Investigating the degradation of Baltic amber

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A recent survey of the National Museum of Denmark’s (NMD) collections revealed more than 17,000 unique pieces of Baltic amber in the form of beads, jewelry and other decorative pieces, making it one of the largest collections of amber in Europe. After its use as jewelry or other decorative pieces in pre-history, amber is likely to be buried for many years in dry or wet, boggy soils or transported in seawater before discovery. The survey concluded that 45% of amber in NMD’s collections exhibited signs of deterioration, manifested by surface crazing, powdering and discoloration (see Fig.1). Based on surface appearance alone, the condition of the objects seemed to reflect the environments in which they were found. Only 4% of those amber pieces that were excavated from wet bogs or found in water exhibited a high degree of degradation compared with 40% of objects found in dry environments. Amber found in dry soils were frequently recognizable by their pale yellow, friable, surface crusts. By contrast, amber found in wet environments was dark brown in colour with cohesive surfaces. Because the amber collections reflect the economic, social, religious and other cultural beliefs prevalent in pre-historic Europe, it is essential that they are preserved for study and enjoyment by future generations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInvestigating the degradation of Baltic amber
Editors Ewa Wagner-Wysiecka, Jacek Szwedo, Elzbieta Sontag, Anna Sobecka, Janusz Czebreszuk , Mateusz Cwalinski
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationGdansk, Poland
PublisherGdansk International Fair co
Publication date22 Mar 2018
ISBN (Print)978-83-908187-0-2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2018
Event25th International Symposium “Amber. Science and Art” : AMBERIF 2018 - Conference Center , Gdańsk, Poland
Duration: 22 Mar 201823 Mar 2018


Conference25th International Symposium “Amber. Science and Art”
LocationConference Center

Bibliographical note

eds. Ewa Wagner-Wysiecka, Jacek Szwedo, Elzbieta Sontag, Anna Sobecka, Janusz Czebreszuk and Mateusz Cwalinski
ISBN: 978-83-908187-0-2


  • baltic amber
  • degradation
  • FTIR spectroscopy
  • yellowing
  • oxidation

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