How to Polish Amber

Let’s polish amber!

Amber is a soft, organic gem and as such, it can be worked entirely by hand… cut, sawn, scraped, drilled, sanded, filed, carved, and polished… so it’s not surprising that many hand worked amber specimens from ancient times have been found all over the world.

Here in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, thousands of pieces of raw of amber come through our lapidary workshop each year, where they are shaped, carved, calibrated, polished, etc., and made into a variety of polished amber jewelry items, carvings, home decor pieces, and fully or half polished specimens.

The 1st step to polish amber is to take a raw chunk and hold it in hand, looking at it to decide what it would be best for.  Ideally, we let the piece itself reveal what it wants to be carved into. We aim to use its natural shape and contours, bringing out the best features inherent in a particular specimen.

Here is a quick tutorial on how we polish amber…

After reviewing the piece, the next step is the rough grind on a high powered motor.  This process removes any of the host rock and ‘skin’ remaining on a raw chunk of amber after being cleaned.

Polish amber with a bench motor

Fidel on the bench motor doing the rough grind.

Then comes the fine grinding and detailing.  We use the flex shaft tool to get into the little nooks and crannies without losing too much of the amber…

Polish amber with a flex shaft

Shaping amber with a flex shaft

Next, the piece is hand sanded using several different grits of sand paper and water. Water is very helpful in the polishing process.  It keeps the work clean and visible, and the sanding goes faster.

Polish amber by hand

Hand-sanding stage

Finally, the amber is ready for the polishing stage. We use two polishing wheels, the first removes the fine scratches from the sanding process, and the second wheel brings out the shine…

Polish amber with a polishing wheel

Polishing for a high shine

And voila! The final piece, a gorgeous half polished and half raw, or as we say in Mexico, ‘media pulido’ chunk of red amber with a great show of the blue green fluorescence of Mexican amber…

Polish amber professionally

Finished piece showing raw red with blue fluorescence in daylight

We are a leading supplier of Mexican amber and have hundreds of items to choose from, including amber jewelry, carvings and sculptures, spheres, and full and partially polished pieces.

To see the amber we offer online go to:

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