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aries1988 : diving   5

The devil’s lottery: the perils of diving for ‘Baltic gold’

The rush for Baltic gold, which sometimes sells for more than the real thing, has been driven by consumers in China, where it is mainly used as jewellery for both men and women. From soyabean fields on the fringes of the Amazon to copper mines in the south of Congo, Kaliningrad is one of the many regions being reshaped by China’s voracious demand for commodities.

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad is the epicentre for the world’s amber trade, with the region holding about 90 per cent of the global reserves of the fossilised tree resin. It also boasts some of the oldest amber in the world — the product of a coniferous pine forest that fell into the Baltic Sea between 40m and 50m years ago.

At the time when Mr Krupnyakov and his gang were offering their services to illegal miners, the market was booming. Amber dealers say prices increased as much as 10 times between 2012 and 2016 on the back of strong demand from China. Although used for little other than jewellery and ornaments these days, amber has been a prized commodity in China ever since the days of the Ming dynasty and is seen as carrying healing powers and good fortune.

In May last year, Hong Kong Customs seized about 50kg of suspected smuggled amber, which it said had an estimated market value of about $1.5m, making the amber worth about $30 a gramme. The white amber, dealers say, can be sold to China for as much as $40 a gramme, and if the piece is really special, up to $50 or even $100 a gramme. That is more than the current market price of gold: about $41 a gramme.

Amber jewellery for adults has gone out of fashion in the west over the past decade, but necklaces for babies have become popular, having been lauded for their ability to relieve teething pain. But after a one-year-old was strangled, the US Food and Drug Administration put out a warning in December about the safety risks of such necklaces.

The authenticity of amber can be tested by burning, drilling into or even rubbing it. If genuine, it should give off a pinelike smell. It can also be tested to see if it floats in salt water (it should), while a UV lamp shone at it should show up as blue or green. Amber divers who go out to sea at night take UV torches with them.
russia  history  today  china  consumer  death  sea  diving 
6 weeks ago by aries1988

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