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Pickled amber anyone?

A client asked me what could be done to assist a silver rosary with
amber beads. The story goes that the silver was tarnishing and so her
mother thought it was high time to polish it. She said that she used
silver polish but also added that it may have been the homespun baking
soda in aluminum foil. Anyway, the silver is real nice:) The beads…
Is there a trick to giving lustre back to the beads or should I tell
her that she may have to do things the hard way: That is, pray with
all her might and fervent devotion and perhaps she will be rewarded in
this life too…with shiny amber.


Amber polishes nicely with tripoli and rouge, why not give it a
try? karen in sunny vancouver canada

If the surface of the amber is just dull, and not pitted, try
toothpaste on a soft cloth. I use Crest paste. (Don’t use gel, it
doesn’t have the same abrasives that the paste does.)

Anyway, the silver is real nice:) The beads… > Is there
a trick to giving lustre back to the beads or should I tell

Your post reminded me of a strand of amber that I did the same thing
to many years ago - before I knew better :). They’ve been sitting in
a box all this time and I’d like to try running them through the
tumbler to see if that might help, but I’m not sure what polishing
compound to use or if would even work. These are freeform chunks, not
round beads.

I have some sawdust from Rio with rough in it, also some sawdust
stuff that’s green (probably something like Zam) plus I have cerium
oxide, tin oxide, some powdered diamond grits (14,000 - 100,000).
Would any of these work at all or should I just dump all the beads in
a pot of oil and melt them into one huge hunk - (joking, joking)


Nancy Bernardine-Widmer
Bernardine Fine Art Jewelry

Amber is difficult to polish in that you generate a lot of heat at
the surface when polishing. The amber melts and captures the polish.

Having said this, you can polish amber by using a polish used for
plastic watch crystals. You want to do this either by hand or in very
short gentle contacts with the wheel. The best wheel to use for the
beads is a small 1" very loose buff on a flex shaft. Turn it at a
very slow speed. You can stall the bead from spinning with your
finger. Again, use very short contacts with the wheel, less than 1
second in duration. Heat is your enemy. Do not use cerium oxide.
Although it is an excellent polish for most of the softer stones, it
packs into cracks and crevices and is impossible to remove without
grinding it away.

You will not find a way to chemically repair the finish. The amber
was etched with the polish chemicals and will need to be
"resurfaced". If the damage if very light, IE a slight fogginess to
the surface you should be able to polish it out as described above.
If it has a more milky look to it, you will need to lightly sand it
prior to the polish. Here you can use 600 grit or finer and again by
hand so as not to generate heat. Amber is very soft so the sanding
will go quickly. Doing this wet will also reduce the chance of
overheating but makes it difficult to see your progress.


A student of mine got pretty good results polishing amber with sifted

Don’t use this on your teeth, I just had to have two fillings…My
dentist said it was due to the tooth paste brushing off the enamel on
my teeth…Susan Chastain

Don’t know if it will help, but I have used Simichrome polish and a
soft cloth on amber to brighten it up before. By the way, simichrome is
excellent on platinum as a final polish!

Bob Staley

If the amber is mildly scratched try rubbing it down (lightly), with
2000 grit wet-or-dry silicon carbide sandpaper which you can get from
autobody shops or suppliers. Test first on an inconspicuous place,
keep the paper wet. Then finish polish by hand with toothpaste or
tripoli on a soft cloth. You can do it on a buffing wheel but watch
out for heat buildup.

Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada

Manuel, I have used Zam to polish amber .Go slow , light pressure . For
stubborn pieces I have used alittle baby oil as a lubricant for the
Zam . This can be very messy wear eye protection and wash with mild
soap and water . Best of luck ,


I'd like to try running them through the tumbler to see if that
might help 

They will need to be unstrung first. The polishing action in a
tumbler results from one piece rubbing another. The saw dust or
other soft polish carriers are to soften the blow of one piece
banging into another. They don’t lend much to the polish process
themselves. The pre charged ones just eliminate the mess of mixing
your own polish slury. Another good polish carrier is small pieces
of felt. Little strips cut about 1/4’ x 1/2" or so. You use a lot of
the and you run them dry.

You will get better results though by using a very soft brush of
cotton buff on a flex shaft, just remember all of the posted warnings
about heat.


Susan…,Your dentist said that the toothpaste wore out the enamel
on your teeth? Golly, I"ve been brushing away at these choppers for
decades and they still need to use a jackhammer to get through the
enamel. Let’s have the brand of toothpaste and the type of
toothbrush you’ve been using. Sounds great for polishing amber!
Dee :slight_smile:

Hi Don,

I’ve polished amber before and know about heat and friction, I was
just hunting for something to “save” this mess I made years ago and
do it easily and cheaply. The beads are nice, but not worth my time
to polish individually. I saved them before they got all white, so
they just need the surface polished. If I try the felt strips as a
carrier, what polish compound would you recommend or did you mean to
run the beads just with dry felt strips? Thanks,


Just to update. Today she brought it in(she had only described it’s
condition before) And she asked Mama what she used to clean the
silver. 90% alcohol?1? Amber dissolves in alcohol…the daughter knew
this and went on to explain how in Poland some have been known to
dissolve amber in alcohol an attribute to the solution a number of
medicinal remedies. I’m sure only that it remedies the existence of
the amber. Is amber so abundant that we can dissolve it…I’m new to
amber. One thing as far as remedies that I do know. When I was living
in Arizona an old cowboy swore by pine pitch. And sure enough, when
used on any infection from a inflammed wound to a hangnail or a cold
sore it would draw out the yucky stuff and the thing was healed it no
time. I used it and while I refrain from swearing I attest to pine
pitch and have a jar in the cabinet(you heat it and mix with a
vegetable oil to give it a creamy consistency. It stays soft for a
while) Amber being pitch…well anyway. Also just a note. There are
sixty beads on a rosary and there is no way in Purgatory that I am
going to remove them from the chain to tumble.(the other deterrent to
tumbling is the lack of a tumbler) This is a project that I am
thinking will be good for when I’m sitting down relaxing. I’m figuring
a hand polishing cloth and compound. It’s not enough ofa rush job for
me to get messy. But I may try the crest. I’ll let you all know what I
try. I’ll be dipping in an out off your replies so I thankyou all
abundantly. I’ll say a bead for sixty of you.