Jersey

Crazing Amber

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I recently noticed that my Baltic amber that contains two insects (one looks like a small fly or gnat and the other looks like a small moth) has developed crazing. That crackled surface partly obscures the insects. So, I have been considering fine-sandpapering the outer portion of the amber to remove the crazing and then polishing the outer surface carefully by hand. I used to do a little lapidary work and I suspect that the soft amber should be easy to polish up. I'd like to know if this sounds workable or should I leave the amber as it is since I don't know how deep the crazing goes. Also, if I am able to sandpaper/polish it successfully, is there any way to prevent it from crazing again? The photos are of the overall (3 cm) specimen and an enlarged portion.

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Crazing is often a sign of immature (or molded) amber, young enough to not be fully polymerized and still losing volatiles. How confident are you that this is Eocene amber?

If it is surficial, it should buff out (don't overheat it!). If it is not mature amber, it will happen again no matter what you do.

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cant really add much as its all be covered, I would say however the crazing can be rubbed out even if its copal or young amber just use a fine wet and dry sand paper and use water with it, go slowly and dip it in clean water as you go so you can keep an eye on the bugs (eye glass helps). I personally would use a 400 grit paper first to take the worst of the crazing out then when the crazing has nearly gone switch to 1000 grit. (others may say to go finer) when the crazing has gone and any marks from the 400 have gone get a soft cloth, a pea size piece of tooth pasted, a little water and polish away, after this just for extra shine do the same but with a little car wax/polish and buff on a clean soft cloth. I have lots of copal that if im not careful I have to re polish the surface, not so much with Baltic. now I keep it out of direct sunlight and it seems to stay nice

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looking at the photo the fly does look like it maybe close to the surface, if you think its too close maybe work the opposite side a little extra so it can be viewed? just keep a close eye on it as you go.

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I had the very same thing happen to me. The person I bought it from called the piece Dominican Amber. I'm sure it is Copal. Beautifully clear with a couple Termites.

After about three years of storage, I found it crazed on all surfaces except the bottom. I thought about resurfacing it with wet-or-dry sandpapers, but figured it would

do the same all over again. Time to stick it in the ground for a couple million years.

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often the clearer the amber the younger. darker richer oranges and yellow often indicate age, the above does look like Baltic, strange if it was polished a while ago and turned quickly unless contaminated and stored badly.

termites are common in Columbian copal so could be that. you could try re surfacing it and wipe it clean before storing, maybe contaminated fingers left something on it that it did not like?(perfume or aftershave are just some) if not dig a hole pop it in and come back in another life when its proper amber lol

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I am grateful for the helpful information and suggestions. Yes, the little gnat(?) is very close to the surface. So I will follow Adie's advice and will fine sandpaper (400 grit and up) and polish the opposite side of the amber. Regarding the time frame in which the crazing occurred, I've owned the piece around 35 years and I noticed the crazing just recently although I haven't looked at it closely in a while so I can't say when the damage first started.

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often the clearer the amber the younger. darker richer oranges and yellow often indicate age, the above does look like Baltic, strange if it was polished a while ago and turned quickly unless contaminated and stored badly.

termites are common in Columbian copal so could be that. you could try re surfacing it and wipe it clean before storing, maybe contaminated fingers left something on it that it did not like?(perfume or aftershave are just some) if not dig a hole pop it in and come back in another life when its proper amber lol

Yes... contamination from handling is another possibility that may have contributed to degradation. Even lipids, salts and acids from your skin can have adverse effects and it's entirely possible for the degradation not to be apparent for some years.

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Sounds like lack of humidity problem to me-assuming it's Baltic. Might be a good idea to wipe it gently with a tiny amount of mineral oil--just a dab on a paper towel to prevent any further crazing. The mineral oil will hold in the natural moisture.

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Sounds like lack of humidity problem to me-assuming it's Baltic. Might be a good idea to wipe it gently with a tiny amount of mineral oil--just a dab on a paper towel to prevent any further crazing. The mineral oil will hold in the natural moisture.

I would advise against that. Mineral oil is also reported to contribute to degradation. This isn't likely to be just a "drying out" problem. I have attached a pdf which may be helpful.

Care of Amber.pdf

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Thank you Painshill.

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What about applying some sort of varnish or clear plastic coating to it? Wouldn't that prevent the oxidation and humidity issues? I coat my bronze sculptures with an epoxy which prevents them from changing colors. Not sure if the material itself would react with the amber though...?

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What about applying some sort of varnish or clear plastic coating to it? Wouldn't that prevent the oxidation and humidity issues? I coat my bronze sculptures with an epoxy which prevents them from changing colors. Not sure if the material itself would react with the amber though...?

Actually, I wouldn't want to coat the specimen. Thanks for the suggestion though.

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