UNDER THE HAMMER.
Byline: Mike Litherland
WE have noticed recently a shift in the market, and a surge in demand for Amber - the key factors to look for are colour, origin (Baltic is best) and weight. A few years ago the prices were quite low but one necklace sold recently for PS3,600!
About 45 million years ago, pine trees deposited resin in what is now Scandinavia and the Baltic. This resin was carried by waterways to the Baltic coastline, where the largest deposits of amber have been discovered.
At the bottom of the sea over the next 40 million years, this resin was fossilized and became amber. About two million years ago a glacier shifted, which brought the amber to the surface where it is mined today.
Fossilized amber also entombed small insects, leaves, feathers and hairs, revealing information about the life forms existing during this period of time.
Amber jewellery was very popular during the Roman Empire, the most famous excavation of amber occurred during Nero's reign, when a Roman Legion was sent to the Baltic Coast to acquire amber and brought back so much of the gem that an entire stage for gladiator fights was made of amber.
By the turn of the 11th century, Gdansk (in Poland) had become the center of amber production i.e. necklaces, rings, and pieces for board games.
The 17th century is considered the golden age of the amber craft, with distinguished artists creating caskets, and furniture inlaid with gold, silver, and amber.
In 1701, the Prussian King Frederick I commissioned architect Andreas Schluter and amber artist Gottfried Wolffram to create an entire room of amber for the Berlin Palace. The room was not completed in Frederick's lifetime and was abandoned by his successor as too expensive. It was acquired in 1716 by the Tsar of Russia as an official gift, and ultimately completed and installed at the summer residence Catherine Palace.
The Amber Room was looted during World War II by Army Group North of Nazi Germany and brought to Konigsberg for reconstruction and display. Knowledge of its current whereabouts remains a mystery. In 1979, efforts were undertaken to rebuild the Amber Room. In 2003, after decades of work by Russian craftsmen and donations from Germany, the reconstruction began at the Catherine Palace.
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