real amber polished pieces

What is real amber?

The most plentiful amber found today is Baltic amber, or succinite (so named because it contains a high concentration of succinic acid). Baltic Sea amber is mostly found in Lithuania, Latvia, Russia (Kaliningrad), Poland, southern Sweden, northern Germany, and Denmark. Samland peninsula, a large, fan-shaped area that corresponds to the delta region of a river that once drained an ancient landmass that geologists call Fennoscandia, has the richest deposits. This area now lies under the Baltic Sea. You can read more here.

This fossil resin was eroded from marine sediments near sea level. It was then carried ashore during storms, and then transported by water and glaciers.  It spanned areas across northern and eastern Europe over a period of approximately twenty million years. Most was harvested from shallow waters and beaches where it washed up millennia earlier, especially when autumn storms stirred up the seabed. The mining of amber only began during the early modern period. Since the nineteenth century, huge amounts have been extracted using industrial techniques. It is estimated that up to 500,000 kilograms of amber a year was dug from the blue earth layer of the Samland peninsula in the first decades of the twentieth century.  See more history here.

Ancient Times

Ancient Mediterranean peoples also used amber from today’s Sicily, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. As well as northern European sources, ancient accounts mention amber from Liguria, Scythia, Syria, India, Ethiopia, and Numidia. There are a number of varieties used in antiquity and known today. Only succinite, or Baltic amber, can be found in large, relatively sturdy, jewellery-grade pieces. Those used for pre-Roman pendants, as well as complex carvings, vessels, and containers during the Roman Empire are good examples.

The waste of larger compositions and small pieces could have been used for carvings and other purposes. In addition to jewellery, non jewellery grade amber was also used for inlay, incense, perfume, pharmaceuticals, and varnish. In Asia, burmite (from Burma, now Myanmar) and some amber from China, types also found in large, high-grade pieces, have long histories of artistic and other uses.

Baltic Amber with an inclusion
Amber colour pieces
Amber with inclusions

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