In Denmark, there is a saying that a dear child has many names. Searching for “Denmark's Gold” among the breakers is a unique experience. We are, of course, referring to amber, which is 30–50 million year-old fir tree resin. Often you will see a small insect or animal which has been caught in the resin those millions of years ago.
Experience, patience and luck all play their part in a good amber find, but your chances are best on the west coast of Jutland, when the wind has been from the west or south-west for a couple of days and has died down, leaving the sea calm. It takes a proper wind for the amber to loosen from the sea bed and afterwards nice and quiet weather where the amber pieces can sweep up onto the beach with seaweed, pebbles and flotsam at low tide. The amber lumps are not just flashing on the beach. They hide in the seaweed, so you really have to use your eyes well.
Amber may be the world's oldest precious stone. We know that our Scandinavian ancestors valued amber from the earliest period of the stone-age and exchanged it for goods from Italy and Greece. Amber was popular with the Romans and was used not just in jewelry but also for cups and other utensils. The Romans also knew that burning amber produces an aromatic smell, and that amber can be used as incense.
Amber was rare and owning amber was proof of wealth. The most fantastic amber-work is to be found in St. Petersburg's Amber Room. The Prussian King Friedrich I was so fascinated by amber that he ordered that his study in Berlin should be fitted out in amber. It took Europe's most skilled craftsmen 8 years to form and arrange almost 100,000 amber pieces in huge mosaic panels. However, the Russian Tsar was so taken with the unusual work that he succeeded in getting the panels presented as a gift. They were initially installed in the Winter Palace and subsequently moved to another of the Tsar's palaces in St. Petersburg. In 1944, the Amber Room was removed by the Nazis and has since disappeared never to be recovered.
If you are fortunate enough to find some amber it is actually easy to distinguish from stone. Amber is light - although it can be both yellow, white, black or reddish - and weighs only a third of what a stone of equivalent size weighs. Amber has a hollow ring; if you hit it carefully against your teeth it sounds hollow. Stone always feels colder than amber and amber is soft. You can scratch amber with a stone and create small splinters - you cannot do this to a stone. You can also burn amber and if you do, it gives off a red sooty flame. Amber is actually called “burning stone” in Swedish and German. Amber also becomes electric if you rub it, and the word “electric” actually comes from the Greek word for amber: electron! A sure way to tell whether it is amber or not, is to place it in a glass of water with two spoons of salt, stir and see if it floats - amber will float to the surface, while a stone will remain on the bottom.
Today, amber is still used for jewelry, and many artists are still fascinated by its warm color. Danish artisans also use gold, silver and gemstones to create captivating and unique jewelry inspired by the elemental nature of Northern Jutland. Different places in North Jutland you can experience amber polishers who form, clean and polish the raw pieces into beautiful shiny pieces of amber, so take care of your findings, maybe you can use it for jewelry.
There are several amber museums in North Jutland, where you can see amazing findings and pretty, prepared pieces of amber. The local tourist office can tell you where in your holiday area, you can find them.