A hungry mosquito buzzes through a thick Lithuanian pine forest in search of a plump eohippus. His little bug belly growls to let him know he hasn’t eaten, and he decides to rest. This is one unlucky mozzie, because he not only can’t locate breakfast, he’s just landed in a sticky, gooey drop of resin on the bark of a large pine tree. Forty million years later, he’s part of a very nice amber necklace in a Vilnius jewelry store window.
Amber, which is nothing more than fossilized pine resin, has been highly prized for thousands of years. It’s used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and most notably, in jewelry.
Surprisingly, the Baltic Area, and Lithuania in particular, is the source of 80% of the earth’s amber. In addition to being mined, amber nodules wash out of the native rock onto Baltic sea beaches, making lucky beachcombers very happy. Jewelers and craftsmen enjoy using amber for its highly varied color. This Wikipedia photo shows the color variation from deep brown to clear, golden yellow.
One of the most astounding and famous uses for amber was “The Amber Room”. Created in the 18th Century, stolen and lost by the Nazis, and reconstructed by Russia in 2003. It now sits in the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
However, artisans and jewelers in Vilnius craft amber ware with a wider appeal, and the Old Town is crammed with stores. If you can imagine it, the shops sell it in amber. They sell paperweights, carved animals, letter openers, keychains, sailing ships …
… and my personal favorite, sandals! Wearing these shoes will definitely get you noticed.