What is amber, actually?
As is commonly known, Gdansk is the amber capital of the world. You can’t take a few steps in Gdansk’s Main Town without stumbling across a jewellery shop or gallery selling amber jewellery. Even if you do not intend to buy anything, it is a good idea to have a look at what is on display. All pieces were designed by Polish artists, and many of them by jewellers from Gdansk. Our country has no shortage of talented designers, and that is common knowledge by now. Gdansk is no exception, with its extremely talented designers, craftmen and artists.
Polish amber jewellery wins main prizes at competitions, fairs and exhibitions. Amber products both large and small can be found adorning many a government (or private) office, museum, exhibition and church. Many surnames originating from Pomerania can be heard mentioned in discussions of some of the greatest works of modern (and historical) art.
Gdansk is the headquarters of the International Amber Association, established in 1996. Members of the organisation include designers and manufacturers of jewellery, as well as gallery owners. In addition, many researchers and museologists, as well as collectors and fans of this unique natural treasure also belong to the Association.
The IAA teaches courses on amber, offers laboratory testing of amber products and issues various test certificates. It also publishes educational books and brochures aimed at promoting amber. This applies not only in the context of jewellery, but also to the material’s medicinal properties. One of the Association’s major achievements is the creation of a system used to identify Baltic amber. The goal of the project is to identify fakes and imitations spoiling the market.
There are two major international exhibition events which are always associated with the organisation – Ambermart and Amberif.
But what was it like in the past?
Gdansk’s first guild of artisans working with amber was established in 1477 – after the Thirteen Years’ War. The Middle Ages had little to offer in the way of amber workshops. It was not until the 16th century that the industry began to develop rapidly. Naturally, the guild enforced a strict competition ban and was ruthless in its fight against unassociated craftsmen. However, one such guildless jeweller was able to leave his mark in history. This man was Christoph Maucher. You can learn more about him by visiting the Association’s headquarters on Warzywnicza Street or the Museum of Amber, which is located in the Gatehouse Complex.