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The oldest and most primitive way of amber mining is gathering it on the sandy beaches were pieces of various size are washed out by the raging waves.

Because of the changes in historic conditions and the development of amber industry more productive ways of amber mining were established. Humans weren‘t satisfied with the accidental catch given by the stormy seas. They started to storm the sea and search for amber not with hand anymore, but with a skimmer with a long handle and a net at the end.

Since the XIII century the Baltic coast was flooded with crusaders who monopolized amber mining, production and trade for a long time.

The crusaders and later the Prussian curfurists implemented amber regalia according to which all collected amber had to be delivered to the authorities.

In Prussia the so-called amber courts were practiced that imposed severe punishments for stealing amber: 2 pounds of appropriated amber were punished with death by hanging and greater amounts punished by breaking with a wheel.

Even at 1826 in Konigsberg staff executioner admitted death penalties for willful collection of amber. So amber‘s way into the villagers‘ shacks was difficult and the amber artifacts possessed by feudalists were either destroyed or removed from the land during the wars.

From the letter dated June 6th, 1830 to the Ministry of Finance National Treasure Department in Mintauja (now Liepaja) it is clear that before adding Curronian lands to Russia, amber was collected at the Baltic coast near Rucava and Liepaja.

Rucava peasants at the end of XVIII century had to pay a yearly tax of 2 florins or 60 kopecks from every man except very old men and children under the age of 15 for the right to collect amber. Peasant delivered amber to the Liepaja‘s licensed tax department and it transferred amber to the treasury.

The biggest part of amber was used for incense and the other part was sold at markets. From the mentioned letter we learn amber prices of the time. For example, in 1797 38 pound of amber were sold for 20 thalers, in 1799 64 pound for 15 thalers and in 1800 12.5 pounds sold for 9 thalers.

By the Senate‘s order of January 17, 1801, amber mining management was transferred to Curronian oberfoistmeister Dershau.

At Liepaja coast amber was collected by five owners at that time – peasant yards that belonged to the Liepaja licensing department. Later on (in 1805) it was reorganized into Perkunen treasury customs and it kept the old rights – collected amber for the customs and had to transfer it to the Curronian oberforstamt. In the mentioned letter Mintauja treasury tries to protect the rights of the five owners to further collect amber at the seashore, because in 1829 Gasenpost district kamerfervandter  fon Shneiders high-handedly changed this right into a duty. The treasury department offered to let the peasants keep the old right to collect amber that was validated in the 1817 inventory and not make it a duty.

The German Curronian barons inherited the amber mining monopoly from the crusaders and they knew how to please the Russian czar, thus the Russian government allowed them to keep most of the rights and duties, as well as the right to exhaust the seashore peasants and fishermen by making them collect amber and give it away to the government. This is extensively described in the mentioned kamerfervandendter‘s Wilhelm for Shneiders prepared „Curronian province amber industry and seashore administration rules“ of 1931.

On the twenty five paragraphs of the Rules it‘s pursued to keep the strictest possible control of the Curronian seashore amber industry, so even the smallest piece won‘t get lost. The Board consisting of the district‘s governor, border supervisors and a needed amount of subordinate seashore rangers and guards,   had to manage the amber mining.

The duties and obligations of the coast bureaucrats are shown in their oath texts. The seashore guards‘ and inspectors‘ oath proclaims that they will follow the favorable winds and make sure that the thrown amber won‘t be stolen.

The seashore ranger wows to ride or walk around his distance every day and if needed even at bright moonlight nights. He has to trace the peasants and make sure that when they collect amber, they wouldn’t steal it. The ranger also had to make the peasants and fishermen go and collect amber to the seashore when the days were favorable. He also had to search the peasants planning to go to town in their homes and if he had suspicions – search even the riding ones in one mile radius. Also, the peasants had to proclaim with which people they have ties. The ranger traced that no outsiders would walk the shores. The outsider caught had to be punished and it didn’t matter had he amber or not.

The duty of the ranger was also to write up all the collected and polished amber into a stitched book stating its weight, put it into a box and lock it. Then the amber had to be transferred to the customs controller via register and then it was send to the governor or the district once a month. The latter had to send the big pieces to the scar’s collection and the small ones – to the Curronian treasury for public sale.

On the separate paragraph of the Rules it is said that no amber master could get near the beach. With “those people” the seashore bureaucrats had no right to communicate or make business. The Rules also prohibited the purchase of amber and didn’t allow Jews to live on the seashore. For breaking of this prohibition a 100 rouble or bodily penalty was designated.

According to the Rules the control of amber mining belonged to the clerks and the gathering of amber from the sea and the dunes was the seashore peasants’ and fishermen’s duty. They had to work day and night according to the orders of the seashore rangers and other supervisors. In the fon Shneiders Rules there’s no mentioning of payment size that the peasant should receive for his work. But threatening with penalties is in many paragraphs. The peasants were punished by fines and physical penalties for one taken small piece of amber. At the same time the bureaucrats who did the same offence could only lose their job.

