It is found in Romania, along a river bed that is well hidden from the main roads, a place once very famous and almost forgotten today. Covered in mystery and legend, the Mountains of Buzău are an out of this world region abounding in natural wonders such as the live fires phenomenon, the hermitage caves or the Muddy Volcanoes, some of which so little known and distant, that finding them becomes an adventure on its own. One of these places is the Amber Museum in the Colți village, an exposition of amber jewels and nuggets extracted from the area.
The Village of Amber
In order to get here we got farther and farther away from the main road linking Buzău to Brașov, driving on steep cart roads, heading deep into the heart of these time forgotten mountains. We passed by remote villages. Elders were coming out of their old houses, amazed to see a car in these parts. In the center of the village of Colți we arrived in front of the large wooden gate of the Amber Museum. Behind it, some kind of old traditional manor houses the only amber collection in Romania and one of the few in the world. The door was locked. Not many tourists get here and chances are that the museum will be closed. But the solution to the problem is very simple. Just ask around and the villagers will point you to the house of the person responsible, who will most likely be home and will come with the key.
The Colți Amber Museum is quite small. There are only two rooms. One of them is an exposition of the famous Colți amber, with raw fragments, nuggets and jewels. The other holds some mine flowers and semi precious stones. In between them, there are old tools used for extraction. The museum sells some jewels made from Baltica amber, the most common kind. It is believed that if you wear amber as a jewel it will bring good luck.
Amber is a fossil resin from a particular type of pine tree, between 60-40 million years old. It was used since the late Paleolithic for jewelery and amulets and there was a time when it was even more valuable than gold. Along the river bed of the Colți Valley, a special variation of amber was discovered. It is called rumanit and it is only found in Romania and Russia. There are over 160 shades of amber in the world, but among all of these, the black-green amber is the most valuable, such as the one found here at Colți. In 1902, the scientist Gheorghe Munteanu published his doctorate dissertation and proved that the Colți amber is unique in the world due to its shades of black. It seems that it was this very amber that drew the Argonauts towards this country in search of the Golden Fleece.
The first exploitation attempts began in the early 19th century. Amber was extracted both at the surface and in special wells until 1948, when the Ministry of Mines decides to definitively stop the dwellings in the area. One of the locals, a very old man, tells a story of how, back in 1951, activists found out that he had a 200 grams piece of amber. They stole it from his very house when he wasn’t home, took it and turned it into a pipe that was sent to Stalin.
When it rains, the amber is revealed
After it rains, locals still head out to the river bed to search for amber. Water reveals the nuggets that are usually covered in a layer of clay. Most of the villagers have pieces of amber in their homes, hoping to make some extra money from what the land has to offer. According to tradition, nobody reveals the place where the nugget was found, otherwise he is cursed to never find another one again.
All the miners that used to dig for the amber nuggets have passed away. A workshop used to function here in the village, making jewels out of Colți amber, such as the ones we saw in the museum. The last craftsman is now very old. He will take his secrets to the grave, burying an ancient art and this place will only seem even more hollow…