In 1854 Whelhelm Stantien obtained a lease from the government to dredge for amber. In 1869 Mority Becker joined Stantien to form the business, Stantien and Becker. They continued increasing their dredging operations and provided divers with modern equipment for picking amber off the sea floor. They were working in the Prussian province of Samland, which is today the Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia. Geologists had determined the glacial debris containing amber in Germany, Denmark, Poland and other Baltic lands derived from the blue earth or a Tertiary glauconite formation found in this area. In 1870 Stantien and Becker purchased the right to mine on land for amber. They built dams to keep the sea back, as the stratum was below sea level. In 1895 their operation produced a record high of 1,200,000 pounds (over 540,000 kg) of amber. The government bought them out in 1899 and once again all amber became the property of the state. The government operated this Stantien and Becker mine until 1925.
Other mines continued operation with modernized mining and recovery techniques. Many of the mines were open-pit operations where the blue earth was scooped onto conveyers to rail cars. The cars were emptied into the spray house, where pressurized water flushed the amber from the soil. World War II temporarily halted amber production and by the mid-twentieth century most Baltic amber was under Soviet control. For more information regarding amber recovery and environmental degredation, see D. Jacobson's work, Amber Trade and the Environment in the Kaliningrad Oblast.
In early times, amber was the absolute property of the finder. As amber became a lucrative business in the Baltic region, dukes, kings, Teutonic knights and different countries tried to control the collection and sale of this commodity. Fishing rights were granted and rescinded by the "Amber Lords" as early as 1264 A.D. When amber was collected without supervision of a "Beach Master" or "Beach Rider", the unauthorized persons were hung. Amber guilds were formed in the 14th century to create rosaries and works of art from the raw material supplied by the Amber Lords. In the 17th century, fishermen had to swear to the "Amber Oath", which denounced amber smugglers, and searching for amber was not an option but a requirement. Some amber fishermen were paid in salt (interesting link though not directly related to amber and the site loads slowly) for their raw amber, weight for weight.
For more information, visit:
Connecting Menu: Return to the Amber or Types of Amber copyright 1996-2004 © Susan Ward Aber All rights reserved.
Andzia's Baltic Amber History, Along the Amber Road at http://www.amberjewelry.com/amber_myths_and_history_p1.htm,
Bernsteinstrasse and the Amber Road, http://www.bernsteinstrasse.net/index.php?lg=de&ctid=2, and
Amber Trade Routes, http://www.ambergallery.lt/english/muziejus-gintaro_keliai.htm.
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copyright 1996-2004 © Susan Ward Aber All rights reserved.