A friend has a small batch of amber pieces purchased by her
grandmother many years ago. I’ve only seen a picture of them, and
they look to be in a fairly raw state. The pieces have been center
drilled and look to have just the littlest bit of a polish. My friend
would like to use them, but feels they’re just too ugly in their
current state and wonders if they can be polished.
So my question is, how does one go about polishing amber? I
understand that amber is more a resin than a stone, so what do we
need to watch out for so that we don’t ruin it?
I’ve been doing a lot of work with amber lately, research as well as
cutting. The first thing of which to be aware is that the longer
amber is out of the ground, the more brittle it can become. It seems
to become redder and more brittle as it ages. If yours is a very dark
red, it may well be brittle. You ought to be able to tell how
brittle it is by looking at it with about 10 to 15 x magnification.
If you see little crack lines on the surface, you’re finding
On the other hand it’s worth the try since it’s not doing anything
now just sitting there.
I polish amber by using a leather disk which is very damp and
impregnated with Lindy A, a very fine aluminum oxide polish for
stone. Most jewelry supply stores will have it. You can use a
flexshaft or even a Dremel and cut the leather disk yourself from
fullgrain leather. The one thing to watch out for with amber is
excessive heat because it can melt or burn. You have to go fairly
slowly and keep the leather moist. Also, if it does get overheated
and pulls excessively, you might need to clean the glazing off the
If you want to go lower tech than the above and it will take more
time, you can do a great deal of polishing by handrubbing the amber
on a piece of coarse denim on a flat surface. And to cut the amber,
you can use various grits of sandpaper.
Without knowing more about what you have available to you, these are
If the surface of the amber is already smooth, use Brasso (brass
cleaner) and rub the surface with a chunk of Styrofoam, the dense
soft stuff, not the harsh, “holey” stuff. Worked like magic on ours!
Almost no effort at all. This we learned after hours with a dremel
and various grinding and polishing tips and powders.
Toodles! ~ Sherry ~ (a mere beginner who dreams of learning “hot
metal” someday, but is enjoying twisting wire now)