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Tomasz Mikołajczyk (z prawej) został (wraz z Mariuszem Gliwińskim) Bursztynnikiem Roku 2012 Tomasz Mikołajczyk (z prawej) został (wraz z Mariuszem Gliwińskim) Bursztynnikiem Roku 2012
Interviews 19 Jun 2013

I Want to Be Sure of What I Sell - an interview with Tomasz Mikołajczyk

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Tomasz Mikołajczyk, who has been involved in the amber industry for 25 years, is telling us about his latest project which "surpasses all accepted schemes and standards". The project is a private Museum of Amber in Cracow and the purchase of spectrometer which is meant to "bring the market back to normal".

What is the reasons for opening the Amber Museum?

I decided to implement this idea, as there wasn't anything like that in Cracow. This city has been a kind of Polish amber centre for years, but in the trade sense. Gdańsk is the World Capital of Amber, as most of plants and workshops are located there. In Cracow, however, the highest number of amber products are sold, as there are more tourists compared to other Polish cities.

What effect do you expect?

I think that due to the raw material changes on the market and the forcing out of natural amber by imitations, there is a need to create a place where natural amber, that is the most attractive one, will be shown. I want it to remind us about the history of amber, and what values amber carries, as well as why so many people consider natural amber to be the most beautiful form of amber.

The admission to the museum will be free. How are you going to finance this enterprise?

I do many things because of my love of amber. Not everything is meant to be commercial. For instance, the Amber Portal doesn't generate profit as such, but it is highly regarded in the amber environment. I don't expect that the Amber Museum will be a commercial success, as with free admission it is virtually a charity. I hope that the means for its maintenance will be obtained from the shop run by the museum, and that it will appeal to people from the amber industry and other amber lovers who may want to cooperate with us. We really need this kind "spiritual support" in such a complex enterprise. I would like to take this opportunity to thank for the support that we have received so far. We especially appreciate the contribution of Professor Barbara Kosmowska-Ceranowicz and the employees of the Earth Museum by the Polish Academy of Sciences from Warsaw - without them and their exhibits our exhibition would be considerably more modest and surely not as thoroughly prepared.

The effects of our work will be presented as of mid-July. This is when we will open over 220 m2 of exhibition space, in the heart of Cracow, and a small garden where tourists tired after their museum tour can relax with a cup of coffee. The interiors are very elegant, they are being created with the assistance of Marek Błażucki, a popular architect. It will be a nice, tourist-friendly place, where we will be able to organise various events - training sessions, courses, shows, vernissages - for people who want to know more about amber. And, what's most important, our museum will be open year-round, not only during the tourist season.

In the Amber Museum there will also be a possibility to test the authenticity of amber and its products.

The purchase of spectrometer to test amber is a continuation of my mission. A year ago published my letter about the activities of amber organisations, whose role it is to take care of the purity of amber and fair trade. There have already been such things as Amber Passports and certificates of the International Amber Association - but there is virtually no verification, and the dishonest sellers don't suffer any consequences. There is still a painful lack of knowledge about amber among sellers. Over half a year after the publication of my letter nothing happened, nobody did anything. Everybody could see what the situation is like at this year's edition of the Amberif trade fair: merely a fraction of presented products were made of natural amber, other resins were rarely labelled. There was, however, an incredible rush among clients to test what they have invested their money in. That gave me the idea to take the matters in my own hands. Today only a spectrometer - based on the analyses of the infra-red spectrum - allows one to distinguish Baltic amber from copal and other fossils. Thus, I purchased a device identical to the one used at the Amber Laboratory at the fair, where amber authenticity tests are run, under the patronage of the Amber Portal I hired graduates of the Faculty of Geology at the University of Science and Technology in Cracow who are currently undergoing an intensive training under close supervision of specialists from the industry. They now have enough knowledge and practice to examine amber. I would like to invite everyone to use this service - both tourists and owners of shops and galleries. Each test is confirmed by a certificate with an individually designed, registered and numbered hologram. Our certificates are attached to the particular product, not to a point of sale. The test is not free, but perhaps it is a good idea to attach an authenticity certificate to your products, especially the more expensive ones...?

Are you not worried that hardly anybody cares about the "purity" of amber?

I care about it. Selling so much amber, I want to be sure of what I sell. It's unrealistic to go to Gdańsk or Warsaw Polytechnic with every single product, and verify its authenticity there. Now it is possible, though with such a large amount of products as we offer at the moment, testing all of them will surely take a while. Though, the bottom line is that I will now buy, knowing what I buy and re-sell with full awareness of my products. This doesn't mean that I will give up on selling modified amber: it will still be offered, and it will still be correctly labelled. If somebody wants to check what they purchased elsewhere, they are able to do it now. I think it is the only spectrometer privately owned and used to test amber. Placing it at the Amber Museum will give a free access to it to anybody who wishes to use it, including owners of galleries and shops, who so far - like me - were never sure of what they buy. Everything has been based on trust to credible producers. I believe that a catalogued certificate with detailed description will undoubtedly be an additional commercial impulse for amber products buyers - not only at the Boruni chain, but also in other shops and galleries. I hope that we will bring the market back to normal - because this is what matters to me most.

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