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MAKE AN AMBER BEAD USING ARCHAIC METHODS

As amber is a relatively soft material that lends itself easily to processing it is quite possible, like for our ancestors, to make an amber bead using everyday tools.

An amber bead can be made in one of two ways: it may be carved, smoothed and polished, or turned on a lathe and then polished.

Selection of suitable raw materials is very important when working with amber, especially when producing turned amber beads.

The amber must have no impurities or ruptures. Raw pieces that in their shape are already quite similar to the future product are the most suitable for bead production, for example, morphologically convex amber plates. Then, in order to achieve a symmetrical form all that remains is to carve or polish away the extruding parts.

The required raw material can be cut from a larger piece of amber if needed, using a very well spun piece of yarn. The cut can be made with a tool on which a linen, hemp or wool thread is very tightly stretched. The edges are cut or chipped away using a knife, so that the raw material acquires a rounded form. Then the edges can be worked away using a piece of sandstone. Further rounding of the edges with sandstone or an iron knife can result in minimalist decor - like a double conical shape.

Once the required shape has been achieved, continue polishing the bead with a gentler stone, for example, mica.

Finally the hole can be made. A flattened, small metal rod makes a good drill, making sure both ends have been sharpened and fixed into a drilling tool (a horizontal bench or on a vertical fixture). Drill from both ends, constantly blowing away the dush from the nook that is formed. A hole can also be formed by simply twisting a flat but sharpened metal rod by hand, or the sharp end of a knife. This is a moment in the procesing procedure that requires care, as if too much pressure is applied the amber will crack in half.

The last stage in processing an amber bead is the polishing stage.

Polishing is done using wool or leather which adds shine to the amber surface. The widespread plant, Common horsetail, is suitable for polishing, as it contains minute silica crystals, or even dried flathead skin. When making an amber bead by turning on a lathe the first step of making by hand of a raw material to work with cannot be avoided. The future bead is mounted onto a conical axis on a turning lathe, turned using a stringer (bow) and sharp knife, a shard of glass or a piece of flint to carefully shape the amber, always improving its symmetry. Double conical shaped beads made from clear amber perfectly reflect the falling rays of sunlight and appear to captivate viewers with their brilliance.

(Source: Lithuanian Art Museum, pgm.lt)