The Care of Amber

Amber is one of the few precious minerals that it is actually good to handle. The oils from one's skin help to prevent oxidation.Over the years, amber does age. Often the outer surface will react with oxygen and form what is called a "crazing". This is a series of small surface cracks. It appears rather like someone has dropped the amber and surface and because of this is honeycombed with shallow numerous cracks. Yes, the cracks can be polished away (along with 3 or 4 millimeters of the surface.) In addition, amber can darken with age. Old amber generally will take on a reddish tint. This is also thought to have something to do with oxidation of the amber. Many people favor the reddish tint to the amber! Actually the reddish tint tends to increase the value of the amber.

How can I stop (or slow down) this process? As stated with the first sentence of this page - you can handle the amber. Don't just keep the amber in a drawer! The natural oils from your skin (you have more oils on your skin than you think) will coat the amber and slow the oxidation process. If your piece of amber is a pendant, all the better to wear it.

>There is a trick that many amber dealers use - Turtle Wax. The car wax called Turtle Wax (or really any similar soft silicon car wax) does a great job. Once or twice a year, a thin layer of Turtle Wax and a quick buff (yep, like your car) does wonders! This puts a coat of silicon on the amber that does a super job of stopping the surface from slowly reacting with the air. You know how water beads up on a newly waxed car? This is analogous to how oxygen behaves with a newly waxed piece of amber. A piece of amber treated this way will actually out live you in brightness and durability.

There are other ways of treating amber for preservation. For Baltic amber (and I supposed for Dominican amber) there is the lacquer method. Now a word of caution is noted here. You may not want to try this one. If you destroy your prized piece, do not blame me! The lacquer method is a well known way of preserving fossils in amber. The amber is dipped in polyurethane lacquer, and air dried. The freshly-dipped specimen is then hung to dry, via the fishing line. After two days, this solution dries hard and clear, nearly impossible to detect. The fishing line is not completely removed: a nib of it is left attached to the stone, denoting that the stone has been "protected". This can be especially useful in preserving inclusions where maybe part of the inclusion touches the surface of the piece.

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