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Thursday, 12 March 2015 16:15

New Perspectives for Lithuanian Amber – an Interview with Gierdrius Guntorius

Written by  Anna Sado
Giedrius Guntorius, the director of Amber Trip Fair Giedrius Guntorius, the director of Amber Trip Fair

2014 turned out to be very good for the Lithuanian amber industry, and in 2015 amber mining from the deposits located in the Curonian spit is meant to begin. The condition of that industry will be put on test for the first time this year at the Amber Trip trade fair that will be held in Vilnius over March 18th and 21st

The Amber Trip trade fair is coming – what can the visitors expect? 

We are expecting about 100 exhibitors – mostly from Lithuania, but also from Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Turkey, Germany, Russia, the  Ukraine and India. The biggest emphasis, as usual, will be put on amber products, however, they constitute only about half of the exhibitors’ product offer. The other half is silver and gold jewellery, precious stones and jewellery stones. Judging by the success of the last year’s edition, we can assume that the coming trade fair has a great chance to succeed, especially in the amber sector: the interest in products decorated with amber is still big, the exhibitors are well prepared to meet buyers from all over the world. 

One of the attractions of the fair will be a Baltic amber block of an unusual size, which comes from a private collection. It weighs 3820 grams, which is more than the block currently exhibited at the Amber Museum in Palanga that has been acclaimed as the largest in Lithuania.

This year there will be new exhibitors at our trade fair. They haven’t taken part in big exhibition events so far. They are small, local producers who will show a unique product range, high quality, hand-made jewellery with amber. There will also be unique, hand-ground stones. Another new thing  - and probably a big surprise for everybody – will be the fact that  Chinese producers of jewellery with amber will be present at the Amber Trip as exhibitors. They are the companies that have succeeded on their own market and now they want to take off in Europe.

Do you think that it may be a threat for Polish or Lithuanian producers, who have been the leaders in this field so far?

I don’t think that the Chinese could threaten such a strong market position of the European producers. At least not in the nearest future. Let’s remember that amber is a global stone, available to everyone who wants to and has enough creativity to process it. The rest is regulated by the market. 

What moods are there among the Lithuanian producers of jewellery with amber? 

Definitely good. The year 2014 was really good for the Lithuanian producers of amber products, mainly thanks to the Chinese buyers, whose interest in this stone has been invariably big for the last few years. High prices of the raw material and more difficult access to it in the first half of the year didn’t leave a negative impression on the industry: no company disappeared from the market, some companies are doing better, some worse, but they all function.  

This year may be even better, especially taking into account the plan to launch amber mining from Lithuanian deposits. The negotiations started back last year, so as our amber industry would not have to rely on the Ukrainian or Russian raw material. It is also done in order to enable the promotion of Lithuanian amber, which would contribute to strengthening the image of our industry and our products in the world. 

What stage is this project at currently? 

Details can be found in Vilnius at the Amber Trip over March 18th and 21st. There will be a specially organised seminar by Professor Jonas Satkūnas from the Lithuanian Institute of Geology, by the Ministry of Environment. He will talk about the progress in the implementation of the project. We have an estimated amount of 230 tonnes of Baltic amber deposited in The Curonian Spit, near the sea, as well as the support of the Lithuanian government, who is interested in developing this sector of trade. The deposits have already been examined, and the regulations for the projected mining are being worked out. The Lithuanian amber producers hope that mining will begin in August or September this year, and that it will be limited – this has already been confirmed – to 30 tonnes per year, in order not to cause an environmental disaster.  

What is the cooperation with the Russians like at the moment – have the Lithuanian companies accepted the invitation of the Amber Combinat to open a workshop in Kaliningrad?  

Currently there is no such need. In 2013 and 2014 when both the Lithuanian and Polish companies relied on the Russian raw material, it might have made sense. Now, however, when the prices of raw material have dropped, and a lot of raw material, including the raw material from Russia and even more from the Ukraine, has emerged on the market, their attractive position has weakened. What is more, today the role of Russia on the world amber market is marginal. Does anybody care about Russia today? No, there is more amber in China than in the largest amber mine in the world, in Kaliningrad. And it’s China that has the final word. This will probably change at some point in the future, even today it is said that there is a need to diversify the outlets for amber products, both Lithuanian and Polish ones. Though, as long as the Chinese market is receptive, everybody will concentrate on it and hardly anybody will be thinking about looking for new outlets. The question is how long it will take...

 

Anna Sado

Anna Sado

Trade journalist specialising in jewellery related topics. Since 2007 has been co-creator of the amber portal amber.com.pl

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