Last spring I was invited to Kaliningrad by the guys from Russian Amber to make some pictures, talk about amber and show the huge potential that this gemstone has. When I was a child, I use to stay in Svetlogorsk on the Baltic Sea, so coming back here was really nice and touching. Overall, this trip was very important for me, it became a highlight of my spring.
Kaliningrad welcomes you with a breath of fresh air and gentle morning light. Guys from Russian Amber took me on a two-day trip to the village Yantarny. We were curious to see the way that amber goes from the mining to shimmering beads in jewellery that is loved by our grandmothers so much.
The first stop we made was a huge quarry, about 1200 meters long. A new production season started in March. We went down to the heart of the quarry in the battered truck jumping on the bumps. A few times we were stopped by the security. The miners showed us how they caught amber (stone density is very low at this point) 50 meters deep. The layers of so-called “blue land” (sediments of sand and clay with an admixture of bright green mineral) are blurred and then the miners catch the stone using special nets. Then, we visited a quarry on the shore of the Baltic Sea, where the depth of the amber layer is only 15 meters. We were shown the new equipment used in mining. Careful handling of amber is crucial because the larger the stone, the more valuable it is.
Overall, the production scale is amazing. Yantarny village is a unique place in the World. Here, in a small area of the Baltic coast, 90% of known world reserves of amber are concentrated. This is why the only factory in the World dealing with mining and processing of this gemstone is located here. There is so much amber here that with the current rate of extraction the plant could work for another 250 years.
Next up is the Kaliningrad Amber Factory. On the site I stayed behind my group to see some gorgeous German buildings that date back to the early 20th century. In 1926, there was the “State Amber Manufactory” founded in Kaliningrad, known as Königsberg at that time. This manufactory included amber quarry and processing production in Palmnicken. Formally, manufactory existed until 1945. During the Second World War the amber production was mostly terminated, and some parts of the plant was used for military production.
Later on, we visited some workshops that were significantly improved over the past few years. Here, one can see all stages of amber processing: sorting, cutting, shaping, and processing on grinding machines. Astonishingly, all is done by hand! And then there comes the best part: ready beads are used to create jewellery. Large stones become interior objects and not only. The possibilities of working with stone are truly endless and this is what we would like to talk about with the guys from the creative Association of Russian Amber.
Full version of our interview with Olga, who is working in Russian Amber can be found in the march issue of Veter Magazine.
Here are just a few answers to my questions.
– Can u tell us a little bit about how the Russian Amber was founded?
When we started this, it was unclear whether it will be a success. The thing is, amber is quite peculiar, especially among the young. But, we were driven by our love to this stone and deep respect to its greatness, its age and legend. The first steps were taken at the end of 2014, when the Association of Russian Amber, presented at that point only by the curators and ideologists, took part in a number of Moscow markets, such as Lambada and Sunday Up market. The first interest came from the neighbours exhibitors.
– How did you come up with the idea to draw attention to amber?
If you have ever been to VDNH and wondered about pavilions with amber, you were most probably thinking «Why does it look so much like my grandmothers jewellery that she loves so much since she was young». We were asking ourselves the same question, and one day we decided to do something about it, with support of the Kaliningrad Amber Factory. Even before the association was created, clients would bring some old amber family treasures to the designers of Russian Amber, asking to do something interesting with it. The stone is so unique and beautiful and if the cut is right, the true beauty of its natural shape gets revealed.
– What makes this stone so unique?
One of the best things about amber is how it captures the life of a plant or an insect that lived millions of years before us. Amber is also capable to transmit light, shining in the sun. The first official mentioning of the word “amber” in terms of colour dates back to 1500. This is probably one of the few stones, mentioned in a great number of legends and myths in different cultures around the world. According to one legend, the famous prophet Zarathustra who inspired many musical and literary masterpieces of the twentieth century used amber subha. Amber is a fascinating gemstone that comes in 280 shades! However, as a material amber is really underestimated. That is the first impression you get whet start working with it.
And then, we went to talk to the guys who mine amber illegally. They dig at nights, lighting up the dug areas in the water. The amber shines and this makes the whole process a lot easier. It was a strange feeling.
And we also got to see a little bit of Kaliningrad and Curonian spit.
To sum up, here is a video which took us a lot of effort to make. We really wanted to make it pretty and carefully considered each frame, choosing the music and composition according to the mood, so that we could tell you a nice little story.