Commonly known as “Baltic Gold”, amber has a special place among Latvians. Many different elements in diverse contexts connect their culture to this precious stone. You could travel abroad and find Latvia’s Amber Chorus singing. You could just go for a walk in Riga and feel the scent of the Amber perfumery, or you could just seat for breakfast and ask for amber cheese to sprinkle on top of your bread while you chat across the table with Amber about the weather or the Amber Sea.
Even though many Latvians may think of amber as a stone only used in the jewelry business, there is so much more to tell about this marvelous material.
WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS:
Amber stone is not exactly a stone at all but is a fossilized tree resin. It comes specifically from the Pinus succinifera tree and its fossilization process can be traced back to the Tertiary period (over 65 million years ago). It is formed from a sticky resin, which is why it usually contains animal and plant inclusions, such as mosquitoes and other insect species. Amber is one of the very few varieties of organic gemstones that include pearls, corals, and ivory.
The organic stone comes in a variety of shades which characterize Latvia. Some amber is as yellow as gold, another is the caramel color of honey, and there is amber as the red of seaside sunset.
A BIT OF HISTORY BEHIND THE SUBSTANCE OF THE SUN:
The truth is, amber has been considered a precious item since ancient times. In Ancient Rome, there was a trade route that connected the Baltics to Rome, known as the Amber Road. It went from France, Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, and Italy. Then a branch moved to Egypt and, another one to Arabia going along to India.
Before Rome, Ancient Greeks had a name for it – the “substance of the sun” and only the wealthy had access to jewelry pieces made of it.
Because many of the artifacts made of amber had insects within them, they were used like talismans with magic virtues worn to ensure safe and abundant hunting.
Amber has been used for medicinal purposes for as long as it has been used as a jewel. Amber is used to healing both internal and external disorders. The Baltic amber’s unique healing properties may be connected with its content of succinic acid -a natural analgesic and healing agent- which is higher than the one you can find in amber fossils from other regions. Amber is known for being a solar stone, and almost always feels warm, working as an excellent bio-stimulant.
Pieces carved into amber are used by alchemical healers, as they are a powerful healers and blood cleansers. It is believed that amber helps to move the energy around the body and has the ability to ease pain in joints and ligaments and energize the endocrine system, creating good healing outcomes in the stomach area. It is also reputed to boost the immune system, reduce throat inflammation, and help healing wounds, stomach infections, and respiratory diseases.
THE BALTIC GOLD IN BUSINESS:
The most widespread commercial use of amber is in jewelry-making. Latvians put it in their brooches, necklaces, pendants, beads and textiles. You can find it set in silver by a craft master in a fine art-gallery-like store, or you can simply buy it at a gift shop in Old Riga almost from the hands of the craftsman.
Furthermore, amber is applied as a strategic material on nuclear submarines and in the engines of spacecraft as an insulator in electrical components. Such amber cores were also used in the equipment that measured radiation levels after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. These facts just add up to the importance Latvians have historically given to amber.
Amber has very special optical properties that have been utilized ever since the Middle Ages. A few centuries ago, spectacles and lenses were made from amber, and at the present day, many different manufacturers of optical equipment use amber to improve the quality of lenses.
It is commonly used for medicinal purposes, which is why it is easy to buy it as a healing stone. There are many websites that offer amber almost as a powerful health talisman from the Baltics.
Other products made of amber include amber oil and amber varnish. These are used to make high-quality paints and varnishes. Amber varnish is essential for restoring the gilded roofs of architectural monuments. Also, medicinal amber filaments and fashion items such as shawls made of amber textiles can be found lately as some of the new and unique applications of the “substance of the sun”.