Monday, 21 September 2015

Work of Art

There is a beautiful masterpiece of art showing 5 grown fishes swimming around some curled-up leaves. The fishes are in a blue hue in a setting of golden yellow background. The carving is also polished to a brilliant shine which sparkles under light. It is a lovely piece of art created by a very skillful craftsman. Just admiring this beautiful carving sitting majestically on its exquisite wooden stand would make you wanting to own it. Of course, it is possible only if the owner wants to sell it. Sometimes, money may not be the factor as not all things can be bought.

In fact this is a carving created from a large piece of raw amber. Any amber of this size can be very valuable, especially if it is a blue amber which highly prized in the amber market. Moreover, the craftsman's incredible skills turn this blue amber into a masterpiece and enhance its value by many times.
The raw amber shows tinge of blue hue beneath the skin
Rocks of raw amber
The above masterpiece is carved out from a huge raw amber which was sold to a client who deals in amber jewelry.

This piece was among a bundle of  raw amber roughs shown to the client by a dealer and the asking price was over a million RMB. There was a small opening on its surface to reveal its interior. Of course one would need a high power torch light to see beyond the skin. After careful examination/evaluation, the client bought the whole lot from the dealer. He actually wanted this large piece of raw amber in the whole lot. He had never seen a raw amber of this size and it could be valuable because of the combination of blue and golden yellow hue hidden beneath the skin.

After buying the amber, he wanted to have it cut to reveal its interior. He wanted to find out what ornaments he could make from this amber. However, when a bit of the skin was removed, he was shocked to see some patches of impurity in the interior. Did it mean that his investment was a utter failure? Did he misjudged its value? Although the amber revealed the blue and golden hue (signs of top quality amber) under strong light, the presence of impurity would greatly lower its value. If he stopped cutting now, he might just be able to recover some of the cost he spent on it by selling it to another person. Don't forget buying any uncut raw stone is a gamble. The more you can see the interior, the better your chance of success. Hence, the raw stones often have a small opening to reveal a bit of the interior to attract clients. If he hadn't reveal too much of the interior of the amber, chances that someone would still buy it and take his own chances.

The owner did not sell away the raw amber to cut his losses. As he really liked this large amber, he wanted to examine it further to ascertain its true worth. He then consulted experts for their opinion. Using sophisticated equipment, the experts examined the amber and eventually concluded that the patches of impurity were nothing but leaves curled up inside the amber. As amber is formed from resin dripping from trees millions of years ago, it  might have trapped some leaves in the process. Amber with impurities trapped inside could be valuable if these impurities are insects, leaves and things from millions of years ago.

With encouragement from experts, the owner decided to make something out of this large amber. He then sent it to a craft-master to have it designed and made into an ornament, a carving that would characterize the potential of this rare gem. After careful thought, the craft-master created five fishes from the bluish part of the amber. The fishes were carved in different postures, all swimming around the curled leaves in a setting of golden yellow amber of the remaining material. In its final form, the amber carving is now worth several times more than its original value. This is how a good gem stone can have its value enhanced tremendously when it is cleverly designed and made into ornaments.
Value added enhancement to the raw amber
A big patch of impurity in the amber
Opaque amber bracelets
Amber is often made into bracelets, jewelry items and other decorative objects of artistic value. As more and more people appreciate the beauty of amber, its price has escalated over the years. Some really good one, like the blue amber from the Baltic region, is very costly. It is sold as hundreds of dollars per gram.

Red or blood amber

Due to the high value of amber, a lot of fake amber items find their way into the market. These are usually plastic materials which can be difficult for beginners to differentiate from the real one. One simple way is to prepare salt water solution and throw the amber items into it. If the items sink, they are definitely not made of amber. It they float in the prepared salt water, there is a good chance that they might be real amber.

How to prepare this salt water? Its very simple, just mix 14 grams of salt in 100 cc of water to make up a specific gravity of 1.14. Amber has a specific gravity of 1.13, hence it will float on this prepared salt water.

Another method is to use a UV light source to shine on it. If the light is reflected instead of transmitted into the material, it is definitely not amber. Like the bead on top of this photo is made from a plastic material.

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