Amber imitations - Glass

Gabriela Gierlowska

Glass is one of the oldest amber surrogates. When humans learned how to make glass and use it for their various needs, its functionality and the artistic effects in glass products made it the highlight of human clothing and environment.

Beads made of sparkling colourful glass found in Poland come from the Lusatian culture area, from the older phase of the Hallstatt period, i.e. 700-550 BCE. They would come to us from the south, along the River Odra to begin with, but mainly by means of the Amber Route , and from the east by means of the transcontinental route.

A cup made of opaque many-coloured glass from the 1 st century which was found in Poland in Dembe, Kalisz region “(...) is an example of a technique which imitates vessels made of semi-precious stones in glass .” So the features of natural stones were given not only to small jewellery but also to larger functional pieces. In antiquity and the early medieval period, only wealthy people, who played an important part in the life of the society, were able to afford to buy glass vessels. Therefore, it was variously shaped beads made in diverse techniques that were imported. The numerous Polish finds include beads:


  • made of a tube of opaque yellow glass, known from the Golancz settlement in the Gryfice region, dated at the 7 th -8 th centuries,
  • made of a glass tube divided into cylindrical segments with special tongs – the Toliszczek Treasure
  • made of a two-layer tube, with the internal layer made of transparent, slightly brown glass and the external layer of a very thin enamel coating. On the outside, the bead seems to be made of opaque yellowish glass
  •  formed by cutting out hardened glass mass
  • barrel-shaped and flattish-round beads made of two-layer (potassium-sodium-calcium-silica) glass decorated with gold plate
  • barrel-shaped beads made of two-layer (potassium-lead-silica) glass which imitates gold-plated specimens, where a silver plate covered with a thin layer of transparent yellow glass was placed on the internal layer of transparent, slightly brown glasse.


The consolidation of the Polish state around the 10 th century CE with the resulting transformations in its economic structure and the overall development caused glass workshops to be established in Wolin, Opole , Kruszwica and Wroclaw. Glass jewellery was mainly made in Wolin – beads, rings made of sodium-lead-silica glass, and Opole – jewellery made of lead-silica unleached glass. The native production of glass jewellery made it accessible not only to the inhabitants of fortified towns or craft and trade settlements but also to the rural population. Archaeological research in the glassworks in Cicha Dolina near Piechowice, Jelenia Gora region, shows that “amber-coloured”  glass was also produced there.