How is amber mined?


We are talking about the countries in which amber is mined today, how it is done and where this fossilized resin is then used.

When did people start using amber?

In ancient times, this "stone" was traded all over the world. Almost six thousand years ago, people already processed amber with improvised means - using stones and bones - to make various figurines and amulets out of it.

In the 8th century BC. Homer talked about amber as a gemstone used in jewelry. Around 250 BC. Aztecs and Mayans burned powdered amber as incense, believing that it would save them from evil spirits. During the time of gladiator fights (mid-1st century AD), the arena, the fence and the weapons used in battles were decorated with it.

Amber necklace from Ancient Greece, 600-480 AD BC. Photo: British Museum, London
Amber ring. Egypt, New Kingdom period. Photo: British Museum, London
Amber perfume bowl, 100-120 AD AD Photo: British Museum, London

In ancient Greece and Rome, amber was used as a remedy for a sore throat. And in the Middle Ages, everything began to be treated with amber - from headaches to epilepsy.

Throughout the territory of Ancient Rus', amber was actively used as an insert in jewelry, a material for interior decoration and furniture. Many amber products made between the 10th and 13th centuries have come down to us.

How and where is amber mined?

Some coniferous trees, when damaged, produce a sticky substance called a resin that protects the plant from insects and infestation. This resin drips onto the ground and gradually hardens - turns to stone. Suitable for collection is one that has fallen into a humid place, such as a riverbed, creek or seabed.

Resin on a tree trunk

The most ancient and primitive was the manual collection of amber on the beaches and shallow waters, where it was thrown out by the sea. Then the era of amber fishing began: people went out to sea with special nets and scooped up algae with them, in which the “stone” could get tangled.

The first mention of amber mining on land dates back to the middle of the 16th century. People dug holes on the shore, and if amber grains were found in the ground, they dug further - to subsoil waters. Pieces of amber appeared on the surface and were collected.

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In the 19th century, when the diving suit was invented, they began to dive to the bottom of the sea for amber. The first attempts were unsuccessful, but in the end this mining method lasted about 20 years. Then the extraction of amber moved into an industrial phase.

The first mine for industrial extraction of amber on land was founded in 1781 near the current village of Sinyavino, Kaliningrad region in Russia. It lasted only 7 years, but laid the foundation for a large industry, and Kaliningrad became, and remains to this day, the largest source of this organic stone.

Currently, amber is mined by mechanical or hydraulic methods in quarries, the specific methodology is different in different industries.

For example, in the same Kaliningrad, stone is mined like this:

  • the earth washed out of the quarry enters the amber factory through a grate with cells 5 cm in diameter, where workers select the largest pieces of the mineral;
  • боmost of the barren rock, after passing through a sieve with 2 mm cells, is sent to waste;
  • the remaining material is passed through a system of arc sieves, where it undergoes primary washing and dehydration;
  • in the separator, this mass is exfoliated in a special solution with a density lower than that of amber, due to which small amber, as well as pieces of wood, float to the surface;
  • amber, separated from impurities, enters the sifter - a system of sieves moving in opposite directions with grids of different diameters, located one above the other. Under the action of vibration, amber is sifted and sorted according to size.

Large amber is sold to jewelers, while smaller and darker amber is sold to industrial production.

How and in what areas is amber used today?

Main scope amber is jewelry. The stone is used to create all kinds of jewelry, the price of which depends on the age and appearance of amber. So, ordinary soft amber is more often left in the form of round and oval cabochons. But hard bermite - faceted, making it look like other jewelry stones.

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The unique blue amber. Thanks to its delicate pastel shade, products with it look magical.

Pendant with Dominican blue amber. Photo:

In industry, amber is used to make varnish, which is used to cover wood products, such as furniture, musical instruments, or wooden parts of ships. Amber is also used to insulate wires in technology.

In addition, even now amber is used in medicine and cosmetology. Amber oil is used to warm up the muscles or as a warming ointment for colds. And amber powder is used as a scrub for the skin of the face or head.

Representatives of various areas of traditional medicine believe that this stone helps to increase the level of energy in the body, so they find it used in the treatment of all possible diseases. And esotericists claim that amber can charge a person with positive and vitality.