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Krakow, the Amber City

Amber has always been the native gemstone of Poland. The country’s coastline once supplied ancient Greeks and Romans with their precious ‘electrum’ via the famous Amber Road that used to connect the Baltic Sea with the Mediterranean. Nowadays it looks like amber jewelry and amber ornaments are the basic commodity at every jeweler’s shop in any Polish city. And Krakow can boast numerous stores trading in amber, from reasonably priced souvenirs to costly designer necklaces, bracelets, and rings.

There are two words for amber in Polish, ‘bursztyn’ as an everyday term and ‘jantar’ as a literary expression.

Shopping for amber in Krakow

Amber is available in many places in Krakow, from jewelers to stands selling souvenirs. Gift shops offer genuine amber at affordable prices but usually of inferior quality. On the other hand, the city’s jewelers trade in amber as a sideline so few of them stock a wide range of amber goods. And although one shouldn’t expect knockdown bargains anywhere, uptown jewelers often have better prices.

There are also a number of amber shops in Krakow’s central Old Town district. They deal exclusively in jewelry and handicrafts made of amber. Prices are hardly ever competitive but such stores sell a wide selection of quality amber goods, including unique pieces of jewellery and such curios as amber chess sets and sculptures in amber.

Evaluation of amber

Amber is fossilized resin of the Cretaceous and Paleocene trees. The Baltic amber can be as old as ninety million years or as ‘young’ as thirty million years. It may contain embedded objects of the same age such as insects or even tiny vertebrates, fragments of plants, sand, etc.

Amber can be transparent or opaque or anything in between. Its color may vary from ivory to all shades of reddish brown to almost black. Sure, amber is pretty often amber in color.

The value of amber depends on the size in the first place. And since amber is much lighter and usually cheaper than other gemstones, even fairly big chunks of it may be used to produce jewelry.

In most cases, transparent amber is more expensive than its opaque variety. And visible inclusions such as embedded insects make amber costlier by far. Also other apparent imperfections – little bubbles, ‘clouds’, shadings, etc. – don’t necessary decrease the value. Not seldom they actually may make a piece of amber more unusual and/or attractive, hence more valuable.

On the whole, amber jewellery is inexpensive. Amber itself counts as semiprecious stone, priced accordingly, and it’s usually set in silver rather than gold. So, compared to other gemstones, esthetic appeal seems more important in the case of a purchase of amber jewelry. Skillful use of amber, its careful selection, ingenious and original design, and impeccable craftsmanship greatly add to the value of amber necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and other baubles.

Amber basics

Hardness of the amber found on the coast of the Baltic Sea is between 2 and 3 on the Mohs scale, i.e. it’s harder than gypsum and softer than calcite. Specific gravity of genuine amber ranges between 1.05 and 1.10.

Put in flame long enough, amber burns. Heated up to more 200 degrees Celsius it decomposes and yields so called ‘oil of amber’. Also various chemicals have corrosive effect on amber.

The lion’s share of the world’s production of amber is now mined on the coast of the Baltic Sea between Poland’s city of Gdansk and Russia’s enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast. Pieces of amber can also be found on the seashore, notably in stormy weather.

Amber Museum

Address: 2 Sw. Jana street (50 meters from Krakow's Rynek Glowny central square). The permanent exhibition called "Amber - Its Beauty and History" shows various specimens of natural amber, modern and antique jewelry, plus varied artifacts.

Krakow's selected amber shops:

Any following information has been provided by respective establishments on their sole responsibility.

Boruni
The biggest Boruni Amber Gallery in Poland is situated in Krakow at 60 Grodzka Street. On over hundred square meters, in air-conditioned establishment, among the most beautiful amber jewellery in Krakow, we present a free of charge movie in Polish, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean language, which discovers the secrets of amber. Gallery offers to the customers wide range of quality products, starting from the simplest silver and amber earrings, to the most beautiful pieces of jewellery made by the best Polish artists and leading Polish producers of amber and other gems jewellery.
Addresses: 60 Grodzka street and 2 Sw. Jana street. Website www.boruni.pl
Krakow in Poland
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The city’s central Old Town historic district, turned into a pedestrian precinct, teems with stores of all sorts.

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Krakow Foodstuffs
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