Natural Baltic amber is very attractive, when it is kept as natural amber. There is radiant honey color, yellow, deep brown, red, lemon, cream and even a wonderful white. Natural Amber from the Baltic countries was and is beautiful and extraordinary, full of folklore and history. It still has the fame of the mystic, sacred material of ancient times that carries on. There definitely are still many craftsmen in Baltic countries who keep up this old, honorable tradition.
The Poland Chamber of Commerce writes:
“Natural Baltic Amber – Amber as it comes from nature. It is generally uneven in color. And it is almost always uneven in shape. It comes from the Baltic Region.
Natural Baltic amber is used in high quality fashion jewelry and art creations. It is asymmetrical, not always uniformly colored, sometimes has imperfections and looks like something that would have been shaped by nature and not man.”
Some Baltic amber associations even disqualify manufactures who use approved methods of enhancement but do not declare it. The International Amber Association (http://amber.org.pl) keeps up a struggle for a fair and clear business practice.
Baltic amber is not the oldest amber in the world, nor is it the only one. Amber from Northumberland USA is considered to be up to 345 million years old. Baltic amber is “just” about 50 million years old. Baltic amber is “succinite”, from resin of coniferous trees. It contains succinic acid, therefore the name. Whether this is important is not proven, but of course it is a commercial argument and some swear that it has healing powers. Nevertheless, according to some scientists even this is not very important, but just a result of degradation: Y.Shashoua, National Museum, Denmark, 2002
Fact is, it is a beautiful and old material. Just look a the beautiful natural amber from the Baltic.
Also know, whatever does not look like this and is declared as “Natural Amber” is fraudulent because it has been artificially altered. Already thousands of years ago, amber craftsmen in Baltic countries learned how to make it transparent by boiling it in the fat of a suckling pig. (Don’t laugh. But just imagine: selling beads boiled in “unclean” pig’s fat to a muslim country for prayer beads where they are proudly collected. Not funny at all.)
Today, in view of the pressure of a world market based more on competitive prices than on truth, still more sophisticated methods are used. There is nothing against it, as long as it is declared as what it is. Unfortunately, most amber dealers and much less their customers know what is going on.
Amber is heated and pressed into beads and cabochons. That’s still OK. It is clarified in rapeseed oil. Fine.
Amber meal and powder as well as not suitable pieces are melted down and pressed into blocks for production. Often a certain paint is applied to the backs of the amber cabochons, to cause the beholder’s perception of green amber, which naturally are not or not often found in those places. Heated up and cooled down it produces the “sun spangles” (flints) and transformed in vacuum and pressure chambers (autoclave, equipped with a microprocessor control ) will clarify, produce rare colors and effects. In order to underscore or change the natural colour of amber, it is permissible to use foil or flakes made of precious metals and colour backdrops made of enamel or paint in jewellery products decorated with Baltic amber gemstones.
Autoclaves are working in many jewelery companies in Poland and abroad. Modern hydraulic presses, equipped with electronic temperature control heaters, and automatic hydraulic units replace Mother Nature. Some even mix copal (young amber) from other countries with the precious melted resin. And sell it as genuine Baltic amber. Where will it end?