=A0 =A0Amber is easier to polish than copal. My experience i=
that acetone will make copal soft. Use a q-tip, if it gets sticky, it is copal.
Acetone will also disolve amber, and melt undedr the same heat.
=A0 =A0Amber is easier to polish than copal. My experience i=
that acetone will make copal soft. Use a q-tip, if it gets sticky, it is copal.
Acetone will also disolve amber, and melt undedr the same heat.
I have final polished amber by briskly rubbing it on flannel.
Regular wet sand paper prepolish
I made a very nice intarsia piece using a piece of amber in the
center. It cut and shaped nicely. I polished it using cerium oxide
on felt, and I always watch the temperature, so it did not get very
hot at all. All was fine until a week or so after polishing, when
cracks developed around the edge of the amber center piece. Bummer! I
guess I will try hand polishing next time…
From a practicality standpoint it seems a bit odd putting something that can melt into metal jewelry. Put your amber ring to close to a flame or hot oven for awhile and see if it deforms. Guess you could always make money selling a new one. Problem is I don't think the average person realizes how soft, or heat sensitive amber is.. They see it's a pretty yellow/orange color and buy it. Question is, why not use a nice madera citrine or something along those lines (or even a nice spessartite..)..
Contrary to many people’s belief, amber is not likely to melt if it
comes near a heat source, although it can be damaged. Although it
resembles plastic, it’s not a thermoplastic type of material. While
it is heat-sensitive, this mostly becomes evident when attempting to
polish it with power tools or hold onto it with dop wax. Too much
friction will scorch the surface, but won’t melt it. The preheating
required for successful dopping of most stones will harm amber,
possibly cracking it. But amber will usually burn before it will
It is possible to melt amber; this was done with chips of material
to make “amberoid”; a reconstituted material popular in the past for
pipestems, etc. While I’ve never done it or seen it done, the trick
seems to be the exclusion of air by using a liquid resin (often
bakelite) and heating it with pressure in a mold.
While it is relatively soft and brittle, amber has an appeal that’s
different from that of citrine or similarly-colored stones. It’s
warm to the touch, not cold, and light, not heavy. It’s easily
carved (I’ve had good luck with carbide and steel burs in a
flexshaft) and polished (just take it slow and easy), and it often
has inclusions of insects, plants, water droplets, and other
specimens of ancient life, perfectly preserved. It also has peculiar
electrostatic properties - rub it on fur, and it will quickly
acquire a charge. The ancient Greeks were aware of this, and called
it “electrum” ; this word later became the basis of “electron” and
"electricity". I’m not saying that it has mystical properties, but
for some reason, people have always liked it, and have wanted to
wear it - the earliest amber artifacts (beads) that have been found
date back 12,000 years or so - and it’s still quite popular today.
Funny enough, it seems most of my sales of amber are to ladies who
are named Amber… don’t think they would like to change their
name to Citrine… In good humor,
I understand where you are coming from Craig, about the fact that amber is so soft, but unfortunately it seems to be what my customers want.
Can’t argue with supply & demand!
I notice everyone is using sandpaper, has anyone tried spectra or
ultra laps that are used to final polish faceted stones (softer
ones)? This might work if done by hand and light pressure used.
You can get them at places like www.color-wright.com. Personally, I
would probably try the .05 micron ones since the others might be too
My name is Amber and I really DON’T like amber jewellery. My partner
keeps buying it for me, though, and I don’t have the heart
to tell him!
Amber is easier to polish than copal. My experience is that acetone will make copal soft. Use a q-tip, if it gets sticky, it is copal. Acetone will also dissolve amber, and melt under the same heat.
I don’t know your source of about amber. My source is
the handbook of gem identification by Liddicoat, published by G.I.A.
It states that amber can be separated from copal using ether. Ether
is C2-H5)02, acetone is C3-H6-0. Liddicoat states that ether will
affect copal but not amber. I waited a couple of days to do what I
had done previously just to be sure. I have what I know is amber
from Chiapas, Mexico and I have what I know to be copal. The acetone
did not affect the amber, and I tried twice, in different spots, and
vigorously, doing the same with the copal. The surface of the copal
became soft and I could put an impression of my finger print in the
My intention is not to be right, but to be accurate.
It states that amber can be separated from copal using ether. Ether is C2-H5)02, acetone is C3-H6-0. Liddicoat states that ether will affect copal but not amber. I waited a couple of days to do what I had done previously just to be sure. I have what I know is amber from Chiapas, Mexico and I have what I know to be copal. The acetone did not affect the amber, and I tried twice, in different spots, and vigorously, doing the same with the copal. The surface of the copal became soft and I could put an impression of my finger print in the copal.
