During the interwar period amber industry was small in Lithuania firs of all because of small raw amber material amounts. Until the Second World War around 2000-4000 kg per year of it was acquired in various ways. There is no actual data on how much of amber was processed before the war, but we can estimate it around 4-10 tons. This means that around half of the raw materials had to be imported from abroad. Raw amber materials could be purchased in Germany, but the German monopolists not always sold it for normal prices and at needed amounts – this depended on the demand of raw amber and its artifacts as well as the price in the world market. Thus, the bourgeois amber industry in Lithuania couldn‘t develop steadily because of its dependency on the overseas markets. Also Lithuanian amber artifacts had little demand.
Larger amber workshops were in Klaipėda, Palanga and Kretinga. Still their work methods and tools used were quite old, the working conditions – bad and the amber artifact were of low artistic level: mostly round necklaces, naturalistic brooches, crosses, rosaries and similar artifacts. Almost nobody thought of proper amber processing considering its natural qualities.
During the war amber industry was completely destroyed in Lithuania and the processing specialists – dispelled.
During the first years after the war amber was processed in a workshop named „Gintaras“ („Amber“) in Kaunas, since 1946 – Klaipėda City Manufactory and Lithuanian Art fund Klaipėda „Dailė“ Manufactory. Also, the amber processing manufactory in Palanga was established by the Kretinga City Manufactory and a workshop in Plungė – by the Plungė City Manufactory. Later on, a processing plant in Vilnius was established as well as a workshop „Lietuvos gintaras“ („Lithuanian amber“) in Palanga.
The most various and artistic amber artifacts were made by Klaipėda „Dailė“ manufactory with its workshop later relocated to Palanga. This workshop was the only centralized artistic amber artifact manufacturer in the Republic for some time. The best working conditions were organized here, the newest equipment was purchased, the best specialists, professional painters and folk artists were employed.
In order to further increase the amber artifact quality and artisticity, Lithuanian Government established that amber artifacts will be manufactured only by local Ministry of Industry‘s Art and Souvenir Manufacturing Association „Dovana“ („Present“) and Lithuanian Art Fund companies, as well as Lithuanian Folk Art Association masters and painters, in 1973. It was decided to establish an interdepartmental Art Council for amber artifact evaluation and manufacturing standard establishment.
Amber jewelry and other artifacts are also created by separate painters and folk masters who live in Vilnius, Klaipėda, Palanga and other.
During the after-war period amber artifact assortment in Lithuania was quite wide, though the artistic level wasn‘t that high yet. Mostly various amber jewelry pieces were manufactured. Strict geometric forms of women‘s jewelry are characteristic to the biggest part of this period: round regular-shaped round beads, brooches, medallions, earrings, etc. Some of the artifacts were manufactured in naturalistic vegetative forms without paying attention to amber‘s natural qualities.
A professional painter and designer Feliksas Daukantas was the first one to use the so-called „negative engraving“. Natural aesthetic qualities of amber were more pronounced when treating it this way. The form, color, shades, inner layers of the piece were matched to the use of the artifact. After removing the plaque layer from the amber interesting and fantastic views appear when looking from the lucid side (painter F. Daukantas estimated that the lucid side is the one that was once turned to the sun). The painter only sometimes accentuated a motive and the amber became a beautiful souvenir. Often it‘s enough to slightly change the shape of the amber piece, to polish its lucid side and the wonderful layers are revealed before our eyes, sometimes reminding of a landscape, sometimes of a fantastic forest and so on. At the museum many such decorative miniatures are exhibited: „Sea landscape“ by F. Daukantas, „Flame“ by E. Mikulevičius and others. A vivid example of negative engraving is „Seashore“ by E. Mikulevičius.
Painter F. Daukantas started to advocate an even more progressive method of amber treatment in his works and articles in the press in 1956. Together with the geometric form turned beads, brooches and medallions it was started to create free form (natural amber) jewelry. According to F. Daukantas and other artistic manufacturing specialists‘ offer, new technical terms were established in our amber industry in 1957 that allowed maximally highlighting the properties of the material and using better technology.
