When in Gdansk...Shop for Amber
By Susan Farewell
Baltic Amber--which is Polish gold--is everywhere in this city and it's an excellent buy. You’ll find everything from simple amber beaded necklaces to conversation-piece jewelry plus lamps, furniture, and all sorts of collectible items brilliantly crafted by the country’s artisans.
Here’s what you need to know.
The best way to learn about amber is to spend a bit of time in The Amber Museum (Muzeum Burszytynu) housed in the city’s Medieval Gate which used to be a prison tower. There are also amber galleries at the Malbork Castle which is an easy day trip from Gdansk (about an hour away by car). Even if you have zero interest in buying amber, you’ll find yourself fascinated by Baltic Amber, which is fossilized tree resin (not sap) that dates from 44 million years ago. The most valuable pieces have extinct insects and plants inside of them which you can see in the exhibitions through magnifying glasses.
The True Colors
While the word amber itself is the name of a color that’s somewhere around yellow, orange and red on the color wheel, Baltic Amber actually comes in a range of colors, from a smoky white to almost black and of course, the yellow-orange-brown color most associated with it. There are uncommon colors as well including red, green and a blue which is very rare.
Real or Imitation?
In Poland, when you buy amber, you will always be given a Certificate of Authenticity, even for a tiny piece.
Where to Shop for Amber
You’ll find amber sold from tables set up on the streets, in shops and inside of hotels and other buildings. The biggest concentration of shops, however, is Brama Mariacka, which is known as Amber Fifth Avenue in the Old Town of Gdansk. Pictured right are showcases at one of the shops there.
Are Prices Negotiable?
Very often they are. Simply ask if the price is final or offer to pay a bit less. Most of the shopkeepers and amber jewelers will work with you.
Photos: By Susan Farewell; Air Berlin photograph courtesy of the airline.