Gdańsk is widely known around the world as the capital of amber. That is where all the amber routes cross. It is here that the historical tradition of amber craft continues, contributing to the city’s unique atmosphere and its heritage of centuries-old material culture. The Amber Museum in Gdańsk has one of the biggest amber collections in the world and AMBERIF International Fair of Amber & Jewellery, held twice a year, hosts the most passionate enthusiasts of the ‘Baltic gold’ who display their exquisite amber collections there.
The tradition of Amberif Fairs dates back to the 1990s. They have been held since 1996 and each year attract to Gdańsk the amber manufacturers, creators and fans from all over the world. It is Poland’s largest and one of Europe’s largest jewellery industry trade show, a meeting point for avant-garde jewellers and a place where amber trends are born. Here business meets art, creative ideas are born, the latest trends and technologies in jewellery design are presented.
Amberif – International Fair of Amber & Jewellery: a meeting point for jewellers, producers and amber lovers
This year’s event, held for the first time after a two-year break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, gathered fewer exhibitors than before. In spite of this, the number and the diversity of exhibited items was as big as in previous editions.
About 500 exhibitors at 140 stands participated in the autumn edition of Amberif 2022. They were mainly Polish entrepreneurs, local businesses from Gdańsk and The Baltic Sea coast, but there were also exhibitors from Lithuania and Ukraine. We are very happy that the fairs are back to where they were held, that is to the Amberexpo centre. Please keep in mind, that this is the first edition of Amberif which took place after the pandemic-related restrictions had been lifted. We hope it is a chance for us to go back to the good old days before the COVID pandemic. This year the fair was open to the general public. There were many foreign visitors , mainly from Asia – says Maciej Józefowicz, The Amberexpo spokesperson.
Amberif fairs are a platform where the entrepreneurs have the opportunity to establish new business contacts, to acquire new customers and meet new business partners. The visitors who are interested in amber and amber-ornamented jewellery visit the fairs to see the contemporary design, to admire the exhibitors’ own collections of amber works of art and, last but not least, to buy unique items directly from their creators.
Amberif – International Fair of Amber & Jewellery: wealth of amber products
This year there were plenty of amazing works of art to choose from. Apart from the jewellery: amber necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, brooches and beads, the visitors could see lots of other objects such as: figurines, photo frames, watches, amber caskets, pipes, pens and chess sets. There were also elements of interior design, for example stylish lamps, large sailing boat models or decorative animal statues, frequently placed as an ornamental detail in offices, art galleries or museum halls.
The amber exhibits were of all colours, shapes and forms: milky, cognac, golden, polished stones or natural ones, treated, pressed, set in silver or wood.
The lamps made by Daria Borkowska in her Gdańsk studio was something that drew my attention. The lamps have lots of health-related benefits. They are particularly recommended for people suffering from bronchial asthma. Another item which made a huge impression on me was the antique amber chess set, worth approx. 25 thousand PLN.
At Mrs Daria’s stand we met her son, Krystian, who, just like her, is a maker of jewellery for both men and women – bracelets, necklaces and pens. Together with his mother he makes amber items and runs workshops. They are continuing to run the family business started by Mrs Daria’s father.
My father, who was a locksmith, worked abroad for many years. When he came back to Poland, he was looking for an idea for his own business. He started making caskets. He built the machinery himself, then learned how to process amber and gradually was expanding the range of products he offered. I took the passion for amber after my dad, so he left me his amber legacy; now I am trying to pass my skills forward to my son – confesses Mrs Daria.
Amber jewellery: buisnness secrets stay in a family
Another story about how the amber business tends to be a multi-generational activity I heard while visiting another stand: “Kolia – Jarosław Lis”, where I had a pleasant chat with the father of this family-owned enterprise and with his son. They were both talking with great passion about their amber works, such as a sailing boat model, made of amber.
The amber enterprises are often family-owned – with spouses, children and sometimes even grandchildren working together. The type of processing, the applied techniques, the design – all this remains a secret, well-kept by its creators, that is why this knowledge stays within the family circle. I am delighted to see so many young people taking interest in amber and wishing to make it a foundation of their future careers. This family legacy is our local treasure, as well as the element of cultural heritage – says Ewa Rachoń, a great amber fan and a long-time curator of Amberif fairs.
The giant picture displayed at the “Kolia” stand weighs more than 2 kilograms and costs 5 thousand dollars. It is not the largest exhibit from the Lis family collection, though. It turns out that the amber sailing boat has got a much bigger, 6-kilogram brother, which this time remained safely docked at its home, amber port. The items which especially impressed me, apart from the sailing boat, were luxurious necklaces with huge amber nuggets, set in silver, worth from 7 up to 12 thousand PLN.
I have been taking part in the fairs for 25 years. It is a very important industry event and a great chance to make new business contacts. Although the times are tough and the demand for amber is not what it used to be, this is a place to be if you are part of this industry – says Mr Jarosław Lis.
Mrs Jadwiga Hołub from Gdańsk-based Ambalt company could not agree with him more. This year at Amberif fair she has got her exhibition stand under the banner of Pomorska Izba Rzemieślnicza [Pomeranian Chamber of Crafts]. Mrs Jadwiga and Mr Bohdan Hołub are the amber and silver jewellery makers. The wide range of products they offer includes the decorative accessories for men and women and the everyday objects, like letter openers or key-rings. They also have some original exhibits made of silver or amber, mainly inspired by the animal world. The most eye-catching objects they showed at Amberif were a huge dragonfly with large amber chunks and a silver-amber dragon.
We have been exhibiting at Amberif since the first edition of the fairs. Currently we are focusing not on jewellery as such, but rather on ornamental details and souvenirs for interior design: households, galleries or museums. We target the lovers of applied art, as well as the art galleries and museums. These are unique items, none of them is identical – says Jadwiga Hołub.
The amber business is not easy, but it can be extremely profitable. That is why it is a good to invest in it. Amber is quite expensive on the Polish market, so the industry is more focused on the export.What is the worth of all the amber exhibits that were shown at the Amberif Fair? It is difficult to estimate. However, taking into account the rising prices of amber as a resource, it could be millions.