I just returned from a cruise appropriately named "Gems of the
Baltic". Whether or not a cruise is your choice of travel, my husband
and I were given this trip as a 25th wedding anniversary present by
my mother. Part of my father's family is from an area along the
southern shore of the Baltic Sea that was heavily influenced by the
Vikings. I deeply felt my roots and heritage, and focused my
attention on the jewelry and gemstones of the region.
I was so overwhelmed by the amount of amber available that I ended
up only buying two small pieces! The ship I was on had a contest
"Spot the Fake" and then gave a little talk on how to tell if it is
genuine or not. Not surprisingly, onshore we saw more amber shops in
tourist areas than in the center of the cities, especially in
Tallinn, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia. Although I'm sure that
most of what the shops were selling is probably real, I felt like a
sucker just walking in, so did not buy much. I instead concentrated
on looking for books on jewelry at the museums we visited. The Gold
Room at Catherine the Great's Summer Palace is an incredible display
of gold jewelry and other items collected by Peter the Great and
Catherine the Great. The Amber Room, also in Catherine's Palace has
been fully restored by the Russians after it was looted by the Nazis
during their siege of St. Petersburg. The walls were completely
covered in amber and picture frames were solid, carved amber. The
Hermitage Museum (Catherine's Winter Palace) had numerous urns and
obelisks (8 to 10 feet tall) made entirely of lapis, malachite,
rhodonite. In Stockholm, the Museum of Antiquities also has a Gold
Room which has on display gold jewelry and other objects found at
archeological excavations in Sweden. The silver room is equally
impressive with the more common pennanular brooches and everyday
items. In Helsinki, I bought the most beautiful spectrolite from a
street maket vendor, and even found an english translation of a
doctorial dissertation on granulation and filigree of the Viking era.
In Arhus, Denmark, I think I stood for an eternity at the windows of
the Georg Jensen jewelry store with my mouth hanging open. As if in a
dream, in Tallinn a 4-day midsummer's eve midieval market was taking
place in the center of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
(Not much jewelry, but the most gorgeous weavings and baskety I have
ever seen). I could go on and on......
Beam me back, Scotty.