Introduction: Amazing Faux Amber Beads
Amber is really interesting to create out of resin because real amber is ancient tree resin. Amber naturally has bubbles, specs of dirt, and sometimes insects. As such, imperfection is perfection. So, roll up your resin sleeves and have some fun. It's hard to do amber wrong!
Step 1: Quite a Process
This is my amber prequel.
If you follow me, you've probably noticed I've posted a lot of resin lately. I started mostly because I got these awesome bead molds that I really wanted to try. When the weather finally got resin-friendly I started playing around with the molds and saw that some of my beads looked a lot like gemstones - And I sort of got a little obsessed. I made quite a few batches of amber beads before I was happy with the amber process and now I'm pretty excited with the result. I decided to leave the jewelry projects for other tutorials and focus on just the beads this time. Honestly, they're pretty enough to simply wear one bead on a chain, anyway.
Step 2: What You Need
Silicon bead mold
Casting resin - any kind works fine, it's mostly just a matter of drying time (I used polyester resin)
Alcohol dyes - yellow, orange
Flake glitter - copper
Bits of dried plant, bug, or other natural debris
Wax paper (to protect from drips)
Mixing cups (Dixie cups work well)
Old flush cutters or cuticle scissors
Lots of Patience
Step 3: Molds
Silicon bead molds come in many shapes and sizes. Get whatever you like, but make sure to get the molds with the bead hole or you're in for a lot of drilling! I got roughly 14 - 18mm squares and rounds. I bought different styles of molds, but they all came out the same. The cheap ones worked as well as the pricey molds.
Step 4: Start Making Amber
Before getting out your resin go collect some schmutz.
I scored when I found a dead bug on a window sill. I also took a few dried flowers that weren’t worth using for anything else. And, I work outdoors, so I know I can find more debris, if I need.
Get out all of your resin supplies before starting.
Step 5: A Touch of Honey
Mix about 2 - 3 oz. of resin according to package directions. Split the batch and pour into 2 dixie cups.
(Amount of resin you need varies with the molds you're using.)
If you're using polyester resin, don't add the hardener until just before you're ready to pour resin into the molds.
Now add enough yellow alcohol dye to make a bright, light lemon yellow. About 3 drops. Stir well.
I mixed two different shades of yellow so that my beads won’t match exactly. Also, that will allow me to mix different inclusions into each batch of resin.
Step 6: Orange or Yellow Amber
Most natural amber is anywhere from a pale yellow to a deep orange. Get the color and intensity you want by adding 1 drop of orange dye at a time until you have a beautiful amber color. Stir after each drop.
I am mixing two shades of amber to have some variety.
Step 7: First Inclusions
Add a few flakes of copper glitter to each cup. Stir well.
Look at the mixes to see if you need more glitter. (Don't add to much or the amber will look fake.)
Step 8: Add Debris
Add little bits of plant or insects if you want. Save larger pieces or whole bugs to add after partly filling the molds. Stir well & let the inclusions "soak" a few minutes.
Stir again and don’t worry about bubbles.
Note: Ironically, I wound up with no bubbles even though I wanted some because it was pretty hot out and all my bubbles rose and popped.
Time to add hardener to ONE cup and stir well if using polyester resin.
Using one batch of mixed resin, slowly pour the resin into your molds. Fill about halfway.
When the resin thickens a little, add bugs. (There's a sentence I've never used before.)
With a toothpick, stir the resin inclusions, since they’ll settle a little bit.
You can also add more plant bits if you want.
Allow resin to thicken to a gooey consistency.
Step 11: Fill Up
When the first layer thickens, fill the molds the rest of the way.
If you’re using polyester, add hardener to the second batch of resin. Stir well. Don’t worry about bubbles.
Pour resin into each mold filling each chamber the rest of the way.
Note: Pouring in layers makes it more likely to have a good distribution of inclusions.
Step 12: Be Creative
Note: You can make your beads entirely separate shades or you can make them half and half of each shade, up to you!
Step 13: Fine Tuned Amber
With a toothpick, stir resin inclusions if they've settled.
Then, using the sticky toothpick, scoop up a little bit of debris. Stir the debris into beads that need more stuff and push the floaty pieces down.
This may take some patience.
Time to let all of the beads dry.
Monitor them at first to make sure the inclusions and bug bits stay fairly well distributed. If necessary stir or poke with a toothpick until the resin is thick enough to hold everything in place.
Now leave it all alone.
No need to cover these to keep out the dust, unless you want to.
Step 15: Chill While the Resin Cures
My dog loves when I work outside, but wishes I'd throw the ball more.
Step 16: Almost Cured
Let the beads cure until they are no longer sticky and the drips are leathery.
Step 17: Round Beads
Step 18: Trim Off the Excess
Note: Use shears or cutters you don’t care about much. They will get sticky.
When the resin is no longer tacky, but still not fully cured (at a leathery stage), you’ll be able to trim the excess.
Carefully lift up any excess resin at the edges and nip the pieces with wire cutters or other sharp small shears.
If you are lucky, the excess resin may even lift up cleanly on its own without needing to be cut.
