Amber utilization
Biruta Stulgaitė. Object ‘Reflectors’. LAM collection (2000)

Amber in Art

From the ancient times people used amber as a raw material for designing jewellery, articles, to encrust other items. The most impressive amber artwork was the renowned Amber Chamber, designed by architect Andreas Schlüter, masters Ernst Schacht and Gottfried Turau in 1701–1709. Sadly the Amber Chamber disappeared at the end of the Second World War.

In the Middle Ages the first amber processing manufactories were established in European cities. During the 17th century and at the beginning of the 18th century amber master guilds prospered in Bruges, Lübeck, Danzig and Königsberg. Amber guilds’ masters focused on producing jewellery boxes, dishes, religious supplies (crosses, rosaries, altars), furniture decorated with amber. In the 19th century there was noticeable prevalence of amber pipes and mouthpieces, ashtrays, clocks produced in Austria. During the Interwar period a lot of amber articles were produced in Palanga, Klaipėda and Kretinga. Most common forms of jewellery were classic and ordinary: necklaces of various lengths, bracelets made from amber plates, etc. Craftsmen also encrusted iron jewellery, timber boxes, furniture with amber.

In the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century amber craftsmen and professional artists are trying to reveal natural amber properties by using more sophisticated amber processing methods – many learned how to grind properly, engrave (Liucija Šulgaitė, Feliksas Daukantas, Kazimieras Simanonis, Feliksas ir Irena Pakutinskai, Petras Balčius, Alfredas Jonušas). Artists discovered diverse ways and measures to accentuate raw amber, emphasize its unique beauty and splendour (Birutė Stulgaitė, Žilvinas Bautrėnas, Sigitas Virpilaitis). Not all amber articles should be functional – more and more of these amber articles are designed as exhibits for the museums. Therefore there are many exhibits in Palanga and other amber museums that are classified simply as objects.

Healing properties of amber

The first about healing properties of amber wrote Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD). He suggested wearing amber beads for soothing throat pain. According to Pliny, golden yellow amber beads or amber pendant would help reducing body temperature. For treating eye diseases, Pliny advised to use ointment mixed from crushed amber with honey and rose oil.
Claudius Galenus (131–201 AD) wrote that amber helps to treat flatulence and stop increased frequency of bowel movements. Galenus recommended wearing amber necklace when suffering from jaundice; mixture of honey, rose oil and amber powder would help patients with thyroid diseases.

Pharmacists especially valued the white amber. Matthaus Pratorius (c.1635–c.1704) asserted that amber could protect against even plague.

In Lithuania and Tsarist Russia amber bitters were especially popular before the First World War. People believed that bitters are first aid from many diseases and could strengthen the body. Amber teats used to give (and sometimes is still given) for teething babies.

Amber mine of Palvininkai owner‘s son E. Bellman left the notes where he emphasized that in the period of 1922 and 1940 women with tuberculosis were sent to amber mines, because it was believed that the dust of amber had healing properties. Also at the beginning of the 20th century crushed amber was used for manufacturing the toothpaste, soap, massage cream in Austria and Germany.

For many years amber was used for the production of medical devices, glasses and loupe. In 1930’s H. Lampert (1898– 1981), who worked in Königsberg, after long researching and testing patented blood transfusion device made of pressed amber; because he discovered that amber inhibits blood clotting.
In modern days healing properties of amber are under further research and application in practice, particularly in medicine and cosmetics. Medics and pharmacists are actively researching the properties of succinic acid which helps the body to absorb oxygen. Biologically active cosmetics containing amber are quickly spreading not only in Europe, but also in the markets of other continents.