Few drops of resin from a pine can be even more valuable than gold.
The only condition: to pass a few million years over them !
The amber obtained in this way infatuated jewelers but also treasure hunters.
From the honey yellow to reddish, green and black, transparent or opaque, the valuable fossilized resin shines in 160 shades !
Amber was object of worship and gem since prehistoric times.
According to legends, amber amulets protect, attract luck and have therapeutic properties.
Amber diggers say it is rare.
And you have to know a lot of secrets not to join those who have not found even a single little piece in all their life.
You have to look after charcoal filaments that form around amber nest.
But even so amber shows itself only to the lucky ones, only when looking for it alone and only if they feel it.
Discover the treasure from Buzau Mountains
There are 4 well-known amber varieties.
The most common one, the Baltic, gave the largest amber in the world that weights 32 kg.
The Sicilian and Burmese amber are also famous.
But the world’s most valuable amber is the black one, found in Carpathian Mountains (Romania) and in Sakhalin Island (Russia).
Its age exceeds one million years, the famous Baltic amber being some 40,000 years younger than the black amber.
The only place in Romania where this fossilized resin hides in the subsoil and brooks’ beds is Colti (meaning Fangs).
People here dwell on a treasure since forever, living from these stones since they know themselves.
First documentary attestation of amber in Romania dates back to the second half of the 16th century.
Then Mihnea Voivode and his lady donated a door encrusted with amber chunks to a church.
Until interwar period, torrential rains uncovered amber pieces, originally collected from streams’ silt.
This really made happy the needies went on the mountain !
Rudimentary exploited since the first half of the 19th century, amber began to be extensively exploited in the first half of the 20th century.
Colti was the only place in the world where this was industrially extracted from underground mines.
Nowadays only the locals who know the way to the 8 former mines still have the luck to find amber.
Famous Romanian amber gifts
At the begining of the last century, the amber’s value was higher than that of gold with many carats.
It was so expensive that only the queens and emperors afforded it in their jewelry.
And with only few grams of amber, villagers could buy even a pair of oxen.
Jewelers from all over the world fought on Romanian amber.
Even the Queen of England received in 1927 a Colti amber cameo with drops of water and fossilized insects !
Stalin’s famous pipe, given by Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej in 1951, was also made of Colti Amber.
The pipe of all beauty has been polished of an yellow-red piece of amber of about 200 g.
Not even today that gemstone has not been paid to the local who sold it !
Eighth wonder of the world – Amber Room
In a not too far past, amber reminded Europeans and especially Russians about Amber Room, a symbol of Russian-Prussian friendship.
Designed by a German Baroque sculptor and a Danish amber craftsman this was built beginning with 1701.
Made of amber panels and decorated with gold leaf and mirrors, it was one of the most valuable amber art works in history.
“Eight wonder of the world” was to be assembled in Berlin, in Charlottenburg Palace of King Friedrich I of Prussia.
Only that in-visit, Tsar Peter the Great of Russian Empire remained impressed by this.
The King remembered and in 1716 he gave it to the Tsar, consolidating the Russian-Prussian relations.
Shipped to Russian Empire in 18 big crates, Prussian craftsmen’s masterpiece was initially installed at Winter Palace in Sankt Petersburg.
After several 18th century restorations Tsarist crown’s pride reached to cover tens of square meters and weighted few tons.
In 1941, German soldiers sent to Soviet Union during Barbarossa Operation robbed, from Hitler’s desire, thousands of works of art.
Including the Amber Room, which the Nazis believed to have been made by the Germans, so for the Germans.
Palace curators could not disassemble and move it without crumbling the amber dried out over years.
So they tried to hide the priceless Room behind mundane wallpaper.
But they did not trick the Nazis who dismantled it in less than 36 hours and sent it to Konigsberg.
There it was installed in the Baltic Coast Museum-Castle until the end of 1943.
Then the museum’s director was advised to gather the Room panels.
Amber Room’s mistery
In vain, Russians have searched for Amber Room after Second World War, as neither spies nor treasure hunters nor rare art collectors have found it anymore.
How the trace of few tons of amber got lost remained an uncleared mystery even in 2011.
Most likely the Room was destroyed during the Allies’ bombing of the castle in August 1944.
Unless it is still in Konigsberg under the castle completly destroyed by the order of Soviet Premier Leonid Breznev in 1968.
Or deposited on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Or perhaps the Germans actually stole a false Amber Room that Stalin owned.
However in 1997, an Italian stone mosaic that decorated the Amber Room was found in Germany.
Russian authorities used it for its reconstruction started in 1979 by the Soviet state with German government’s help.
They say that for this purpose some of the amber extracted at Colti reached inclusively to the former Soviet Union.
After 24 years of work, 6 t of amber used and 11 million dollars spent, they finally restored the Amber Room.
Since 2003 this is exposed in Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin city, formerly known as Tsarskoye Selo at 25 km away from St. Petersburg.
In 2016 it valued more than 500 million dollars.
Elena Ceausescu and amber jewelry
Even if it cheered kings and dictators, the world’s most expensive amber did not enter the grace of Romanian communist leaders.
These closed the Colti mines during the nationalization in 1948.
Although they prohibited amber exploitation, the latest attempts of industrial exploitation were recorded in the ’80s.
Thus jewelers from Colti became renowned even in the famous Cabinet 2.
Great admirer of amber, Elena Ceausescu was crazy about the jewels made of it.
She wore almost everywhere the set of amber jewelry received s gift in 1987 from Colti inhabitants.
At Amber Museum you can see one of her amber necklaces.
In the ’70s, in amber’s honor, Colti inhabitants named the road leading to village Amber Road and opened Amber Museum.
It is unique in Romania, second in Europe and one of the fewest in the world.
Here you can see the oldest amber of 60 million years ago.
The most valuable piece exhibited at Colti is a nearly 2 kg lump discovered at a brook after a rain.
This has the same value as a luxury apartment in the area or a modest studio in Bucharest: 16-17,000 Euro.
The exhibition also features an earring made of black amber.
Specialists say the ant preserved in it lived 30 million years ago.
Beside the museum there is a mine dug exclusively for tourist purposes so feel free to step inside too !
See you all back here soon for more tips, picked expressly for you.
Meanwhile feel free to address me any question you might have about Romania.
And to share this with anyone who might find it useful or interesting 😉
Happy tours !