this is why it can travel such long distances.

 

Baltic amber is recovered commercially by dredging the seabed or by exploiting onshore deposits, which are located exclusively in low-lying coastal areas. Immediately after a storm has passed local people will walk along the beach, hoping to find pieces of amber.

 

Baltic amber is commercially exploited because there's a demand for this unique gemstone, mainly for the production of amber jewellery, often mounted in Sterling silver – a particular speciality of the many thousands of individual craftsmen working in Gdansk, known as the 'City of Amber.' In fact, the origin of the term 'Sterling silver' can be traced back to mediaeval traders based in the city, a member of the Hanseatic League at the time.

 

Of course, other parts of neighbouring countries also produce amber, the largest Baltic amber mine is located at Yantary in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad; and the two most southern Baltic States, Latvia and Lithuania, together with Kaliningrad have jointly established the 'Baltic Amber Road' – a 418 kilometre long heritage and tourist route, taking in many locations which have been crucial to the development of the Baltic amber trade.

 

Baltic Amber States

 

Gdansk in Poland may well claim to be the 'City of Amber', but Lithuania claims to be the 'Land of Amber' – maybe that's why we call it 'Baltic amber'; so that no individual country or location can take ownership and control of the heritage, culture, history or commercialisation of Baltic amber. Gdansk does seem to have cornered the market in the sale and manufacture of Baltic amber jewellery though, with several dozen small, specialist workshops operating within the old town of the port.

 

During the last couple of years the number of destinations in Poland served by my local airport has risen to half a dozen, with one of these being Gdansk, which I still know as 'Danzig'; the name used by my history teacher at school when she was telling us all the minute details of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War. In particular I'm referring to the 'Free City of Danzig' which existed until the outbreak of war again in 1939.

 

I also know Kaliningrad by its older German name of Koenigsberg. In this case, yet again it dates back to my schooldays; this time it was maths teacher, who was very interested in Immanuel Kant and his puzzle concerning 'The Bridges of Koenigsberg' – a puzzle which I think remains unsolved by mathematicians and computer scientists to this day; probably because there is no solution.