I’m not sure this is accurate. I’ve always heard that
ether will dissolve amber, but acetone won’t. Since ether is rather
difficult to get, and hard to handle safely, I haven’t tried this
myself. I have done the same acetone test you did, and my results
were similar- the copal went sticky, the amber wasn’t affected. The
best site on amber I know of is Garry Platt’s; and on it he states
(based on the research of Rice, Fraquet and Bauer) that amber will
dissolve in an 18-23% solution of ether
(http://www.gplatt.demon.co.uk/properti.htm). Perhaps Liddicoat used
a weaker solution.
The best site on amber I know of is Garry Platt's; and on it he states (based on the research of Rice, Fraquet and Bauer) that amber will dissolve in an 18-23% solution of ether http://www.gplatt.demon.co.uk/properti.htm . Perhaps Liddicoat used a weaker solution.
When Discussing ether one must remember that when we use the term
ether today, we mean specifically diethyl ether or perhaps the
generic class of compounds of which it is a member. Other members of
the ether family have similar but different reactions with other
chemicals. It is entirely possible that one type will react with
Amber while with another Amber is totally unaffected.
When Discussing ether one must remember that when we use the term ether today, we mean specifically diethyl ether or perhaps the generic class of compounds of which it is a member. Other members of the ether family have similar but different reactions with other chemicals. It is entirely possible that one type will react with Amber while with another Amber is totally unaffected.
You make an excellent point here, Kay. The sources I’ve seen seem to
refer to ether as a generic product. They are also all over the map
on the question of whether amber is affected or not. The chemical
dissimilarities you refer to could well be the source of the
different results people seem to be getting. Since you seem to know
about this (and I don’t), could you expand a little on the different
sorts of ether that are available, which might be the most common
types available for testing purposes, how to handle them without
self-anesthesia setting in? Various alcohols seem to vary in their
effects on amber as well; methyl being destructive while ethyl
apparently is not (although it does affect copal).
When Discussing ether one must remember that when we use the term ether today, we mean specifically diethyl ether or perhaps the generic class of compounds of which it is a member
I am pretty ignorant about chemistry, someone please explain why the
dictionary says that ether is 1) C2-H5)2O, obtained by distillation
of alcohol with sulfuric acid 2) any of various organic compounds
characterized by an oxygen atom attached to two carbon atoms and
that Liddicoat says that separation of copal from amber can be done
with ether, and I posted the chemical composition of acetone, which
is close to the same composition as ether, and there seems to be a
lack of understanding that there is a gemmological test that is
correct until proven not to be so.
If you do not know what you are testing, and do not know how to
separate plastic, amber, copal, or any substance, your method and
conclusion does not mean anything.
I have done it. More than once. It means that if you do what I did
with known stones of amber and known stones of copal, you get the
same results I do, and it is in accordance with known gemmological
I recently, before I made my last post, put three cabs of amber in
acetone, and left them for 48 hours. They lost their polish, they
got flexible. They did not dissolve. Not a little bit.
I am trying to help educate others based on posts of members that
are trying to discern what something is, using my gemmology
education, which I spent 6 months, 5 days a week, and 8 hours a day
What I post is not assumption or speculation. It is fact. Facts
Gemmological testing is determining what something is not, exclusion
of everything that indicates what it could not be, resulting is the
only thing it could be.
Testing includes microscope, spectra, determining whether it is
singly or doubly refractive, RI, specific gravity, uni or bi-axial,
refractive liquids, internal characteristics, ect.
Richard Hart, G.G.
With the talk of amber lately I thought some might want to know what
goes on in cutting houses with Baltic amber treatments, not the
nefarious slop with dyes and such, below this is some actual cutting
This is from K.E.K gems, as it will be
“Most of the natural rough stones are milky, pale or translucent but
very light yellow. To match the taste and the requirement of the
consumers, a very special technique of heat treatment for these
stones has been developed, whereas each company, working with these
fine stones, keeps their developed technique as a secret part of
know-how for themselves. Just by heating these stones (at low
temperature), the following general changes will appear: If heat and
air (as in a regular stove is the case) is supplied to the stones,
the material will clear up and darken. If stones are heated under
vacuum (i.e. by an autoclave), stones will clear but not changing
their color to a darker shade. By special techniques, heat may cause
the “Glitter” to appear inside of the stone. Properties of the gem do
not change at all, so that such a heat treatment to Amber may never
be proofed and the stone still to be considered as natural Amber.”
