Amber - the Gold of Fanø

The Sea washes a lot of things ashore on the Beach on Fanø. Between Seaweed and shells you may find the gold af the North Sea - amber. Ready to be picked up and brought home.

If you have been skilled enough or lucky enough to find a beautiful piece of amber at the water's edge, then you are irrevocably sold to the hunt for amber. Most people are caught by the hunting instinct and an increasing "gold fever" when they discover that it is actually possible to find amber.  At the same time, hunting for amber is a great activity, when the weather is not warm enough for sunbathing. 



Actually, raw and cold weather is best, which is when the amber is swept towards the shore. Everything, also amber, floats best when the water is cold, and that is why summer is not a good season. During the winter, the weather is naturally marked by stronger wind and more storms, which is when amber as well as other substances are washed ashore. The secret, as most people know, lies partly in the direction of the wind. On Fanø, the right wind direction is from the southwest, but this will vary from place to place. As well, the wind can also be too fierce! Only when the tide has pulled back is the hunting ground revealed. Many separate events have to fit together, but this is a large part of the pleasure. It is not a coincidence that the most experienced amber collectors find the best pieces, for they know exactly when and where the conditions are just right. However, there are no guarantees.

A good tip is to keep an eye out for seagulls. Where large flocks of seagulls gather on the shore chances are that mussels, vegetable matter and, very likely, amber have washed up on the beach.




The amber we find along the Danish coasts is called Baltic amber. This amber is between 30 and 50 million years old. The so-called amber forests once covered a large part of Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea areas. Today we know that the amber is old resin from extinct wood species, but earlier, there were many theories about the origins of amber. Some of the more colourful explanations were that amber was wax from the wood ant or dried urine from the lynx. Resin slowly changed its molecular structure in the very oxygen-poor conditions under the water. Had the resin been in contact with oxygen, it would never have become amber.

The prehistoric rivers in the Baltic Sea areas have moved the amber from one place to another. Especially the Ice Age glaciers have transported the amber to the North Sea, where storms and currents wash the amber ashore so we can collect it on the beaches. Just like people have done for the last 9,000 years.

A few years ago on Fanø, a German guest found a piece of amber jewellery made in the Stone Ages. The jewellery probably came from one of the now flooded North Sea settlements. The chances of finding such a piece of jewellery or perhaps just a nugget with an embedded insect or leaf naturally increase the fascination for finding and collecting amber.