Natural Baltic Amber

Amber Export, Consulting, Buying Services
From Poland Since 1996

Published By The International Amber Association, Gdansk, Poland, this book is an authorative discussion of Baltic Amber.
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Amber Bead Types

This page represents an attempt to dispel the widespread misconception of how amber beads are made and classified.

Simply stated, the market is generally uninformed. We hope to provide information to help change some of that.

Note that this page contains a text explanation of the bead types. For pictures of each type, go to Types Of Amber Beads

One Stone Beads

Amber beads can be made from one stone. They can be made in a few basic ways.

In all cases the final bead is made from a single piece of amber. That single piece of Amber can be cut from a large stone, or chosen from individual stones that are graded according to the shape and quality.

The single stones are then processed in three basic ways according to that shape and quality.


Hand Carved

In some cases a single stone is hand carved. This process is very dependent on the shape of the original amber. Because amber is generally flat, hand carving is normally limited to the smaller bead sizes.

This is a very expensive process because of the waste involved and the quality of amber required. As the size of the bead goes up, the amount of amber that available to make a bead by hand carving goes down. So for the most part you do not find beads hand carved above 14 mm in diameter. They are in fact available, but they become very expensive because of the limited availability of the amber of that size and the expense of that amber.

Beads formed according to this process where no heat or pressure is used are classified by the international Amber Association, Gdansk Poland as Natural Baltic amber (Succinite). See Official Classification Of Amber



In most cases, a single stone is shaped. This is the most common process used in making amber beads from a single stone.

Even under an infrared analysis of one of these stones, the physical characteristics of a stone made in this fashion cannot be distinguished from those of one that is hand carved. It takes an amber expert to distinguish between one of these stones and a hand carved stone. And in many cases such an expert cannot always see the difference.

This process subjects a single stone to pressure and that stone is formed into the desired shape. And it is natural that when you subject something to pressure, heat is generated. That is a fact of physics.

There are no glues, additives, colorants or anything else. The stone is just formed under pressure.

The stone is rough finished under pressure, and then hand finished and polished. It is a hand finished, natural Baltic amber bead.

According to the International Amber Association Gdansk,Poland these are classified as Modified Baltic amber (Succinite). See Official Classification Of Amber

They are a bead made from a pure, single, natural Baltic Amber stone that has had its shape modified under pressure.

The distinguishing feature between the stones and those that are hand carved is the way the amber layers are seen on the surface of the bead. And as stated above, it takes an experienced amberman to make a distinction. And he cannot always do it. And the average person simply cannot.

Examining the stone with the typical handheld lights and magnifiers tell you nothing if you do not understand how the amber lays. And once again the average person using these lights simply cannot tell the difference.

So what does this mean? Many wholesale buyers get stones that have been formed under pressure thinking that they were made using the hand carving process.

As far as the retail customer goes, once he is satisfied that the bead is made from genuine natural Baltic amber, his next concern is price. He will most often choose bracelets made from modified amber because he can get larger beads at a lower cost. And he can tell people that they are genuine natural Baltic amber made from one stone. He could care less whether they were hand carved or formed under pressure.

Here here is a link to a video that shows a group of Chinese tourists buying bead rings made from this amber. The video says it all about the marketability of this product. Watch This Video.


Some stones are tumbled to make the small of beads that are necessary for the arts and craft and baby teething necklace industries. They are processed natural Baltic Amber. It is processed Amber. It is not raw Amber.

In other cases Amber with a great number of inclusions is tumbled polished to make the large bulky and very popular Amber necklaces that you see here.


Two Stone Beads

Two stone beads are the most maligned and the most sold amber beads on the market.

A bead is made by pressing two stones together under heat. The amber fuses and becomes one stone that, when properly done, is physically and visually indistinguishable from a bead made from a single stone.

If you read the book a Guide To Amber Imitations, which is published under the auspices of the International Amber Association, Gdansk, Poland, you will see that using this process people are able to even make pieces of amber with animal inclusions that experts are unable to detect as being newly manufactured. And making a bead is much easier than that!

These beads are formed with out glues or colorants or any additives. They are pure natural Baltic Amber.

A low-quality bead formed this way will have some indication of the fusion of two stones that can be seen under a light if the bead is not opaque. The indication will be generally a nearly invisible shift in coloration where the two stones were fused. But if the bead is opaque, you will probably not see this.

Wholesalers and re-sellers shy await from these beads. But consumers do not.

When buying on the Internet, wholesalers and re-sellers shy away from the beads. But when wholesalers and re-sellers visit an amber exposition and look at the product, they buy it with abandon. Exhibitors commonly sell out everything that they have. And that happens often on the first day of an exhibition.

So while they claim on the Internet that they have to have everything hand carved from a single stone, when it comes down to buying in person, they prefer to buy well done, two stone beads.

According to the International Amber Association, Gdansk Poland, these are classified as Reconstructed (pressed) Baltic amber (Succinite). See Official Classification Of Amber


Multiple stone beads

These are probably the largest sellers of all.

Good stones are fused together without colorants glues or any additives.

Autoclaves are often used to clarify the Amber. ( Most amber re-sellers do not know it, but autoclaved amber is a fact of life in the modern Amber industry.) The resulting products of beautiful. They are low-cost, attractive, and fast movers.

They make low-cost, affordable, beautiful decorative jewelry and prayer beads.

These in the products that you see in tourist areas, hotel gift shops, Amber outlets, and online. See Fashion Necklace

They are the products that make up cabochons for the silver and Amber jewelry business.

According to the International Amber Association, Gdansk Poland, these are classified as Reconstructed (pressed) Baltic amber (Succinite). See Official Classification Of Amber


Closing Comments

Many wholesalers and re-sellers buy modified and reconstructed beads thinking that they are buying hand carved beads. Why? They focus on price an,d when then get the product, they do not know enough to see that the product is modified or reconstructed.

Many wholesalers and re-sellers buy modified and reconstructed beads knowing what they are buying and resell them as hand carved. Their customers cannot tell the difference.

Experienced retailers put out some bead rings with hand carved beads along with many, many more with modified beads. They let the customers make the decision. Once again look at this video. Watch This Video.

Before eliminating fast selling modified and reconstructed products just because of an idea, buy a sample of one each of a hand carved bead ring, a modified bead ring and a reconstructed bead ring. Compare and show it around to get comments. Remember, all are genuine, pure, Natural Baltic Amber.

And remember, that exhibitors often sell out on day one to wholesalers and re-sellers. This, as well as This Video, should tell you something about the marketability of modified and reconstructed amber.

If you need more information or have any specific requirements, send email via Contact Form stating your needs.