The seashore peasants and their grown-up sons were force to wow that they’ll collect the amber and give it all to the government. The father had to wow that “my wife, children or someone else won’t take even the smallest piece of amber either seen or under cover”. And when the son got to the age of 18, they had to wow that “if I see or notice that my father, mother, brothers, sisters, masters, workers or other people abuse or are preparing to abuse the amber Rules, I wow  not allow them to do so and won’t pander”.

So the peasants won’t forget their wows, the Statute expressed a desire that seashore pastors twice a year – on a Sunday after St. Martin’s day and at the end of March – would preach to them and call the peasants to keep to the wows of amber gathering.

The interesting thing is that the biggest reward or punishment for a seashore peasant was either exception from military service or writing into the recruits. “The most effective way to prevent the seashore peasant faking is such: the peasants who collect the amber will be exempted from military duty and if one appears to have stolen, he’ll be given to the parish recruits first of all”.

Palanga belonged to Curronian province. In the Statute it is said that the seashore guards should live “where the amber mining is the most profitable, for example, in Palanga”. The writer of the Statute regretted that Palanga amber customs is private and all its profits go to the owner and not to the government. Worry is also expressed here that sub-buyers get profits from amber as well. It is written that “30 years ago one sub-buyer Jew, the heir of Masalskis, paid 200 tithes only for the right to buy amber from peasants” and he “bought amber for half price, so during a year he would buy amber for 1000 or even 2000 tithes, and on other years for 4000-5000 tithes”.

The archive documents clearly state that the regalia introduced not only in Prussia, but also in Curronia closed ways for amber to get into the folk way of life.

XVII century gravure shows how the fishermen light up and hoist a tar barrel high up a tree to light up the bottom of the sea so it’s easier to search for amber. Though, this way was very dangerous when the sea was very wavy – the returning waves could drag to the sea not only the whole catch but the catcher himself. So this method isn’t used anymore.

From the beginning of XVIII century and especially during XIX century amber was collected by diving. Diver clothes were even manufactured at Juodkrantė. Though this method wasn‘t suitable for collection of large amounts of amber as it was quite dangerous.

Now amber is mined from sea bottom and land. From the sea bottom it‘s dug up using ships similar to dredgers that deepen ports, river channels. Before the Second World War such ships were used by „Žuvies ir Gintaro“ (Fish and amber) and „Gintaro“ (Amber) companies and they earned big profits.

Curronian lagoon fishermen gather amber at shallow waters with a special tool – horseshow form bow with a net attached to it. It is attached in between two small ships and when paddling them the end of the tool disrupts the bottom and collects the amber pieces into the net.

Amber-full layers of Paleocene period are only spread in the Semba peninsula. They lay in 6-7 meter below sea level covered under a 60-80 meter thick sediment layer. Thus, primitive people couldn’t even suspect that they exist. Some of the upper Neocene period layers also have some amber, but they never uncover well neither on the surface, nor at seashore scarps. Also, the amount of amber it has would hardly satisfy own needs. At the sediments of the Ice Age period amber is found only accidentally and in small amounts like now at the shores of lakes Plateliai, Lūkštas, Vištytis, Dusia and other Samogitia and South Lithuania areas.

So it is quite possible that the only way to get raw amber up to XVIII century was the Baltic Sea. The amount of amber thrown out by the sea is hard to establish now.

Now the amounts of washed out amber varies: In Lithuania – 600-800 kg, in Latvia – 100-200 kg, in Poland around 200 kg, in Germany  – 100-150 kg, in Denmark – 30-50 kg. These numbers aren’t exact as probably a lot smaller than the actual amounts, because amber lovers collect it and it doesn’t get into the accounts.

The amount of washed out amber keep diminishing as the bottom amber-full layers are noticeably ripped off; also they’re covered by the new solid layers from the exploited amber quarries and it prevents it from being washed out.

During XIV- XV centuries at the seashore taken over by the crusaders tens of tons of amber were collected. Especially many was washed out during storms. In 1862 near the village of Palvininkai (now Jantarnas) in one night 2 tons of amber were collected and in 1914 around Raušiai – 870 kg.


During the Neolithic and Brass periods the washed out amount of amber were much larger and yearly production could have been 80-100 tons. Amber was caught with nets and in shallower places, especially the rocky ones, with hooks and skimmers from boats. There were also attempts to dig up amber on the beaches.

At Semba peninsula scarps amber mining from Neogenic layers started in 1585. Casual digs were done during the whole XVII century. Though, these digs were done without any plan and the amber amounts found depended on the digger’s luck and flair.

In 1725 attempts were made to collect amber from the sea bottom using divers, but they weren’t successful because of poor work organization. It was returned to this method during 1869 – 1891 when diving equipment was invented. Amber was collected at sea new Prust horn. French divers were employed first, later on Lithuanians because they appeared to be more resistant to cold waters of the Baltic Sea. Diving gear and other equipment workshops were established at Juodkrantė. What amount of amber was extracted is unknown.

