The Kaliningrad region is called by right the world's amber capital and there is a reason for that. Up to 95% of the world's amber resources are concentrated in our region.
You must have heard of the wonderful piece of art - the Amber Room - designed in 1701 by the order of the first Prussian King Fridrich I.
The King's order said: 'Hereby we do royally express our wish to have an extraordinary thing created that has never been in possession of any of the sovereigns.' The first Prussian king became famous for his idea of 'prussiasness', which later spread from Prussia and received its acknowledgement in the rest of Germany.
In 1717, King Fridrich I sent the Amber Room as a present to Peter the Great of Russia. Later, during WWII the Amber Room reappeared in the King's Palace in Koenigsberg. It was rumoured to have been seen in the King's Palace's basements and then it disappeared again, having become another puzzling story of Koenigsberg.
You are likely to be told this amazing story in Russia's only amber museum, which occupies fortress Der Dona in Kaliningrad.
A chance to get acquainted with the origin and the process of ex-traction of the sun stone from the ancient times up to the nowadays; a possibility to observe the best collection of six thousand amber displays and unique amber samples with inclusions of in-sects and plants; an opportunity to visit the amber mining factory and learn more about the process of amber mining and processing; and, finally, great souvenir stocks to purchase amber jewelry from for your close friends and relatives - aren't these reasons good enough to visit the amber capital?
Amongst other natural resources of the region are shelf oil deposits, peat moss and clay beds, mineral springs, rock salt beds and timber. The region's leading industrial brunches are fishing and fish processing, shipbuilding and repairs, electronics, electrical engineering, construction and agriculture.
Physical and chemical qualities of amber
Amber differs in shape, colour and the degree of transparency. The shape of an amber piece was determined by where the oleoresin was flowing from. It was going on either inside or on the sur-face of the trunk of a damaged tree. In case of the abundant discharge the resin was flowing down as drops, icicles, inleakages. In the collection of the Kaliningrad Amber Museum the largest drop is a little larger than 5 cm in diameter. But there are also larger pieces elsewhere – of the size of a goose-egg. The length of icicles is 10-12 cm. Small lensing and falcated stones probably appeared in the «resin pockets» that were formed in the bags between the annual rings of trees. Traces of a tree texture can often be seen on the fossilized amber pieces here. The location of resin between the trunk and the bark resulted in the formation of the subcortical forms. The pattern of the wood or the bark can be well seen on them. Pieces that appeared in large subcortical bags can weigh up to two kilograms. Even larger samples of amber appeared in the spots of large open wounds on the tree trunk. The resin kept flowing for a long time and accumulated in the ground. The largest of all the known samples of succinate is kept in Berlin and weighs 9 kg 750 g. The Russian giant from the collection of our Museum is much smaller -- 4 kg 280 g.
The intensity of the coloration, the degree of transparency or non-transparency of the gem de-pends to a great extent on the microscopic cavities that can be found in every stone, on their number, size and location. The following varieties of amber are distinguished: transparent in which one can find isolated cavities, semi-transparent in which there are large clusters of cavities that lead to haziness (cloudy, hybrid), and non-transparent (bone and foamy) where the amount of cavities can reach 900 000 per 1 cubic meter.
The nature endowed amber with incredible richness of colors. There are bright yellow, reddish pieces reminding of a tongue of flame, as well as «honey» pieces. There are also «cloudy» pieces – they are sort of hazed with fleecy clouds. One can also find amazingly beautiful amber pieces of blue and green shades.
Amber is heterogeneous in its composition. Its basic ingredients are carbon (approximately 78%), oxygen (11%), hydrogen (10%). The following formula of amber as a mineral is usually given – C 10 H 16 O.
The Baltic gem is a relatively soft stone: it can be scratched with a knife. The amber hardness according to the Mohs’ scale ranges from 2 to 3. To compare: the hardness of gypsum is 2, quartz is marked 7, diamond has the degree of hardness of 10. The amber is brittle, it can be easily broken if hit or if it falls down, but at the same time it is pliant. And this is a very valuable quality thanks to which the stone can be easily treated. Amber can be sawed, cut, drilled, ground and polished. When heated it first grows soft and then melts at the temperature of 315-350C. This quality is used when heating and pressing amber. Amber is able to oxidize under the influ-ence of the oxygen in the air.
Inclusions in the amber
Amber possesses an astonishing quality: for dozens of millions years it can retain unchanged small animals, especially insects and Arachnida, as well as vegetative remains that have been called inclusions. They are rarely found. The scientists have calculated that not more than 10% of the transparent amber contains inclusions. Amber pieces with inclusions have always been of great value. It was Aristotle who first mentioned them in his works. In Ancient Rome they learned to skillfully forge them, and researchers were only able to identify forgery in the 19th century. Amber with inclusions was sometimes kept in the monarchs’ treasury. The Polish king August II the Strong (1670-1733) owned a huge collection of amber with various animal inclu-sions. The largest pre-war collection was kept in Koenigsberg and contained approximately 100 items.
Our Museum houses more than 3000 samples of amber pieces with inclusions. Inclusions can only be found in the external excretion of the oleo-resin – in the icicles and leakages. An insect’s getting and retaining in the amber piece was also conditioned by the size and viscosity of the ex-creted oleo-resin. Flies, mosquitoes, ants, beetles, spiders that stuck to its surface were coated with a second and a third leakage. Larger insects, let alone amphibious, escaped from the resin captivity leaving behind some parts of their bodies, usually extremities. The collection of the Koenigsberg University used to house a little lizard. Several similar items with different states of preservation have been discovered recently.
Approximately 90% of the animal inclusions in the collection of our Museum are insects. Among them more than a half are dipterous: mosquitoes, flies. Quite often one can find caddis flies. They look like moths, they have numerous antennae, large complex eyes and long legs. Our collection also includes representatives of the water fauna, for example a water-tiger. Beetles that can be found in the Baltic amber are very close to the modern fauna of the subtropical forest. The Museum keeps quite a rare sample of the garden-spider. Besides insects, wool and hair of mam-mals as well as birds’ feathers can be found in the amber.
Only 0.4% among the inclusions are plants. In most cases they are parts of wood tissue and rind. Occasionally withered flowers, remains of leaves, needles, twigs and fruits can be found.
The inclusions of flora and fauna in the Baltic amber are of great scientific interest due to their diversity and a perfect state of preservation. They help the researchers to explain numerous puz-zles of the evolution of the animal world and the vegetable kingdom and to better comprehend the history of our planet.