The Use of Amber since Antiquity to Present
Due to its organic nature, amber is absolutely unique amongst all precious and semi-precious stones, while the Baltic succinate has always been a highly sought-after and popular product that even in ancient times promoted the lands of our ancestors. Due to its warm shades and shiny surface, it is called the Northen Gold or the Sun Stone, and has been used for jewellery production and valued for its healing properties since antiquity. Amber is widely used in the modern world, not only in jewellery or medicine, but also in rather unexpected industries.
Amber in jewellery and design
The manufacture of jewellery is the most frequent, best-known and popular way of using amber. It looks attractive and is easy to process, and there are no identical pieces of amber in the world, so any embellishment made of it is unique. Ancient Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians were fond of the Sun Stone jewellery. The Baltic amber is found by archeologists in Egypt, Morocco, Mesopotamia and even Old China.
The amber treasures of Palanga, Šventoji and Juodkrantė as well as the discoveries in the Nida Stone Age settlement indicate that people attired themselves in the Northern Gold even in the Stone Age, when the nations did not exist yet. In fact, archaeologists find not only pendants, beads and amulets on the Baltic coast, but also more practical things such as buttons of various shapes, spinning pulleys and even succinate dishes. Other nations did not have a chance to enjoy such an abundance of amber, so they used it exclusively for the manufacture of jewellery and luxury items.
Over the centuries and changing epochs, watching as fashions change over the years, more and more sophisticated amber products were created: amber-encrusted jewellery boxes, chess sets, dishes, pens, pipes and mouthpieces, candlesticks, etc. Amber is still popular in jewellery today. Both traditional and ultra-modern design jewellery is produced with the use of amber.
Amber in religion
Amber has long been considered as magical, so no wonder that it has always been used more or less for religious purposes. Succinate dust was also used in religious rites of the Balts. Northern Gold, as a precious gift, was sacrificed to gods by the ancient nations. The confessors of various religions and cults produced sacred attributes of amber: protective amulets dating back to the Stone Age and rosaries that were worn not only by Christian prayers, but also by Buddhists and Muslims. In the Middle Ages and especially in the Baroque era, characterised by lavish and luxurious style, amber has become a luxury decoration for its golden glitter in Europe. It was usd to decorate churches, produce mosaics, icons, crosses, ritual chalices made of amber.
People value amber not only for its beauty, but also for its healing properties. It was used in medicine by the Balts, the ancient Romans, and even the ancient Chinese. Skeptics may say that the belief in healing power of amber is only a superstition, but it has been found that succinate contains an enormous amount of amber acid, which is a unique biostimulator, and is therefore considered to be one of the most important ingredients giving amber its valuable healing properties. As a result, the Northern Gold today is chemically-processed, and purified amber acid extracted is used in the manufacture of modern medicinal preparations. Amber is also an integral part of some luxurious skin care products.
Amber in science and industry
In ancient times, succinate was so much highly valued that it was the only one to be referred to as amber. Ancient Greeks were also fascinated by the Northern Gold for its electrical conductivity, and for that reason it was also called electrum. Today, extremely hard-pressed amber is used in electronics as an insulator. Optical properties of amber have long been known as well. In the Middle Ages, glasses were made of it, and today amber is used by many manufacturers to clarify optical properties.
As already mentioned, succinate is distinguished from other types of amber by its particularly high percentage of amber acid, thus making it the most popular amber type in the industry. By chemical processing purified amber acid is extracted, while amber oil and amber lacquer are released as a byproduct. The acid is used in the manufacture of atomic submarines and spacecraft engines. Amber oil and lacquer are constituent elements of high-quality paint and varnish. For example, amber lacquer is used for violin finishes. Amber is an essential component of the paint used to finish the golden roofs and elements of architectural monuments.
Various types of amber are valued for their scent, so the resin powder has long been used to produce incense, which in ancient times hid the smell of spoilt food. Today amber is often an ingredient in perfumes and creams.
Amber as a promotional object of the Baltic States
After it was discovered that amber could be made use of in industry, its demand in the world has grown significantly, raising the prices as well. The Northern Gold is only gaining popularity worldwide, while the flow of tourists to Lithuania and Latvia is increasing. Businessmen who are interested in the Northern Gold are also attracted. Recently, a growing number of Chinese businessmen has come to the Baltic States to purchase succinite as a raw material. Although amber resources are not infinite, we can still enjoy, be proud and make the best use of the awareness that the Sun Stone gives to us.