“An expensive golden collar, nicely inlaid with pieces of amber, shining like the sun, was presented to Eurimach by the town-crier.”
Nobody can tell when exactly people started using amber in the manufacture of adornments and amulets and started conferring magic powers. It is known that it was processed using flint knifes, cutters, scraping tools, whetstones and sand. The oldest known amber article dates back to the end of the Stone Age. It is an amber plate found in a reindeer hunters’ camp near Hamburg. European museums have many works of art made of amber.
In the Baltic lands in the New Stone Age and in the old Bronze Age raw amber was processed in three major centers – in Sambia Peninsula, Prussia; in the village of Šventoji, Lithuania; and in the villages around the Luban lake, Latvia.
In the early Middle Ages amber rosaries and small crosses were made. The use of amber for making of works of art became especially popular in the 17th – 18th centuries. By that time artisans learned how to cut and polish and shape amber on a lathe. The biggest part of famous works was manufactured in the Dancig workshop.
In the 9th-13th centuries, with the spread of handicrafts in Lithuania, artisans specialising in the processing of amber appeared. Palanga was one of the most important ancient amber-processing centers. Before World War I in Palanga normally 20,000 kg of raw amber were processed per year and 300-500 workers were employed in this industry. There were also many individual artisans and an amber factory in which about 80 workers manually made different adornments, cigarette holders, crosses, rosaries. Amber beads were exported to African and Asian countries and brooches and cuff links and other articles were exported to Scandinavia, Holland and France.
There was a time when artisans used amber only as a raw material. Even if forgetting all those flowers and bunches of grapes or ornaments that were glued together from hollowed and polished amber, 75% of a biggest natural piece of amber were wasted. Nobody thought of natural beauty of amber – it was pressed, melted and coloured with pigments. After World War II designer Feliksas Daukantas gave rise to a new trend in amber processing. He encouraged artists to show amber’s natural beauty.