For a girl like me that loves jewelry, there was never any doubt that I would be stopping at the Amber Museum during my recent visit to Solvang, California.
Lovely pieces of amber jewelry are on display, some for sale, other just as an exhibit. The museum was inspired by what they refer to as their “sister-museum” in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Amber Museum.
While the museum in Solvang is not located in a house dating back to 1606, it is part of the wonderful Copenhagen House store in a charming Danish town with its own history. The Copenhagen House reminded me a bit of an IKEA, they advertise their store as a place, “where contemporary Denmark meets traditional”. With jewelry as part of the offerings, it is wonderful that they include the information on the fascinating amber!
The Solvang Amber Museum moves through the history of amber offering up some pieces that date as far back as 80 million years old. The museum holds an impressive collection of amber antiques and artifacts, including a wide array of entombed insects from prehistoric times. A site on the San Jose State University website shares information about where amber came from and information about the gemstones economic impact.
While later in the article they state that a Russian scientist finally proclaimed that amber can only come from the rosin of a tree, before that time there had been a lot of speculation since it washed up on beaches. “Amber was one of the first items of long distance trade. It was light and of unique characteristics that made it worthwhile to transport it from the place where it was plentiful, the Baltic Sea area, to the places like the Mediterranean littoral where it was not. In some places such as the Samland of the southeastern Baltic amber washes up onto the beach in basket full quantities. In ancient times the people of those areas were surprised that anyone would pay them for something that appeared to be available in limitless amounts. But to people outside of those areas amber was something of a beauty like no other substance. It could be used like a gem for decoration, but was light and warm unlike gem stones. Its other characteristics were also unusual. It could be set on fire and burned with the aroma of pine wood. At one stage in history the Germanic words for amber referred to this characteristic. It was called bernstein (burn stone).”
Like many gems, amber has roots in religion. For years it was one of the premier choices for rosary beads. The stories of this gem and others offer up some amazing history and if you aren’t into the history aspect, taking a look at the lovely variety of color and beauty of the jewelry is good enough. The owner of one of the jewelry stores in Solvang told my friend Linda and I that the bright yellow was the most valuable and showed us some beautiful Polish amber. While personally I like the darker varied colors it is all lovely.
If in Solvang, take time to shop the marvels of Copenhagen House and walk through the Amber Museum and dream. Log onto the museum website for details at http://thecopenhagenhouse.com/solvang-amber-museum.