It’s virtually impossible to talk about Carnelian without talking about Amber. At the same time as the Carnelian trade extravaganzas, the camel driven trade routes from East to West were also called the Amber Trade Routes because Amber from the Baltic shores was also made into beads and traded throughout the European and North African continents. Amber is the mysterious, soft-glowing, golden, fossilized pitch from various pine trees found first along the shores of the Baltic Sea.
Carnelian and Amber looked like gold; they were desirable as gold, and used like gold in trade. “Old Stone Age burials yield many amber ornaments, mainly beads and amulets; and amber beads have also been found in graves in Moravia, France and Austria dating from the same period. During the New Stone Age (3000-1900 B.C.)), however, there are indications that Baltic amber traveled as far as Russia, England, and Spain. From Spain it may have reached Mycenae and Crete.”(1) These routes were used hundreds of years before recorded history to bring amber from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the rest of the known world. The demand was tremendous!
If we could invent a bead radar machine and started walking around Europe and Asia following our radar, we could make a perfect map of the old trade routes. Where we find Carnelian, Amber, Coral, Turquoise, Lapis, and Glass beads would be the ancient trade route that is called the Silk Road that stretched from Beijing to London and everywhere north and south. The north and south routes also traded bronze from Jutland along the Elbe River from Denmark to Bohemia and down to Italy to the ports that existed to trade amber to the whole Mediterranean, hundreds of year’s pre-Rome.
I’ve always been addicted to amber; the colors, from light to dark, transparent, translucent and opaque; all the colors are a lot like Carnelian. Amber can be the color of champagne, moving through the spectrum of yellows and oranges to gorgeous reds and burgundy’s. Then there are the delicious pale greens and blues! And the feel of Amber is divine with its lightness and intensity. Since it is the pitch of trees, it was once liquid and because of that insects can sometimes be found “stuck” inside the amber. I feel very fortunate to have a nice chunk of amber with a fly inside of it that my father bought for me as a gift from a street vendor on a visit to Poland.
Article and photos by Janet Walker