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