An upcycled amber pendant
August 28, 2014
When I was in high school, I snagged some jewelry out of my mom’s jewelry box. (Don’t worry, she knew about it.) Either her parents or my dad’s had given her an amber necklace and bracelet, which she never wore, and that I was infatuated with — particularly the focal piece of the necklace, which was a big chunk of amber.
I had wire-wrapped that chunk and wore it on a leather necklace for a while, but because amber is very light, it never sat quite right on my body. Eventually, I tossed it in with my other accessories and more or less forgot about it until a few months ago.
When I rediscovered it, I had this weirdly intense nostalgia. It was all beat up and scratched (I am not easy on my jewelry), but I remembered Mom giving it to me, and telling me how my grandparents had given it to her. I was determined to re-set it into something that would both protect and showcase the stone.
First things first: I had to polish the poor, beat-up amber.
I don’t have any pictures of these steps but I will mention this: amber is super, super soft. Like, scratch-it-with-a-fingernail soft. It’s basically tree resin, which means that I was able to have at it with wet/dry sandpaper to smooth out the edges and remove scratches and chips.
Then it came time to set. I goofed the first time around — the stone is faceted on both sides, which means you can’t set it into a flat-backed bezel…which I tried to do.
You can see that that didn’t go over well — even after I cut out the back of the bezel (to allow light through), the amber wasn’t secure. There are too many gaps between the backing plate and the amber for a good fit.
Take two involved making sure that my second bezel was situated *in* the plate, instead of *on* it. This allowed for me to set the stone from both sides, instead of just bending the bezel around the top and hoping for the best.
It also required precision sawing and filing, to make sure the plate fit snugly around the bezel without compressing it or leaving any gaps. It took *for. ever.*
Actually setting the amber was also not a walk in the park: my steel bezel roller easily damages amber, so I had to be careful not to use so much force that the roller would skip over the stone. Also, because this amber is shaped so oddly (it was never meant to be bezel-set), I had to trim the bezel itself down in odd places, and miter it in others.
I have to say, while there are still things I wish I had done differently (like not making the setting twice!), I’m really, really happy with how this turned out. It’s a 30+-year-old piece of amber, and now it’s in a shiny (literally) new setting that will protect it for another 30+ years!