Q. Folks-- This is for you amber-mavens out there. I don't
work with it, but I teach, and some students do. When amber has
those perfectly round "sequin" inclusions, am I correct in
believing that it has to be reconstituted or other non-natural
A. - Noel - you are wrong. It is natural amber. And here is the
"however" - the sequins are a result of annealing the amber. In
it’s original state from the sea or as mined, it is very brittle.
Amber is usually treated, permanently, by warming it to 180F -
coffee temperature- in oil. When warmed, the internal stresses
often present as the discs or sequins you have noticed.
And now for more than you ever wanted to know about amber - green
amber from Poland is the same stuff, but has the skin left on the
outside of some part of the cab, highlighting the sequins. Some
Polish dealers enhance the effect by painting the skin with a black
paint, making the sequins even more noticeable. A few years ago,
green amber was marketed with well defined star bursts or rays. A
dealer told me that when the amber was annealed, already cut as a
cab, it was smacked when very warm and the rays would radiate from
the impact point.
If you ever have amber with bugs, it almost never has the
characteristic discs. The reason is buggy amber isn’t heated
because the greatest area of stress is where the insect is included
and annealing would cover the critter with a large disc, thus
destroying the value of the piece. Consequently, buggy amber is
fragile, brittle and will break when dropped.
A way to identify reconstituted amber is to look for swirls or
abrupt color changes. This results from heating or pressing amber
chunks together, usually with added resins.
Natural amber floats in salt water. You can polish out scratches
with tripoli and final buff by hand on clean blue jeans. It is
easily shaped with a medium cratex wheel. if you are going to drill
it, go in and out fast, else it will stick to your drill.
I love amber - I get mine from Skagen Denmark, where the North Sea
and the Baltic Seas come together. It is the oldest known source of
amber. Or at least that is what the Danes tell me.
Judy Hoch, G.G.