Amber Industry

Local amber industry emerged in Palanga in the 19th century. Before World War I, Germany was the biggest producer of amber objects in Europe with 33 % of the market, next came Russia with 30 %, Austria, 24 %, France, 4 %, Turkey, 2 % and the remaining 7% were produced elsewhere. As Lithuania was under the Russian Empire, Lithuanian part of amber production was included into Russian output. However, it is known that amber craftsmen of Palanga were champions of the entire Russian Empire, processing yearly 20,000 kg of raw amber. In the period before World War I there were from 300 to 500 artisans specializing in amber jewellery and artefacts. Part of the amber-crafting industry was owned by Count Tiškevičius. The produce that came out from Palanga’s shops sold well on the international market and ably competed with German amber products.

Palanga established itself as the most influential centre of amber crafting, yet the trade was also widely spread in Klaipėda and Kretinga too, while individual crafstamen engaged in the skill across Lithuania. Of note are larger shops of the period as Taner and Fridmann company in Klaipėda (employed 20-30 artisans), in Palanga, J. Reinus’s company with 80 craftsmen, ‘S. Gutmann’s inheritors E.&L.Gutmann’, with 10-15 people and “Brothers M.&G. Kan”, employing from 10 to 20 craftsmen. Smaller shops employed from five to ten people. However, a shop of fewer than four craftsmen did not rank as an amber processing company, and consequently, was not accounted as such.

During the interwar period, amber shops specialised in producing all kinds of amber jewellery like brooches, bead strings, bracelets, cuff links, as well as objects like cigarette holders, penholders and ink-pots. Metal jewellery, wooden caskets, furniture and other artefacts were inlaid with amber. Jewellery pieces appeared predominantly in classical shapes, strings came in different length; brooches were made of polished amber, bracelets of cut and polished amber plates. Amber jewellery was in great demand in Lithuania. Amber ornaments were indispensable part of every Lithuanian woman’s outfit even though they fetched quite a price. From 60 to 70 % of Lithuanian amber production was absorbed by the local market. The Great Depression of the 1930s resulted also in the downtown of Lithuanian amber production and export.

(Prepared on the basis the article: Šatavičiūtė Lijana. Gintaro apdirbimo raida nuo seniausių laikų iki XXI a. // Žemaičių žemė. Nr. 4 (41), Vilnius, 2003)



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