Western Russia – a place where amber is the new gold

Denis Sinyakov | Κεχριμπάρι: Ο χρυσός της Δυτικής Ρωσίας

In Yantarni, an urban locality in the Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania) you can find the famous Primorskaya mine, where the Amber Combine extracts up to 400 tons of amber per year. It is the only official source of amber in Russia, to date. Back in 1945, the Soviet Union managed to claim the land of Kaliningrad (formerly known as Königsberg) from the Nazi-ridden Germany. The Germans were considered the pioneers of the amber industry in this area, also known as East Prussia.

Denis Sinyakov

“Illegal amber miners” in makeshift pools, in the outskirts of Khrabovo in Kaliningrad. Despite the risk of fines, a possible confiscation of the pumps and the expensive vehicles or even a criminal prosecution, the illegal amber mining, most commonly referred as “black digging”, still remains a popular profession in Kaliningrad.

Denis Sinyakov | Κεχριμπάρι: Ο χρυσός της Δυτικής Ρωσίας

A woman is searching for tiny pieces of amber trapped in seaweed in the shoreline of the Baltic Sea in Kaliningrad. These women -called “seagulls” by locals- sometimes find large, precious pieces of amber washed out by the sea.

Denis Sinyakov | Κεχριμπάρι: Ο χρυσός της Δυτικής Ρωσίας

Amber Factory employees processing pieces of the famous electrum (the ancient Greeks would refer to amber as “electrum”, because they believed that it came from pieces of the Sun/“elector” that broke off as it set into the waters each night). The factory still uses outdated methods for the processing of amber, while its equipment roots back to the Soviet era technology, making it difficult for their final products to compete with other most sophisticated amber product lines from Poland, Lithuania and China.

Denis Sinyakov | Κεχριμπάρι: Ο χρυσός της Δυτικής Ρωσίας

A factory employee categorizes amber pieces according to their color, their size and the possible presence of insects, leaves or lizards trapped under their surface.

Denis Sinyakov | Κεχριμπάρι: Ο χρυσός της Δυτικής Ρωσίας

Yuri Sorokin, an amber craftsman/ specialist, working on a piece of amber in the workshop. “I might start with a certain plan in mind but after a while, the amber piece itself leads me on how to give it its final form”, says Mr. Sorokin.

Denis Sinyakov

A child is playing with tiny shards of amber at the Teremoc medical unit, located in the town of Zelenogradsk in Kaliningrad. Amber is also known for its natural antiseptic properties and when it’s in its hard form it is used for foot massages, as well.

Denis Sinyakov | Κεχριμπάρι: Ο χρυσός της Δυτικής Ρωσίας

Amber pieces with insects trapped on the inside, dating to approx. 50 million years ago can be found in the exhibition area of the Amber Museum in Kaliningrad. Bugs often get attracted to resin and they get stuck; they do not drown but they get trapped under the new layer of resin. This is how amber inclusions are created.

Denis Sinyakov | Κεχριμπάρι: Ο χρυσός της Δυτικής Ρωσίας

A model of Vasa (or Wasa) – a famous Swdish warship that sank during its maiden voyage in 1628- made out of amber, in the Amber Museum in Kaliningrad.

Denis Sinyakov

A picture of the founder of the Soviet Union, made exclusively out of amber fragments.

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