Optional: Save the larger scraps to use as inclusions and future projects.
Step 19: Nip
Step 20: More Patience Needed
After you cut the excess, the resin will still need time to finish curing. Leave your molds in the sun or another warm place until it is fully hardened.
Step 21: Are They Cured?
Pull the mold away from one bead just a bit. If the mold comes away without being sticky, pop the amber out by pushing from the back of the mold.
If they're still sticky, leave the molds alone. Run away. Come back tomorrow.
Step 22: Bead Forest
To remove your beads, gently pop them out from behind. The silicone will stretch around each bead.
The beads will still be attached to the post that becomes the bead hole. DO NOT REMOVE...yet.
The molded surfaces will need more curing/drying time. Don't touch them. Just leave the molds out in the sun like little amber forests.
Step 23: Mmmmm...Amber
Even if the beads pop out nicely and seem dry, try not to handle them much or you might get fingerprints. Set them outside (if possible) and work with them the next day.
Pop them off the posts when they feel like glass.
Step 24: Open Holes
You may notice that some of the holes are covered on one end. To open the holes, get a small nail that fits in the bead holes. Try pushing the nail through. If the hole is still blocked, get a piece of scrap wood. Put the nail in the hole with the covered part on the wood and gently hammer. One tap should be enough to clear the blockage.
This bead is ready to put on a cord or chain.
Step 25: Check Them Over
Check all the beads for clogged holes and sharp edges. Open holes.
If you have any sharp edges you can try nipping them away with flush cutters or sand them. Sand only edges or you will dull the finish.
If you sand, DO NOT BREATH IN RESIN DUST. Use a mask or sand under water.
Step 26: Admire Your Amazing Amber
Step 27: Really Good Fakes!
On the left is real amber that I paid a lot for. On the right is what I just created (very cheaply). You can see how close they are, especially if you imagine that I made my amber lighter. Since real and faux are both resin, they even feel the same. However, my faux resin is much more durable and scratch resistant!
Step 28: Amazing Amber Beads
Your beads are strong and beautiful!
They're ready to string onto chains, make into dangle earrings, or turn into beaded bracelets and stunning pendants. You're only limited by your imagination!
However, if you need more instruction or inspiration, here are a few of my other jewelry making instructables:
Wire Wrapped Bead Pendant:
Beaded Cluster Earrings:
Memory Wire Bracelet (for smaller beads):
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you enjoyed it, or just appreciate the effort : ) Please vote!
And feel free to share what you make - I'd love to see your projects!
Second Prize in the
2 months ago on Step 28
genial!! mil gracias
Reply 2 months ago
1 year ago on Step 28
Wow, I was looking for how to color for faux resin, but I found some tips I haven't seen anywhere else. Some should have been a no brainer, alas not though. The waiting to add the hardener until ready to pour, such as color, and the releasing from the mold keeping the center post in until completely cured. I'm creating the amber in polymer clay right now. I use resin as a finish. I have also done mold resin. My biggest resin project was a polymer clay pond cutaway of a fish pond as a light switch plate. It turned out ok, but I had many problems in the pouring stage. I haven't tried to do another one yet.
Reply 1 year ago
I'm glad you found some useful tips! Let me know how it goes. And feel free to ask questions :-)
Question 4 years ago on Introduction
An excellent instructable, but if your going to buy amber, how can you tell the genuin thing or whether its a fake ?
Answer 4 years ago
EXCELLENT QUESTION! I've had some amber jewelry commissions and have had to be very careful to get authentic amber. I did a lot of research and used the tests that wouldn't damage my amber. Real amber is very soft and fragile, as gemstones go. Here is a brief summary for telling the difference:
6 Tests for identifying Real Amber from Fake.
If you need to be 100% sure, google "How to tell real amber", and read through few sites. Try for at least one scientific site.
And here are a couple of links to get you started:
4 years ago
You really really really need to find a dead mosquito and post an updated version of this Instructable closer to Halloween and make a John Hammond cane from Jurassic Park. Beautifully done tutorial!
Reply 4 years ago
Isn't that a Crane Fly not a mosquito?
Reply 4 years ago
Probably - I'm not great at bugs, and I have no mosquitoes right now. I am however, accepting dead mosquito donations : )
Reply 4 years ago
Wow, Thank You! I'm totally going to do this!
(However, we have mosquito abatement where I live, so I don't see too many. So...If anyone out there has a mosquito to send me, let me know : )
Reply 4 years ago
It's easy to breed mosquitoes, even with mosquito abatement. I used to work as a biologist for a mosquito abatement district. Thirteen years of staring at dead bugs and playing with West Nile virus...Yes, it was every bit as odd as it sounds.
