Amber mafia. „Dzintara pusē” expedition to Kaliningrad and Poland
We wrote about the previous TV show cycle „Stories about amber, the Latvian jewel”.
The August event leaded to Lithuanian sea resort Palanga (The Curonian Spit), then Joudkrante, Nida and Kaliningrad follows as well as Jantarnaja city where amber is reproduced in industrial volumes and processed in amber factory where a picture of Vladimir Ilyich made of amber beads is still on a wall. The destination of this journey is Trojmiasto in Poland where the biggest amber expo-market is held. Gustavs Terzens, one of the hosting members of this TV show, tells about his expedition impressions.
„We do things a bit in a wrong way by shooting the first scenes in the end. We have an idea of closing the season of ”Dzintara pusē„ with India scenes.” This time, a material for the Amber Road beginnings (Point A) is shot where various roads branch further to many other B points. „We relate amber with ”The Amber Sea", some carriage and senior ladies who sell souvenirs in Old Riga.
We could not imagine in a lifetime that those large warehouses and industrial pits are in Poland and Kaliningrad as well as the one and olny place for amber.
He also adds that amber is seldom searched in Latvia. Besides, if we have a layer of blue loam, amber has to be somewhere beneath that, the oldest, hardest and most valuable, so called jeweller amber.
The first part of the expedition ended in Palanda „the summer capital city” where amber beads, pictures and brooches are sold everywhere, but the palace of the Tiskevic dynasty is one of the main tourist attractions. In there, Palanga Amber Museum is set, the biggest of its kind in The Baltic States. "A great exposition and lots of artefacts is collected. We also asked several serious experts about the aesthetic side of souvenir use. Well, what's the biggest banality of amber souvenirs? And all say, it's those small amber pictures.
„If the glued background is poured with amber pieces and some kind of an amber decoupage is made, it's just mocking about this jewel.”
Show hosts also found out about the amber mafia in Palanga. It turns out, it stil exists. A Lithuanian artist told that he herited an amber work from the previous generations, he knows about The Soviet times and modern day passions about the jellow jewel kept within the sea and dunes. „Amber mafia, amber smuggling, this still goes out. A great money circulates in this field. Artists and amber producers know it, because they are in close relation to those mafia people.”
The trip continues to The Curonian Spit where the local amber artists are seeked out and small goldish amber pieces are collected along the sea shore. Later, it made a solid contrast with Kaliningrad a hundred kilometres farther, Jantarnaja and Baltijsk where there was handful of amber.
„We saw in Kaliningrad that there is an amount of industrially quarried amber. It could be the same if you ate black caviar every day you would not be able to evaluate its real meaning. What if you get only a spoon of caviar? It tastes completely different then.”
„While visiting Kaliningrad, I had this feeling, like, it's too much caviar, but we had it with amber. In fact, they don't even realize what it is they dig out. It's that you know you get paid for this, and that's pretty much it. They are not able to see the beauty of this jewel,” tells Gustavs Terzens. Also local producers and artists were met in Kaliningrad, even experiencing „Kalabahs”, an event by the sea held by amber artists once in a year.
They say that Kaliningrad is the last stop for the legendary „Amber Room” from Carskoje Selo summer residency near St. Petersburg. „We researched this a bit, but, again, so many people have died bacause of that. When we nearly solved this mystery, we chose not to include it in the show. What is there? Amber oxidizes. Nothing great will come out if it. People won't even recognize it's ”Amber Room„. I think, it has a value of sentiment that is being kept on purpose. The room has been renovated for many years, so – enjoy,” invites Terzens.
Trojmiasto in Poland was visited in the filmig end (the nearest cities: Gdansk, Sopot, Gdynia) where the biggest amber expo and exhibition, Terzens calls it the mercantile side of the jewel. In there, various amber professionals meet, and you can buy everything you can imagine, produced from amber, of course. It's another reality, evaluates Terzens. The most active amber salesmen are Arabs and Chinese, but the local amber experts (salesmen, producers and artists) work alongside.
„Goods from the market and exhibition are quite various, like, it was some kind of a ”House and Gardening" shop. Amber dwarfs, Arabian chaplets, you name it.
The market part is all the raw material, every piece of amber is put on the scales and the uniqueness is checked, as well. The greater piece, the higher the price for a gram. So, one gram from this monolith block is more expensive than a small piece you find at the seashore. Some pieces even cost a fortune, you could buy an apartment for that money! Arabs buy chaplets that they burn once in a year. So, how many are they – hundreds, thousands. Well, there goes all the amber."
„Chinese are those who keep amber prices high. In China, there is no amber, but it used to be, now this jewel is highly evaluated. Currently Chinese ”make the rules" in amber market in order to increase the price.
"Lithuanian amber producers told that Arabs try to cut the price down as much as they can, but Chinese, they just take their money and buy. They like big pieces, splendid jewels. We even had a laugh – the smallest human being in the world desires for the greatest amber piece. We met delegates from Shanghai as well as several salesmen, one Chinese opera singer was there, as well.
They are extremely skilled, they know the differences between amber types, how a blue amber piece looks like, what's old, what's new..."
This is just a beginning of Amber Road, but Terzens notes that it is not just a part from point A to B. Amber Road in Europe and Asia include large territories that exceed borders of an empire or other tenure. It's hard to focuse on one amber exchange element, context is what matters. It's important what iit is that this small amber piece, this tiny bead „blends” in European culture.