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Amber - a natural mineral resin coming from the conifers. If you light it or just heat it up in your hand, it produces a characteristic, resinous smell. Pieces of amber often contain bits of wood, plants as well as insects.
Millions years ago the territory of present central and northern Europe was covered by thick "amber forests". The resin from the trees dripped down on the very moist bedding and then was carried with the current of streams and rivers to their mouths, where it settled in the
sand. Many of those mouths were located on the area of today's northern Poland.
Through the tens of millions of years the resin trapped in soil and water was a subject to many physical and chemical processes, to become amber in the end.
Life in amber
Amber has faithfully recorded episodes in the life of various forty million years old life forms. The properties of amber resin have allowed many minute animals to survive until the present day in virtually unaltered state.
The great value of these inclusions lies in the fact that they have been preserved in the form of fossils found in sedimentary rocks.
Research results emanating from the study of fauna present in Baltic amber show that approximately 93% of these inclusions consist of insects. The remainder are arachnids, myriapods and negligible proportion of other small life forms. Approximately 70% of insects belong to the order Diptera, Diptera Nematocera being the most common, followed by Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, Trichoptera and Heteroptera.
Numerous plant remains have been found in Baltic amber. On the whole these consist of small fragment of plant tissue or organs which, forty million years ago, when they were still fresh and just entering the first stages of decay, were engulfed in a sticky mass of fragrant resin produced by amber yielding trees.
Amber in history
"A man came to our house with a golden necklace intertwined with amber.All the girls and respectable mother held it, touched it unable to take their eyes off it, and tried to bargain for a good price."
(book XV, lines 459-464)
Amber has been known in many parts of the world for thousands of years. The oldest amber amulet is more than 30.000 years old.
Amber appeared in ancient Greece about 1.800 BC. At this time Baltic amber was also used in
Egypt (it was even found in Tutankhamon's Tomb). Amber was transported to ancient Rome via the called "Amber Route" ,
where it became extremely popular during Neron's reign. In the emperor's poem dedicated to his second wife Poppea, the colour of her hair is described as "succina", meaning: amber-like. That was absolutely enough to create a new fashion: jewellery, luxury goods, ornaments, amulets, dice were made from amber.
Some magic properties were attributed to amber. Amber amulets were worn to provide fertility and gladiators used to sew pieces of amber on their clothes for success in fight.
One of the main sources of information about the amber trade and the palaces where it was practised in antiquity comes from mentions made in classical literature : Pliny the Elder's "Naturalis Historia", Tacitus's "Germania", Jordane's "Getica" and references made to amber in Diocletian's edict of AD 301 and in a letter from King Theodoric to the Hestians.
The use of amber as raw material for the production of jewellery and ornaments was probably far more widespread than is evidenced by the archaeological record.
Many of these items have simply not survived, amber being a mineral which is both highly flammable and has a relatively low resistance to weathering. Thus, it is impossible to ascertain a full picture of its former usage. Those objects which have survived do, however, point to the fact that its social significance throughout history was by no means trivial.
Through the next centuries up to our times amber has always been very popular and amber jewellery
still astonishes with its originality and diversity.
Amber - religion and medicine
The ancient Greeks and Romans both believed in the magic powers of amber. People thought that its electrostatic energy also had the power to draw all manner of misfortune away from them.
Tiny pieces of amber have been discovered inserted beneath the skin covering the hands of Egyptian mummies.
The history of the Amber Room dates back to the very beginning of the 18th century, when Andreas Schluter, the chief architect of the Prussian royal court, had the idea of using amber, a material never before used for interior decoration, to complete one of the rooms of the Great Royal Palace in Berlin during the reconstruction under Frederick I. more...
Varieties of Baltic amber
Baltic amber comes in a wealth of varieties produced by the great differences in the degree of its translucency and colour - from pale yellow through numerous shades of yellow to white, bluish, greenish, beige and brown. more...
Arkada Art - exclusive silver and amber jewelry. The best quality amber jewellery from Poland. Silver and amber jewellery. Modern amber jewellery. Natural Baltic amber jewellery from Poland. Wholesale amber jewellery.
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