But I digress. To grow your own mosquitoes, simply leave a bucket half filled with ditch water in your backyard, and make sure it's in a rather shaded place like under a bush (the mosquito spray doesn't penetrate dense foliage.). You're going to be trying for Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, a container-breeding mosquito that has a black body with striking white stripes. Make sure the water has a lot of organic detritus in it, as the larvae will feed on the waste in the water and the smell of it is attractive to gravid (egg-laying) females. Three days into your bucket's life in the bushes, add enough additional ditch water to put the water line an inch or so above where the waterline was originally (the females lay their eggs right above the waterline so the larvae can emerge during the next rainfall). Four days or so after this, you should be able to look in the bucket and see long 'worms' that like to rise to the top of the water, and/or what looks like commas swimming around in the bucket. The worms are actually mosquito larvae, and the commas are the pupa. Generally, when temperatures are above 80 degrees, it takes 18-4 hours for a fresh-formed pupa to emerge into a flying adult.
Now comes the fun part. You want these mosquitoes to emerge, but you want them captive so that you can kill them quickly, without having to smoosh them into a goey paste with broken legs. Easy-peasy! You'll need two clean, dry, 2-liter soda bottles. Cut the top off of one, at the largest part of the bottle near the top, so it looks like a cylinder with a soda-bottle end. To transfer the mosquito larvae into the modified bottle, pick up your bucket. The pupa and larvae should duck down to the bottom of it (natural instinct to hide from predators), so you should be able to pour a good amount of water out of the bucket and condense the larvae. Then, transfer the remaining water and the larvae into the soda bottle, only filling the bottle to 1/3 of the way. If you want your mosquitoes to be extra-healthy, add a pinch of fish food flakes to the water. They'll love it and they'll emerge as robust adults. (NOTE: the pupa don't eat, as aquatic feeding occurs in the larval stage only. If all you have are comma pupa, don't bother.) Take your other soda bottle, remove the cap (retain this, you'll need it later) and wedge it opening-first into the cut-open bottle.
Now, sit back and wait for the adult mosquitoes to emerge. The pupa will rise to the top of the water, the sarcophagus (the skin of the pupa) will break open at the top, and the adult mosquito will emerge from that casing. It will sit for a few minutes on the top of the water as its limbs and wings finish hardening, then it will start flying. The adults will fly into the unmodified bottle and stay there, as their instinct now dictates that they fly.
Once you have the amount of adults that you need for your project, it's time to start your extraction/killing process, and you're going to need to be quick during this process to keep mosquitoes in the bottom bottle from escaping. Start by putting the soda cap nearby, and have in your hand a piece of thin cardboard (the type you find on the backing for a legal pad or composition notebook). You're going to be picking up the "dry" bottle (which should have a good number of adults in it), and as the dry bottle comes up from the watery bottom bottle, you'll be putting the cardboard on top of the water container to keep any adults from escaping. At the same time, you're going to take the soda bottle cap and capping the soda bottle to keep the adults in there. I sometimes cheated by covering the "dry" bottle with the bottom of my hand while getting the cardboard on the bottom one.
So now, all you have to do now is transfer both containers to a freezer for approximately two hours. This will kill off everything....Mosquito adults, larvae, and pupa. You can defrost the frozen adults before you put them in your resin, or you can just put them into the resin while they are still frozen. For reference, the male mosquitoes have feathery things (palpae) in front of their faces; the females have just the biting tube mouthparts. Have fun!
Oh, I almost forgot. If you want the full Jurassic Park effect, you can make a mixture of thickish sugar water and add a bit of red food coloring to it. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture, take off the cap of the soda bottle with live adult mosquitoes, then put the cotton ball over the opening. Give it a few hours...The mosquitoes will feast on the sugar water, and when you freeze the bottle, your little beasties will come out with a nice, round, red abdomen...Perfect for making someone think that your beads can be used to clone the next velociraptor.
4 years ago
I've been wanting to try resin for some time, and your wonderfully clear tutorial has pushed me over the edge. REALLY great tutorial! I will be doing this for sure.
Reply 4 years ago
Thank You!! Please let me know how it goes - And post pics if you want : )
4 years ago
Many years ago I was at a medieval event where we have several amber dealers and beautiful amber jewelry is greatly prized. I leaned close to examine a large amber cabochon pendant a woman was wearing... and burst out laughing! She had embeded a very tiny VW Beetle in casting resin. "Bug" amber.
Reply 4 years ago
LOL! I wonder where she got her tiny bug?!
Tip 4 years ago
Thank, JimG! Great tip, especially for epoxy resin, which dries so slowly. I also test the drips on my mold or wax paper rather than clean them up.
4 years ago on Step 28
Beautifully done with very clear instructions.How do you keep them clean, Iv'e heard not to soak in water? Can't wait to try.
Reply 4 years ago
Real amber can be gently cleaned with water or mild soap and water. These beads aren’t real, but they are durable! You can clean them however you want- even in the dishwasher :-)
4 years ago
We cover fossils in my Earth Science class, and I’d like to make a pile of these to distribute to my students. Do you know of any molds that have various generic “organic “ shapes so I can make them look different? Any hints would be welcome.
Reply 4 years ago
Yes, what Dawsie said. Also, Emoo is a product you can use to make molds. It’s a little pricey, but it will make a lot. Rosebeading online has lots of mold shapes and they are cheap - but watch the shipping charges, and leave a lot of time for shipping. I hope this helps!