A hungry mosquito buzzes through a thick Lithuanian pine forest in search of a plump Eohippus. Her empty bug belly growls a warning that she hasn’t eaten, but still, she decides to rest.
This is one unlucky mozzie, because not only is she unable to locate breakfast, she’s just landed in a gooey drop of resin oozing down the bark of a large pine tree. Forty million years later, this unfortunate bug is forever entombed in a beautiful 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 been used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicines, and most notably, in jewelry. And given the resin’s super-sticky character, the fossilized nodules of amber can be scientific time capsules as well. Everything from a flea carrying plague bacteria to dinosaur feathers have been found in amber globules.
Mines in Lithuania and around the Baltic Area are 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, adding a bit of zest to a beachcomber’s day.
Given a readily available supply nearby, artisans and jewelers in the Old Town of Vilnius craft amber into tempting tidbits to entice locals and tourists alike.
The natural color varies from deep brown to clear, golden yellow, and if you can imagine it, the shops have it made in amber. They sell jewelry of course, but they also have paperweights, carved animals, letter openers, keychains, sailing ships … and my personal favorite, sandals!