Serial amber artifacts (bead twines from rhythmically matched oblong, flat, round and irregularly shaped pieces of various color shades) created according to the standards created by L. Šulgaitė, F. Daukantas, B. Mikulevičienė and E. Mikulevičius and manufactured by Klaipėda „Dailė“ manufactory are exhibited in Palanga amber museum.
Here you can also find the unique amber jewelry sets for men and women as well as necklaces created by V. Kojalavičiūtė-Užpalienė. These wonderful artifacts were created while keeping to the opinion that the artifact shouldn‘t be valued according to the work that the master put into it, but according to its aesthetic advantages.
Such way of manufacturing amber gives a great economic effect: first of all, because when turning the beads waste accounted for 70% of the materials and now the amount of waste was greatly diminished.
The new-found possibilities allowed using natural amber pieces for sculpture works. Nature itself gave amber pieces the most various forms. While a little accentuating those forms or making use of the texture advantages the artist can create very interesting sculpture compositions.
The museum has many of such sculpture artifacts: „The Neanderthal“– a natural amber piece adapted by F. Daukantas, sculpture etude weighing 1.5 kg „Kęstutis and Birutė“, a carved amber piece „Boatswain“, two natural amber pieces „Owl“. In A. Vertulienė, J. Vertulis, E. Augaitytė, Ž. Januškaitė, I. Pakutinskienė author showcases of sculpture artifacts attract the eye. The exposition is also decorated by a natural amber piece collection of various sculpture forms gathered by E. Mikulevičius. The turn towards the disclosure of new natural amber qualities, free forms and the display of natural beauty of amber‘s texture expanded our amber industry assortment.
The artifacts created by Palanga workshop masters and lone manufacturers can be divided into two groups: women jewelry and purely decorative creations. Together with women adornments jewelry for men was also made – cufflinks for shirts and ties, etc. Turned necklaces were increasingly denied. The most of the jewelry on exhibitions in various museums (necklace twining, medallions, brooches, bracelets, pendants) is of natural form or close to it and only minimally polished, usually asymmetric. Such adornments reveal the amazing structure, texture and color beauty of amber.
For some time, amber jewelry was mainly necklaces, medallions, arranged with metal chains. Not so long ago another new decorative amber artifact type was born – miniature amber mosaic. Artist G. Blažytė-Guntienė has been working in this field since 1959, at first, making mosaic portraits from amber pieces and chippings and later on moved on to landscape compositions using larger polished amber plates. The artists were encouraged to make miniature landscape compositions by the variety of amber colors and thus, the variety could be achieved on the work by adding lyric nuances to the composition. G. Blažytės-Guntienė and P. Grėbliūnas miniature amber mosaic compositions are exhibited at the museum.
New attempts to increase the use of amber in Fine Arts are noticed in all branches of this Art. Furniture, souvenir boxes, leather works, bags, albums, even shoes are adorned with amber inserts. Even though the use of amber in these fields can’t be justified either by artistic or functional view, it still represents the unique popularity of amber in our everyday life. Amber is usually used for jubilee gifts and various prizes now. For example, Lithuania presented Ukraine with a creation by artist F. Daukantas and architect S. Ramunis – the base of which was of 2 kg amber block. For the best Baltic region movie a price named “The Great Amber” is awarded.
A nice team of qualified amber artisans grew up during the Soviet years. These artists are included into this team: F. Daukantas, B. Jociūtė-Mikulevičienė, E. Mikulevičius, E. Augaitytė, Ž. Jonuškaitė, A. Vertulienė, J. Vertulis, A. Milkintas, G. Blažytė-Guntienė, L. Šulgaitė, V. Užpalienė, S. Mažeikaitė, G. Žilinskaitė and others. Beautiful amber artifacts are created by the Telšiai Fine Arts School as well as folk artists. These are: Z. Daugėla, V. Galdikas, J. Liukaitis, I. Pakutinskienė, F. Pakutinskas, M. Toleikis, D. Varkalis, R. Andriekutė, A. Varnienė, A. Gudžiūnas, J. Griciūnaitė, A. Jarutis, A. Budrikas and others. Their works are exhibited at a separate museum hall. The artists, together with the folk artists not only beautify our surroundings, but also represent our country during the international trade shows by revealing the “Treasures of Jūratė”.