How to check whether amber is authentic?

2013.10.02

  1. Real amber does not drown. As opposed to a stone, amber will float if we put it into water.
  2. Amber can be held over fire for about 5 seconds. If it is real, nothing will happen to it, however, it will exude a resin scent. If it is synthetic, it will begin to melt and you will smell stench.
  3. If we keep authentic amber over fire for a longer time, it will start to smolder. Put on fire, it will emit a pleasant scent. Therefore, in the old days it was used to cense houses.
  4. Real amber has electrostatic properties. If you rub it against, for example, wool, it will attract small pieces of paper.
  5. If you pour 30 g of salt into a liter of water and put amber inside, it should float on the surface, as opposed to fake ones.

Other methods:

  • Due to its small specific weight, amber and copal float on the surface in a concentrated common salt solution. Most artificial resins falls down on the bottom of the container quickly due to their larger specific weight.
  • As opposed to copal and artificial resin, freshly cut amber shines (fluorides) in ultraviolet light with intense blue light.
  • A glowing hot needle will penetrate amber only minutely and is easy to pull out later; it will penetrate copal deeply and after it cools down it can be pulled out only with use of force.
  • Alcohol, ethyl ether and other solvents visibly bite copal in a few seconds or minutes. Its surface becomes sticky, while polished surfaces of amber withstand such procedures.
  • Hot air (if we expose the materials to it for about 10 minutes) does not affect amber, while the surface of copal starts to melt slightly. Besides, copal is elastically susceptible to kneading, while amber is not. Contemporary resin melts.
  • A characteristic feature of copal is that kneaded places go back to the former shape after longer exposition to hot air. Some artificial resins become plastic – compared to amber – in significantly lower temperatures (see above), Baltic amber becomes softer in around 170oC.
  • Baltic amber, when rubbed or slightly heated, smells only delicately, however, characteristically. This property has various intensities for different variants. Molded amber smells a little more strongly. Copal and molded copal smell a little aromatically. Such scents can be smelt distinctly during cutting. Some artificial materials exude characteristic scents as well (see above).
  • Walls of bodies with a thin-walled inclusion are distinctly darker in amber than in copal, where they are fresh, colorless to light brown and “not charred,” frequently also orange and red.
  • Borders of the layers are invisible in copal; in amber they are visibly recognizable in a cross-section as clear yellow lines.