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What is Amber Manufacture? History and Crisis

23 March 2020

Amber craft is a craft department that focuses manly on the processing of amber ornaments. Amber craftsmen are considered by many by arstist.

Amber Industry in Europe

Amber was processed already in the Paleolithic era, but there is no much archaeological evidence of this time preserved. The only amber artifacts were found in Germany and Silesia. Those are the examples from the areas not located near the main amber sources (regions of the southern Baltic and Jutland Penninsula). However, amber objects from the Mesolithic era were found in the area of the Southern Baltic coast. In the Neolithic era, there was a huge increase in the production of various types of amber ornaments and amulets.

In ancient times, apart from the local amber industry, many new trade routes began to form, in order to transport the raw material to the south, including ancient Egyp and Greece. The main route connected the Sambian Peninsula and the Gulf of Gdańsk, the Apennine Peninsula, Etruscan countries, and Rome where various types of amber products were manufactured. Local deposits of raw material were used by local producers, especially on the Italian island of Sicily. A place well known for the amber industry, in ancient Rome times, is Aquileia.

Due to migrations and political changes, the routes slowly began to die out and the amber trade on this scale significantly decreased. It was processed locally until the early Middle Ages. In 1264, the established Teutonic state in Prussia gradually began to limit the free market of amber and in 1394 the amber trade was completely banned. The Teutonic Order obtained the exclusive right to produce and trade amber goods. Gdańsk was one of the largest amber markets. The Teutonic Order went a step further and introduced almost a total ban on the production of amber products in their country. The raw material was collected by them in Königsberg and then sold on a large scale.

They supplied amber craftsmen from Western Europe (from Lübeck and Bruges. Königsberg was the main trade point of amber. In 1466, as a result of losing the Thirteen Years’ War and the arrangements of the Toruń peace, the Teutonic Order lost Gdańk Pomerania. Those events led to the ban on the amber processing removal, and gaining the monopoly on trade and obtaining amber by locals. As a result, Gdańsk, developed amber processing, purchase network and trade. Other cities known for the amber industry are Elbląg, Słupsk, and Königsberg (later, the biggest, after Gdańsk, amber market). Amber industry was very popular in the second half of the XVII century and the first half of the XVIII century. Many amber objects were created back then such as decorative boxes, caskets, cubicles, plaques, figurines, medallions, and many extremely valuable and prestigious works of art, one of them being the Amber Chamber – described as the largest creation in the history of the amber industry.

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Amber Crisis

The amber crisis began to develop after the development of new European styles, One of them was Rococo, in which amber was not considered as a decorative element. Additionally, the crisis was caused by the limitation of the supply of raw material from the Sambian Peninsula in 1726, by the Prussian King Fredrick William I of Prussia. A significant decrease in the demand for amber also affected all major amber trading markets, including Gdańsk and Królewiec.