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The best time for amber art falls between XVIth and XVIIIth century. During that time there were two main amber centers: Gdańsk and Królewiec. Amber guilds located in other cities like: Słupsk, Kołobrzeg, Koszalin and Elbląg played secondary role. After year 1466 when Gdańsk became part of Poland and formation of first amber guilds in 1477, craftsmen were free to use amber legally and without restrictions, which was not the case before. King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk donated to city of Gdańsk surrounding lands rich in amber which started rapid development of amber production. However, rapid growth caused shortage of material which led to illegal import of amber from Sambia. In 1533 as a result of negotiations between Polish king and Prussian lord, amber trade was regulated and amber art products became very popular between nobility, clergy and also royal family. The most popular items were: amber silverware, boxes, jewelry and ornaments.
In XVIth century manufacturers shifted production from devotional objects to everyday use products. In 1563 Cardinal Fancesco Giovanni Commendone mentioned in his letters: chests, boxes, spoons, vases and bird cages embellished with amber. Unfortunately there are very few objects preserved from that time. Figure of Madonna or heart shaped medallion with Stefan Batory’s portrait are rare art pieces preserved in polish amber collections. The amber collection of Malbork Castle presents examples of renaissance amber art including very unique necklace belonging to princess Sybilla Dorota and male necklace made of cylindrical amber beads with very sophisticated carvings.
The most beautiful amber art pieces were created for Prince Albrecht, who was known for his love for art. Craftsmen working for the Prince had access to finest pieces of amber, which was used to make vases, ornaments, dinnerware, chess, and jewelry including necklaces, pendants, bracelets and earrings. Amber collection in Rosenberg castle (Copenhagen) owns eighteen silver bowls with amber bottoms made in 1585 by Andreas Kniefel and Stenzel Schmitt. Many amber art objects made in XVIth century can be seen today in European museums like e.g. Schatzkammer der Residenz (Munich), Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (Kassel), Ostpreussisches Landesmuseum (Luneburg) or Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. In general, art pieces made from amber in XVIth century were rather small.
The technology limited manufacturing process to use only whole solid pieces of amber. However, in XVIIth century Georg Schreiber introduced new method which determined new direction in amber manufacturing. New technology allowed craftsmen cutting out thin plates of amber and then cementing them together with glue or silver tapes. Later on, craftsmen started using ivory and merging two materials together. Amber art pieces dated back to XVIIth century are mainly made in this technology. Examples are: chests, plates, vases, mugs and ornamental objects. In the middle of XVIIth century craftsmen begun constructing art objects by using wood base structures.
This technique was much simpler and allowed to create much bigger and more attractive art pieces. Examples of such work are: chests of drawers, jewelry boxes, games, small home altars. The wood base structure was plated with thin amber of different colors and shapes to create very sophisticated and beautiful mosaic. The most famous pieces made in this technique were manufactured by Michel Redlin and Christoph Maucher. Possession of art pieces made from “Baltic gold” was very trendy and showed high position of the owner in the society. The most spectacular amber art piece was created in XVIIIth century for King of Prussia, Frederick I. It is known as Amber Chamber, and its amazing history has fascinated many historians and treasure hunters throughout centuries.