Polishing Your Amber Jewels
There are many ways to polish the pieces of amber. They can be drilled, cut, saw, sanded, filled or even carved. This is due to the nature of the gemstone itself. Raw amber is not a mineral like some of the gemstones but rather a fossilized resin. Thus, it is soft and can be easily modified.
If you are going to saw your amber, the best way to do it is by using a circular saw. You would just need to put the gem gently but firmly into the saw. A fine-toothed saw can also be used; however, it doesn’t work as well since it takes way more time.
If you wish to sand your gem, you can use a sanding wheel or belt and then shape your piece of amber any way you like. For easy removal of undesired material, it is best to use a coarse grade wheel and or small final touches it is better to use a fine grade.
While it is possible to sand amber by hand, it is not recommended as such way is more time consuming. Instead you should use tools that were created to speed up and simplify sanding process. For example, with a Dremel-type tool you can quickly do some elaborate carvings. Other useful tools are a dental-type Burr and a saw.
After giving your piece of amber a shape and size that you wanted you may find your gem is still rather rough. But do not worry. The final touches can be done with a cotton buffing wheel. However, make sure you are holding your piece firmly as you may get hurt otherwise.
Before using the buffing wheel, load it with a good polish. Do not forget that you need to use the same polish for the piece to avoid problems. Keep in mind that neutral-coloured polish should always be avoided as it is known to cause discoloration.
Pieces of amber tend to be small and therefore hard to handle. For this reason, you should place a double-faced Scotch tape on your fingertip and then press the other side against your gem. With this you can safely hold your piece and work at your pace.
For drilling you can use the Dremel tool. If you wish to drill completely through your gem, it is suggested to use a no. 62 twist drill. Make sure you drill gently but hold the piece tightly.
While sanding or drilling your gem, you may notice that it gets warmer or even hot. If your piece is authentic and solid, there is no need to worry as neither drilling, nor sanding will cause any harm. However, if your piece is a soft grade, you may want to occasionally cool it down with some water.
What to Avoid
Since raw amber is a fossilized resin, it is weak to some chemicals, such as alcohol, chloroform and acetone. As such make you do not use either of the mentioned chemicals while polishing your gem. In addition, perfume and hairspray are also a big no when it comes to amber. Moreover, avoid wearing amber jewellery when cooking or cleaning due to high danger of amber coming in contact with various dangerous chemicals.
Direct sunlight and strong UV lights are also bad for your gem. And so are extreme temperatures.
As with any thing, if you want to remain in top condition, you must invest time in caring for it. The first step to making sure your amber remains beautiful is waxing. It should be done once every four-six months.
The second step – never use a jewellery machine or a steam cleaner. Instead of cleaning your gem, they may end up damaging it. It’s much better to simply use some warm water solution with a mild soap. Put your amber in the solution and leave it be for ten minutes. Afterwards, remove it and dry it with a flannel cloth.
Instead of warm water solution you may use a drop of olive oil. Make sure you use a soft cloth afterwards to properly polish your gem.
As mentioned above amber is a rather soft gem. For this reason, you shouldn’t keep it with your other stones as they scratch it. Instead wrap your piece in some soft cloth and keep it in a different box.
Amber is classified as follows:
Sometimes a low transparent amber may be called a “bastard amber”. If the amber is tainted with wood or other organic matter, then it is graded based on the internal structure of piece.
Clear amber is the preferred type by the jewellers. To assess the value of the piece, one must keep in mind these factors: internal structure, outside appearance, quality, age, entombed materials (e.g., bugs, bark, etc.).
Entombed materials that are visible but sparse usually improve the price of the piece as these relics are seen as the proof of authenticity.
The milky colourations caused by air bubbles, on the other hand, usually are seen as defective and thus lower the price of the piece. However, there are jewellers that consider this a good thing because big bubbles improve the colour.
Amber is very old and formed when millions of years ago resin dropped to the ground and then hardened through polymerization. In the past people have used amber as a décor detail in many palaces. Some believed it has magical powers and can heal people.
“Copal” is a term used to call amber which is not fully hardened yet and thus is still relatively soft compared to amber and other gemstones.
The Baltic Sea is the place where majority of world’s amber is found. It is worth to mention that Baltic amber contains 98% succinite which is thought to provide health. Perhaps this where the belief that amber has healing powers came from.
Though majority of amber is yellow, it is by no means the only colour. Opaque amber might look foamy or creamy and looks best in silver setting. Red amber is also known as “cherry amber” or “dragon blood”. Due to its rarity and beautiful colour it has been greatly valued throughout the centuries. Green amber is so rare that people even doubt whether it’s an amber when they discover a piece. Other possible colours are black and dark brown.
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