SVETLOGORSK: The Kaliningrad enclave of Russia is known as the amber valley of the world. More than 90 percent of the world’s “solar stone” is found here, and its Rostec plant alone produces 500 tons a year.

And the precious mineral is very much in demand. The company intends to produce up to 600 tons this year to meet the needs of projects in the Gulf, including an amber mosque in Qatar and a museum in Bahrain. 

“Countries of the Arabian Gulf have become more active, the interest is very great,” said Mikhail Zatsepin, the head of Rostec, during the recent VI International Economic Forum of the amber industry in Svetlogorsk.

“We plan to build an amber mosque together with our colleagues using the example of the famous amber room of Tzar Peter The Great,” he said, in reference to the so-called “eighth wonder of the world” built in the 18th century with gold leaf and more than six tonnes of the mineral.

He added that negotiations were still underway in Bahrain but reported “great interest” from the king during a visit last October.

Huge amber deposits were formed in Kaliningrad, a region between modern Lithuania and Poland, around 45-50 million years ago from the sticky resin of trees. 

By weight it is often worth more than gold, and deposits that trapped ancient insects as it hardened are sold at a premium.

Kaliningrad has for centuries been the center of global output - the so-called “Amber Road” trade route supplied ancient Greece and Rome as it snaked through Europe and into imperial China.

And while the Chinese continue to be the main customer in the 21st century, attention is turning to a growing demand from the Middle East.

Zatsepin said his company was developing smaller projects aimed at the Gulf, such as amber rosaries and abaya embroidered with stones.

“They (Gulf customers) are also interested in jewelry. These are traditionally rosaries, but we are also talking about women’s abayas embroidered with amber, so we plan not only to supply or jointly produce embroidered abayas there, but also accessories,” he said.

“The prospects for using amber here are limitless. The main thing is to set trends.”

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