The study of amber / Oxidation / How to protect your amber

How to protect your amber

Each piece of amber is unique – they differ when it comes to internal pressure and speed of oxidation, etc. When the surface is being treated, the ambers' individual differences have much to say. Do not consistently embed Cretaceous amber because of its generally fragility, and neither consistently refuse to embed because you are afraid of the long-term effects. You have to consider the individual piece and assess what it needs in order to be preserved best for the future generations.
I have worked much with the different methods and tried to find the best way to keep my entire collection. Below I will mention some different methods and my experiences within.
The amber is best preserved in relatively constant anoxic conditions possible in closed bags or containers and placed in a dark place where the temperature does not change. 
1. method: add a permanent new, protective surface to the amber.
Lacquering. You should be aware that a lacquering can change color over time, become cloudy and possible. hamper photography of inclusion. But the benefits of lacquering is an immediately secure protection. In addition, the surface can also quickly sanded away, and preserved in a new way.
Embedding. Perfect for unstable pieces (eg. Cretaceous amber), but you should be aware that a the new surface will, in some cases, decay, harden and "press" the amber over time and, in some causes, destroy the amber.
  • Lacquering the amber
A description of the method will come soon...
Baltic amber (45 myo) - Cantharidae 18 mm
Click on the picture to enlarge
  • Embedding the amber in plastic - epoxy, polyester ect.
A description of the method will come soon...
               New Jersey amber (90-94 myo) - female scale insect 
Above is three pieces New Jersey amber (90-94 myo) a piece with a female aphids, a cockroach and a wasp. Below is 6 holotyps from the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen collection of Baltic amber

2. method: add a non permanent protective surface.
This method is very simple, safe, effective and the absolute cheapest!
Nose fat is something we all have - but not all consider the fact that it is actually a stable production of an effective material to protect amber against oxygen. Each time you touch a piece of amber you should rub your finger on the nose sides or on the forehead along the hairline. The fat your skin produces will provide a protective surface and close the cracks on the surface. "Amber must be used and not stored away," it is said about amber jewellery. But this also applies to your amber collection - it should be used and not stored away. Each piece must be used/rubbed in a "thick" layer of nose fat every six months.
Soft silicon car wax: This is a well-known trick among amber collectors - the most used wax is car Turtle Wax (but other silicone waxes can also be used). In the same manner as the protection of the vehicle will be able to protect the surface from oxygen. Twice a year you give a thin layer of wax on the surface and the amber will be effectively protected against oxidation. It is VERY important that you use the right wax - it must not contain any cleaning chemicals! If you find out that the wax damages the amber then do not panic. Former collectors missteps have shown that the amber becomes "brown", but after you have removed the old surface (about 3 mm, depending on how long the the wax has been on the surface) and given a new polishing, the process is stopped and the amber are saved.
3. method: remove the oxygen around the amber.
In this way you will not modify, add, or otherwise affect the natural stability of the amber. Therefore, this would be the ideal way to keep amber in the long term.
It makes good sense: replace the air around the amber with an inert gas such as argon and problem will be solved. In this way you will not get side effects from the lacquering (problems with photography) and the embedding (problems with photography and its long-term sustainability) and is able to keep the amber just as it is. Theoretically, this will be quite ideal.

Currently, I experiment on building a box as seen in my primitive sketch. With this box you will be able to store your amber collection in a way in which you can regulate temperature, humidity, concentration of oxygen and light. The final box will be mass produced and specially built to keep amber in a way where it can be categorized easily. Currently I am designing and molding the gasket. 
© Anders Leth Damgaard
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