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In a thread in the Techniques section, there is a discussion of using Amber for eye inlays. I'm interested in giving it a try, but I would appreciate a few pointers.


What kind of Amber works best (I assume there are different varieties or grades of Amber)?


Where do you get Amber and how do you ensure you get the right kind?


What tools do you use to shape the Amber? (power or hand tools?) Is it sensitive to heat generated by power tools?


Any other hints for working with Amber?



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I attend a gem and mineral show in Bloomington, MN, near the Mall of America. It occurs twice a year, and is nothing like the Tucson gem and mineral show in size. There is an amber dealer there, and others who include amber in their inventory. Many are selling prepared necklaces, pendants etc, but I look for the unworked lumps. They often have been polished and perhaps a window has been opened to view the inside if the amber has a dark or dirty exterior.


Usually I am looking for pieces that say something to me, so it takes me a while to paw through the trays. (I have more amber waiting to be carved than I have already carved, same with the wood, but without it, I would not have the option to use any of it.) For eyes, I use clear amber. One visit to the g&m show I found small polished slabs which I cut into strips and the strip then is cut in half lengthwise. All with consideration for the sizes needed. Those long, slender pieces are either made into shafts, or cut for individual lens shaping for the eyes.


Sergey Osipov has made an interesting set of eyes for his shark carving (look on his web site). A portion of the eye is translucent, the other portion is clear. It yields a very nice effect.


I always treat amber with care and gentle pressure. It shatters easily, or cracks into the body of the material with too much pressure. I prefer using files, sandpaper and sharp scraping tools. I feel that Amber, like Mammoth Ivory, are not renewable resources, though I do not know how great a quantity exists in the world of either one. Their age alone commands respect, and the beauty of the material is unmatchable.


While at the g&m show I have seen work that has obviously been carved with power tools, which makes fast and cheap objects for sale. Not my style. I imagine that it might be possible that it was power cut with water to keep it cool and buffed with power wheels with polishing compound (residue seen), but I do not know this for a fact.


I have used the microgrinder occasionally to create a cylindrical shaft for inlay for horn, but not amber thinking that it was too brittle. I might give it a try, but usually the eyes in my carvings are not circular except for the 1-2mm peeper eyes. Each eye is individually carved in my larger eyed carvings.


At the g&m shows, necklaces are offered, with larger beads strung on a cord. This would provide material for carving, pre-shaped and pre-drilled if one were to want to carve in the round ojime-like beads or larger pendants, or to be used as raw material for cutting into inlay sizes. Again, I use my creative choices rather than knowing qualities. Of course, I am always looking for the ultimate in clarity and color, but the swirly opacity in the nuggets has also been added to my drawer of amber. The amber there is waiting for any one piece to present what it could be when I am looking at it before carving it. I occasionally see almost pure white and am fascinated with it, so that too is in my drawer.


Sanding papers: I use wet-dry grits from 220*-2000 cut into small rectangles, perhaps 3/4 x 1", what ever works. I mark the back sides with different color markers and key the little partitioned tackle trays I keep it all in. I have recently acquired higher meshes from wood working stores and interesting samples from friends. Jewelers and dental tool and supply might also have higher grades and grits to offer. 2000 has worked to get it to the polishable stage. Once there, certain that all of the scratches are worked out, I use a liquid paste used to remove haze and minor scratches from plexiglas, I think it is a Novus product. It helps to bring out a bright and glossy surface. It is water soluable, so I have it liquid, dried to a paste, and dried, all offering something different when I need a choice. Little film canisters are an asset for saving small quantities of materials at the carving bench...


(*I do not use 220 on amber, only the roughest jobs need the lowest grit.)


Wet-dry implies use when wet, and I do use it wet with amber and sometimes mammoth and antler. I also use a dust collector on low to capture the sanding dusts.


Have fun with it!





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  • 2 weeks later...

I happened to be in Boise, Idaho last weekend at the same time a Gem Show was underway. I went to the Gem Show and ogled all the neat stuff (and even bought a few small tools - I just can't help myself). But alas -- no unfinished Amber. There were a few necklaces made of small pieces, and one vendor had a bunch of polished Amber pieces with trapped insects (which are treasures on their own that I wouldn't even consider cutting up!)


There's another show in Salt Lake in a couple of weeks, so I'll try again. If that doesn't work, I'll start searching the web, but I'm sure I'll pay more that route.

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  • 7 months later...

I have got this message on my e-mail. I think, maybe this will be useful for anybody... I haven't any deals with this guys and I do not know them. After letter I just had visit on this site and I have good impression.


Dear Sir / Madam,


I would like to provide you with an offer for Raw Amber which originates from the amber mining company in Kaliningrad, Russia.

Our company is the sole and exclusive distributor of the amber and we are present on the market for past eight years.

We guarantee stable and competitive prices, high product quality, on-time and continual deliveries.

We have our own warehouses and we are capable of executing big orders – up to 1500 kg monthly.


Below I am providing you with the price list with the possibility of prices negotiation. I would also like to encourage you to visit our web site (available in English) www.ag-family.pl taking a look at the provided sample pictures.


In case of any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.


Best regards,


Marcin Panek

Marketing & Sales Director


AG Trading Corporation

Ul. Morska 306

81-006 Gdynia

Tel: +48 58 664 15 20

Fax: +48 58 664 15 21

Kom: +48 697 49 0554

Email: biuro@ag-family.pl


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