September 21, 2017 4 min read

Agarwood is an aromatic, resinous portion of the Aquilaria tree.  It is non-timber, light texture and the wood is diffuse-porous.  Agarwood beads are precious, light, soft and absorb liquid; they require the best care to maintain its look and aroma.

There are currently two methods of polishing: waxing and sanding.

Photo 1- Wax polished bead and sandpaper-polished bead

Agarwood bead makers have been using "The Wax Polishing Method" for Vietnam Agarwood beads making. After shaping and buffing, skilled workers slightly wax to smooth the agarwood bead surface. This wax layer is super thin that it will not affect the aroma and will be easily worn off since the first time of usage, especially when the weather is hot and humid. You may feel shocked to see the real colour of your beads. Calm down, it is normal. It is like when you have frizzy hair, got it managed by gel and after being washed, the hair is out of control again. Wax layer will make the beads 1 to 2  tone darker than the real colour of the bead.

Wax polished beads are sensitive to water and sweat; it is inevitable and ubiquitous. Water or sweat marks on beads can be blended out by rubbing the beads against the soft cloth for an instant fix. If it has too much damage, clean the beads regularly with a soft cloth and wear it daily to form the natural glossy layer. The white marks on the beads are sweat marks developed when the beads are worn. 

Sweat marks on worn beads

Photo 2- Sweat marks on worn beads

Abrasive polishing or sanding is a common practice in Indonesia. Agarwood beads, the beads are polished with high grit sanding paper, under high speed, the heat will melt the natural resin from the included phloem and sap in the beads and coat them evenly,  create burning effects that will give the beads a beautiful glossy look and nice colour (See photo 3 and 4). The colour of the beads depends on the resin of the Agarwood bead. Beads polished by this method tend to be less sensitive to water and sweat. However, the polished layer is very fragile to sharp/ abrasive items. Long-term wear can help the issues, or you have the beads polished again. For high-quality beads, the scratches may not be visible if the wood itself is dark enough to cover.

 

Photo 3-  Cut beads from resinous Agarwood bead

The Elegance mala 6 mm- Wild Indonesia

Photo 4- Sandpaper polished resinous beads

The Elegance mala 6 mm- Wild Indonesia

Below is the summary table of the issues that an Agarwood bead users may encounter:

               Reasons

                    Causes

   Damages  and  recovery

Water

Most of the beads should stay away from water, the less contact time, the better. Due to their porous characteristic, they will absorb the water. If you do not quickly dry them up, and they will crack.

 

Bead is deformed and damaged permanently.

(Except sinking resin grade and oil-injected beads)

Sweat

Sweat can strip off the wax layer on the bead reveal the natural colour of the bead.

Using a soft cloth to re-polish the water spot and even out the colour of the bead and regain its shine.

 

Using a soft cloth to re-polish and clean up the beads from sweat residues that may clog on the bead and form dirt.

Alcohol

This potent substance dissolves the resin, and it will remove the natural oil layer formed on the bead.

Bead is damaged permanently, can be fixed by re-polished however, the original resinous layer has been removed so the colour would not be as similar in some cases.

Perfumery

Alcohol-related products

 

Fragrances in perfume will be absorbed into the beads and affect the natural aroma.

Same as above

 

Long-term damage on the aroma of the beads

Oil and oil-based products

Fragrances in lotion/ oil will affect the natural aroma of the beads.

 

Oil residue will clog on the bead.

Long-term damage on the aroma

 

 

Need regular cleaning and polishing with a soft cloth, but as it is absorbed in the bead, there is no way to remove without damages.

Sharp items

When the beads are exposed to items that can cause cuts/ abrasions, the surface will be damaged.

Buffing may remove permanent damage, light abrasive marks on the top layer but due to the softness of the wood, Agarwood beads can be cut deep into the wood part.

 

Besides, the weather does play a significant role that affects on Agarwood bead; dry weather can make the unworn beads crack due to unevenly shrinkage, especially newly-created beads. It can be prevented by tightly wrap the beads or store in a glass box with a small cup of water inside to balance the humidity. In high humid weather, the bead might develop moulds; you can store the bead in a zip bag with a moisture absorber. Those are just some tips to help you maintain the beautiful look of your precious Agarwood beads. 

In short

  • Do not submerge your beads underwater; normal sweating is elegant but excessive one. Forget about sinking test if you want to maintain these beads properly. Like it or not, when wood meets water long enough, it will expand and crack sooner or later.
  • Do not wear your beads if you applied perfume or lotion on your wrists because agarwood beads will absorb those substances and changed their properties.
  • Store your agarwood bracelet and mala in a zip bag with moisture absorber when not in use.
  • Use a soft cloth to polish your beads to obtain the glossy look again.

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