Amber is fossilized tree resin that exuded from various coniferous trees eons ago. It is usually a yellow or yellow-brown color but is also found in various shades of green, white and red. It is normally found in various shapes and can easily be worked with hand tools. Most amber comes from the Baltic coast, but it has also been found in a few other areas. Under the Communist regimes it was a tightly controlled substance and only limited quantities were made available to the world jewelry market, thus the price was kept artificially high. Now that the Communist empire has broken up, large supplies of amber have become available and the price has dropped.
Amber is one of the oldest "gemstones" known to man and it was worked into jewelry when people still lived in caves. It was widely used in all of the ancient cultures and was usually owned by royalty.
Because amber was originally a liquid resin, it sometimes trapped small insects. Pieces of amber with insect or plant materials are desirable even though the stone with inclusions is not as "pretty". The Steven Spielberg movie Jurassic Park was based upon the premise that dinosaur DNA could be removed from a mosquito which was trapped in amber eons ago.
Some types of amber are transparent and other amber is semi-opaque.
Color and the size of the stone are very important characteristics in determining value. It should be noted here that with modern technology it is possible to convert very small pieces of amber into larger pieces and it is also possible to add insects or plant material to the end result. This treated amber is NOT as valuable as naturally occurring large pieces which are still rare. Furthermore copal, a natural product, and plastic is often used to simulate true amber, and it is very difficult to differentiate these substitutes when they are set in jewelry. It is not unusual to find silver Asian or African jewelry set with plastic that looks like amber.
This interesting set of 7 spoons feature a rounded piece of amber in each of the finials. The spoons have a mark which looks like "MEL" but they have no purity mark nor other identification, thus I can only speculate about them.
I have tested them with acid and they appear to be silver, rather than just plated. The design is rather interesting and combines elements of both art nuevo and the arts and crafts style. I am reasonably convinced that this set is amber, but it is possible that the amber is simulated.
If anyone knows anything about these pieces please write to me. This set of spoons is available at a reasonable price. Six of these spoons are the same size, and the one on top is slightly larger. It is a complete set.
Silver spoons with nice pieces of amber in the finial are currently being produced in Poland.These spoons are being made by individual craftsmen in the "arts and crafts" style. Some of the silverwork is quite interesting and intriguing and some of the amber is quite pretty. The spoons in this exhibit were produced since 1995.
These five sterling spoons were made by "bo"
I have reproduced larger versions of the finials below so that you can better see these very interesting stones
left: large orange brown amber in a half cylinder
middle: yellow with white amber "in the round"
right: golden amber cabachon with inclusions
left: green amber with various shades of green and
right: yellow amber cabachon with streaks of white
The silverwork on these two spoons is of nicer quality, but there is no silver mark to indicate purity or maker. I am pretty sure that they are high quality silver (greater than 800)
I have reproduced the finials below
left: nice oval honey colored amber cabachon with
right: nice tapered cylinder shaped honey colored amber with inclusions in "the round". A hole was drilled through the amber so that the silver could be inserted and then a silver cap was added to the top. Because this amber is transparent you can see the silver bar.
A dark honey amber finial which is faceted into six sides and topped with a silver flower. The bowl shows arts and crafts style hammer marks
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