How long as this been going on? Since at least the end of the ice
age, archeologist have found remains of a home “shop” in Poland
dating back 10,000 years with evidence of this. The “Glitter” or star
spangles occurs naturally, however most of this are man induced,
although beautiful and popular, therefor desirable this inclusion is
of less value than bugs. Cooking clear is done in clear turnip seed
oil. In prehistoric times piglet fat was used. However inclusions can
be destroyed completely or suffer substantial damage. Occasionally
they become more visible. I got some from KEK that was both included
and spangled. This cooking could be done in a kitchen over at low
heat, well below the melting point I suppose. (Amber will melt at a
temperature of 170 - 190 degrees centigrade.) Don’t expect a cutting
house to give directions on how they do it.
As far as cutting amber, this is soft enough that it can easily be
worked by hand into cabochons, you can do it with a fine file and
several grades of sandpaper. Then buff and polish, this to can be
done by hand with some elbow grease. The Victoria Lapidary and
Mineral Society gives the following. “It can be filed to shape and
then sanded with an aluminum oxide paper of finer and finer grades,
(200,400, and 600 grit) until a polish step is necessary. Amber can
be polished by the use of: (1) tripoli with oil; (2) aluminum oxide;
(3) tin oxide;(4) Linde A; (5) rouge, applied dry. Dip the amber
piece into the lubricant (oil or water) and then dip the piece: into
the polishing compound then rub vigorously on a smooth surface such
as a leather strop, or a chamois attached to a hard board. The people
in Europe and Mexico used wood ashes as a. polishing agent.” (The
shop buffer with a canvas pad and cerium oxide and spry bottle seems
Faceting angels can be found at
http://alpha-supply.com/know/faceting.php - recommended polishes are
wax lap with Alumina or tin oxide or tin oxide Ultralap. The VLMS
also said that, “Amber can also be faceted if the lap speed is
reduced.” Suggested cutting angles are: Culet - 43 degrees, Crown -
42 degrees. Lap fine-extra fine (Not sure what lap grit they
consider fine, 1200?). Cutting speed100 RPM. Polishing, Lap - wax,
speed - normal, agent - Linde A."
As for dopping, wax is traditional (do not heat the stone) others say
to cold dop it with glue, white glue is water soluble, solvents can
attack the stone, just be careful not to let the join get wet. I am
sure someone on this list has worked some, and not a little, and
could tell us their tips and tricks. I was surprised at the thread
Cutting and Shaping Amber, unless I missed it; there has been no
instruction in the posts.
Good Morning Andrew,
You make an excellent point here, Kay. The sources I've seen seem to refer to ether as a generic product. They are also all over the map on the question of whether amber is affected or not. The chemical dissimilarities you refer to could well be the source of the different results people seem to be getting.
I am sorry to say I am far from an expert… About 40 years from my
last BioChem class as a matter of fact…
From what I remember, in the pre 50’s days sulpheric ether was
common and today diethey ether is the common type as it is safer to
use and store.
However if you Google +“Types of Ether” -RPG -Games -anesthesia Will
get you a selection of Articles. From one article I see a reference
to: “distinguish these two classes by using peak combinations. We
select all saturated Alcohol and Ether in the library. Altogether
there are 375 samples, with 295 types of Alcohol and 80 types of
In terms of your questions in reference to using ether, the main
things to remember is that ether is explosive in the wrong ( ok most
people would argue that the correct word here is right, however if
you have the right mix and a spark then you have the wrong mix for
your health) combination with air. So the main advise is to have more
than adequate ventilation and no source of ignition present when
working with it. The other main danger is that ether which has been
stored for a long period of time can decompose and form explosive
peroxides, has some persons have found out when trying to open the
container of ether and just the friction of removing the stopper is
enough to detonate the peroxide and cause severe hand damage. See URL
Here is a URL where you can find a MSDS on Diethyl Ether (Which is
the most common type sold today)
And for the doubters here is the MSDS for Isopropal Ether and
ethylene glycol dimethyl ether
Note the above comes from Oxford University in the
United Kingdom which I believe we can trust. I always prefer to
respond with links to trusted sources, has memory and
word of mouth learning are often faulty.
When you combine any Alcohol with an acid and distill it it will form
an ether compound. Since there are hundreds of different alcohols,
we can therefore create many different types of ether, Some are
unstable and decompose so quickly that no lab works with them ,
however there are many different types. Diethyl ether is the commonly
used type because it is easier to handle than most and easier for the
manufacturing companies to obtain the feedstock cheap… go
pick up a bottle of Vodka and you have basically 40 proof (in Canada
that is) ethyl alcohol. Another common
alcohol is isopropyl Alcohol (AKA rubbing alcohol)
Isopropal Ether Molecular formula: (CH3)2CHOCH(CH3)2
Diethyl Ether Molecular formula: C4H10O
If we compare some of the physical Data
Melting point: -116 C
Boiling point: 34.6 C
Specific gravity: 0.71
Vapour pressure: 400 mm Hg at 18 C
Flash point: -40 C
Explosion limits: 1.7% - 48%
Autoignition temperature: 170 C
Water solubility: 6.9% (20 C)
Melting point: -60 C
Boiling point: 69 C
Vapour density: 3.5 (air = 1)
Density (g cm-3): 0.72
Flash point: -28 C
Explosion limits: 1.4 - 7.9%
Water solubility: slight
We can see these 2 common ethers have vastly different properties.
