10 December 2010

Amber Teething Necklace

Amber.  It draws you to it, at once smooth, warm, firm, delicate, mysterious, and unlike any other stones used for jewelry and decoration.  I have always loved amber and own three amber necklaces now, all from Poland. I have received many compliments on them when I did wear them. However, I do not wear them at this time with my younger children. But I do also have amber rings and earrings which I do wear often.

My children both have "amber teething necklaces", as they are called here in the US. My older daughter wears hers for festivals, Polish heritage events, and will be wearing it while teething her "6 year old molars" in a year or so.

My younger daughter wore her teething necklace after her first 2 teeth came in with a lot of whining, fussiness, sleeplessness, and just general misery. As soon as I got her necklace, the second two teeth were no problem. Of course, I lost her necklace while getting out of the car at a festival, so we had to wait through another miserable episode of a tooth coming in before we got her a replacement necklace. Now, her teething is not as difficult. Since I have seen how she is with and without the necklaces, I can say for sure that it made a big difference for her.

How amber works in relieving pain is that, as it is warmed through direct and prolonged skin contact, the natural oils inside the amber bead are released and absorbed into the skin. It truly is a marvelous and natural way to relieve pain. I have, myself, worn an amber necklace tucked under my shirt once for a week while I waited to be seen by a dentist for a filled cavity which became extremely infected, and it really did help.  Some people will recommend that you warm the necklace first in sunlight before placing it on baby, however, prolonged exposure to sunlight is said to damage amber.

This is a picture of my younger daughter's first amber teething necklace before I shortened it (keeping the beads in a safe velvet drawstring bag in the jewelry box to add back once she is older).

My personal criteria for a teething necklace are the following:
  • Knots between the beads so that if the string breaks, not all the beads are lost
  • that the beads be on a string which will break if it gets snagged, to prevent strangulation
  • preferably a length that will work for my child for several years without being too long, such as around 11 inches long
  • either a clasp that is a screw style inside a bead to have a more uniform appearance with the rest of the necklace or, a loop tie that has a larger bead as an anchor
  • smooth beads that are able to lie flat against baby's skin to avoid poking and discomfort (although round beads I have to question since obviously amber is not naturally round and it takes away from the natural beauty of the bead, as well as it means it is composite amber rather than raw amber)
  • that the holes in the beads be lengthwise through the bead so that the maximum surface area is against skin
  • colors to me are not important but I do think that if you are choosing for a boy, a tri colored necklace looks nicer, and a duo tone or progression of tones looks nicer on girls.  A uniform tone can probably look nice on both.
  • no nicks, chips, cracks, fissures, or any sort of lines in the amber, as I had a bead break the first day because of it once
  • I prefer raw amber over composite amber, however, as long as it is made so that there are no fault lines in the amber, that is a matter or personal preference, also raw tends to be more expensive
Amber is very soft and should be handled like pearls, delicately. Also, I recommend storing your amber wrapped in clean cheesecloth and separate from the rest of your jewelry.  Please see my post on cleaning amber http://polishmamaontheprairie.blogspot.com/2010/12/cleaning-amber-jewelry.html.

Some words of caution are that you should never leave your child unsupervised with any jewelry, including amber teething necklaces. Children should not be allowed to chew on their necklaces. In such cases, the necklace should be shortened and always tucked inside the shirt to allow for maximum skin contact. Children should not be allowed to sleep in the necklace.  I also would think that allowing baby to wear the necklace while eating, bathing or swimming is not recommended.  Simply because food can cause damage to the beads and string, and while bathing or swimming, the necklace can be broken.  Also, the chemicals in some baby washes, especially scented ones, and the chlorine can damage the beads and weaken the string over time.

If you would like to check the authenticity of a piece of amber, there are a number of different tests you can do. One is to mix a few tablespoons of salt into warm water, then see whether the amber floats. Amber has been found on the Baltic sea coast for centuries because it floats in salt water. You can also place the clean amber on the tip of your tongue and you should start to feel a tingly sensation, but not taste unpleasant. If you rub it between your hands vigorously, it should give off a pleasant smell but not get sticky. Also, "fake" plastic amber and copal (immature resin) melt if you place a drop or two of nail polish remover on it, but real amber does not.

Amber teething necklaces can replace the need or can add to the effectiveness of acetaminophen or ibuprofen and other remedies. They also make for a fabulous baby shower gift and family heirloom.

I also want to add that the Amazon ad I have showed with this post is with a company which I have purchased several pieces of amber from and I have been satisfied with all my purchases.

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