Though, the greatest amounts of amber are mined from the earth. The size and scope of the mines depended on the thickness of the amber-full layer, its depth, the amount of amber it had and so on.

The pioneer of industrial amber mining was Memel (now Klaipėda) merchant Friedrich Wilhelm Stantien.

He searched for amber in an area near Priekulė. By F. Stantien’s initiative a consortium for organizing of amber mining was established in 1857. The firm was named  „Stantien & Becker“ and several Memel and Dancing merchants became its shareholders. The area near Priekulė was further exploited, but amber layers were small there. At that time according to the Prussian government decree the channel of the Curronian Lagoon was being deepened new Juodkrantė. In 1855, 1858, 1860–1861 dredgers near one of the bays raised great amounts of amber from the bottom.

The businessmen came to a conclusion that the amber layer that started in the Priekulė area had to stretch further by the bottom of the lagoon towards Juokrantė that was on the same level. Using small dredgers they started to search for amber in the lagoon and were convinced that around Juodkrantė it actually exists.

„Stantien & Becker“ made a proposal to the Prussian government in July of 1861: the firm will do all the deepening works of the channel near Juodkrantė that would cost around 4000 marks per year and also pay 30 marks to the government for every day of the works – but the whole amber they’ll dig up will belong to the firm. On May 1st 1862 a 6 year contract was signed. According to the agreement the firm had to pay 30 marks for every working day, 6 dredgers had to work at least 30 days per year. Soon corrections of the agreement started.  „Stantien & Becker“ in 1863 asked to enlarge the mining area and from that point on they agreed to pay 45 marks for one working day.

It was allowed to use 12 dredgers in 1864, they daily quota was 75 marks. In 1868 the government signed a new agreement with the firm: the mining areas were enlarged even more, the amount of dredgers working was enlarged as well and the firm committed to pay 601,5 marks per day until 1874 and work 60 days per year.

But even then the huge profit of the company prompted the Prussian government to change the agreement conditions once again. Since 1870 „Stantien & Becker“ has to pay a yearly amber mining area rent fee which was equal to 225 000 marks in 1870, 213 000 in 1874 – 213 000, in 1877 – 215 600 and since 1882 – 200 000 marks.

Industrial amber mining in Juodkrantė lasted till 1891. In that year mining with dredgers was stopped and from 1892 – diving with equipment. During the years of operation the company was the biggest firm in Klaipėda region and one of the biggest in the whole province. Machine and boiler factory, shipbuilding yard (it repaired and built new dredgers), metal foundry was operating near the mine. In 1887 the amber mine had 23 steam dredgers, 4 pump-houses, 6 steamboats. According to the contemporary statement during the 1890 season 21 dredgers, 7 steamboats and 500 employees were working at the firm.


30-85 tons of amber were dug up per year.


The biggest amber mines were in Prussia. Up to 1922 those mines took the area from 30 to 38 hectares of land. The mines were well equipped, mechanized and gave the greatest raw amber materials in the world. From one cubic meter of land averagely 1-3 kg of raw amber was dug up there. The shafts reached about 20-50 meters deep.

After some time the businessmen bough another amber mine in Prussia at Palvininkai (now Jantarnyj) in The District of Kaliningrad) and build an amber processing company there. So it’s not surprising that these two merchants became one of the richest East Prussian industrialists.

Amber is still being mined in Sambia peninsula in an open quarry with modern mining equipment. More than 90% of raw amber materials of the world are provided by these mines. Every year several hundred tons of amber are mined there. It is guessed that at that cluster there’s around 640 thousand tons of amber, even though the amounts of amber mined keep diminishing: at the end of XX century 500-800 tons of amber per year were mined, at the moment the amount is only around 150 tons.

There were several atempts to renew amber mining after the richer merchants abandoned the Curonian lagoon cluster at the end of XIX century. But the primitive methods didn’t bring any luck. Count Tiškevičius tried to mine amber in the swamps around Palanga and even though only several hundred kilograms were found, but many archeological artifacts were found (the Palanga treasure).

Later on when deepening the Klaipėda waterway the amber layer was touched. It is thought that it takes an area of 3000 hectares and contains around 112 tons of amber. And in the mud that is brought from the lagoon local villagers still find amber when gathering potatoes.

Amber is still being mined in Poland in Kurpiai region, Mozavia, in Gdansk alone more than 20000 people are employed in mining, processing and trading amber artifacts.

Amber is also mined in Ukraine, Romania, Dominican Republic, China, Canada and many other places, but in smaller quantities.

The most efficient way to extract amber is by digging it from the earth with special machines. Powerful hydro monitors wash and crush tons of rock that cover the amber-full blue earth with a 40 meter thick layer. Dredgers throw out the smashed and liquefied soil into the sea through pipes. More than 100 cubic meters of the blue earth is cut off in an hour by the powerful multi-scoop excavators. The pulp is sent to the subtilizer factory through the dredgers where it goes through complicated filtration systems and at last amber shines on the walls.

Certificates about amber’s origin and originality are given out by an international organization “Amber”.

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