My apologies to all who I have bored to death with this discourse
The main trick of polishing amber and similar organic substances
such as acrylics is being careful not to heat the material by the
friction of buffing etc, which will simply produce a mess. Use
wet-&-dry abrasive papers with water then a fine polishing compound
on soft leather glued to a thin wooden strip and polish as you would
buff your nails.
If you really MUST use ether, then make sure you know how to handle
it without problems.
Firstly know that diethyl ether, commonly known just as ‘ether’ is
extremely volatile; it’s boiling point is 34C - not much higher than
room temperature. It is extremely flammable - far more so than
gasolene; The slightest spark will set ether afire when spilt. A
small amount of ether in the atmosphere can cause a very powerful
explosion. The vapour is heavier than air, and if ether is spilt,
in still air the vapour can travel several feet along a bench or
the floor to the nearest flame or spark, causing instant fire. It is
a powerful anaesthetic, and was so used extensively in dentistry and
surgery before better anaesthetics were discovered. If anybody might
be tempted to inhale it ‘recreationally’ they should know it
swiftly induces sleep and severe vomiting when awakened.
Yes, in the presence of air and under the action of light,
potentially dangerous ether peroxides will form and will be an added
hazard if ether is kept in a clear bottle. Standard laboratory
practice is to add a saturated solution of ferrous sulphate in water,
which will sit on the bottom of the bottle as it isn’t very soluble
in ether and will destroy the proxides as soon as formed. Shake well
before use. So if you really MUST use ether; talk to someone who
has used it in their daily work.
Take care and
Cheers for now,
John Burgess of Mapua, Nelson NZ
What I know about cutting amber comes from an amber business in
Skagen Denmark. The owner, Frants Kristensen showed me what he does.
To shape amber, he uses a medium craytex wheel and to polish, he
uses tripoli, an oily variety, on a loose buff at a medium to slow
speed. Final polish is just cleaning the tripoli off on to a clean
denim-clad leg. Rub it on your jeans. He hand holds all but the
smallest cabs. I don’t know how he dops amber for a cabbing machine.
When needing to saw amber, it is done with a coarse blade and slow
enough to keep the amber from melting or with a water drip. To
drill amber, use a wood drill, go in and out without stopping - do
not tarry or your drill will stick in the hole.
On a website linked from his site, for simple polishing, he suggests
coarse sandpaper, followed by waterproof sandpaper, finishing with
toothpaste on leather or cloth. For more go to
Mr Kristensen’s website is http://www.ravsliberen.dk. I have sent
this note to him and perhaps he will give us more on
amber cutting and polishing.
Judy Hoch, G.G.
I polish and drill a lot of Chiapas amber these days which I use as
center-beads/pendants in high-end neck pieces. When holes are
drilled in this material there remains a goofy looking white cloudy
trail around the hole so I’ve tried to color it with natural stain
using a slim needle to apply it inside. The results are SOMETIMES
fine but others, NOT> Any ideas of a more penetrating stain
method…or something else?
I don’t know your particular amber but to make the hole disappear I
just polish the inside of it.
Andy Parker, Agate House Lapidary
Ulverston, Cumbria, England
When holes are drilled in this material there remains a goofy looking white cloudy trail around the hole
could be from heat, it is from heat, the white around the holes
that is, drill with water or cutting fluid if compatible, instead
of dry, also you are running the drill too fast, must pull out
often to carry the drilled amber out in the flutes, so you don’t
make heat, must use a sharp drill, keep it moving,dp
Drilling Chiapus amber –
As I understand it, the Chiapus amber is very clear and beautiful.
When you drill it with say a 100 grit diamond drill–you are in
effect–carving the amber. You then must ‘polish’ your carving
(hole) by using finer and finer grits and eventually a polishing
oxide to smooth the amber and make it clear again. This can be
tricky in a small hole–I believe there are finer grits in diamond
drills–or perhaps you can use a string impregnated with smaller
grits and/or polish. Anything to get in and polish the sides of the
Vi Jones in the beautiful Pacific Northwest