Oct 14, 2013

How to test is Baltic amber real?

When there are so many fakes in the market, it becomes important to be able to test amber. There are few ways to test amber, but i will write here about few most popular and best known ways to do that at you own home.

Salted water test.
This is one of best known ways to test Baltic amber, but it is considered to be not exact, because density of amber varies a lot: from 0.93 to 2. Fresh water is measured 1. This means some amber pieces float even in fresh water (that usually is white amber), some sink in salt saturated water (closer to 2 usually is amber with earth inclusions). 
If you have purchased jewelry, it most probably has thread, plastic or metal clasps, maybe some other details. Those details might make Baltic amber to sink too. 

UV test.
Baltic amber fluorescence (shines) under UV light. This test does not work on heated amber, and as i have noticed, often does not work even on natural, not heated cherry color amber - change under UV light is not so drastic as other colors especially if that cherry amber is opaque. So if amber does not fluorescence under UV light, test it in the following way.

Hot needle/pin test.
This test is also called as "smell test". 
Baltic amber ancient fossilized tree sap. Comes from trees which no longer grow on  on the surface of Earth. Baltic amber is 40-60 million years old. During that time tree saps have changed and became natural polymers, that means plastic made by nature. Each color of amber has its own smell. This is because each color of amber has been formed in different environment, with different chemical compounds in the soil, different temperature, different time of exposure to the Sun and air and so on. So, basically each amber piece has slightly different smell, and color's smell can be very different from each other.
In order to test, heat a needle or steel wire, touch with amber piece and smell what comes out.


White and very light yellow Baltic amber has a lot of amber acid (up to 8% from it's mass). For this reason it's smell is a bit sour.
Honey amber gives smell which is close to pine sap or colophon smell.



 As scientific books about Baltic amber say, clear light Baltic amber has formed inside of tree, usually under the bark of tree. It had gone through different processes than other colors of amber for this reason it has a bit different chemical and physical properties than other amber colors. It fluorescence under UV light, but when tested with smell test it smell more like plastic than pine sap. The more clear it is the more plastic it will smell. If clear light amber has, for example, slight honey color like in photo above, it will have hint of pine smell and a hint of plastic smell.  In the photo with light yellow unpolished amber, beads looks a bit cloudy, but in fact they are transparent and clear with slight shade of yellow, just matte surface makes to look them so. So they should smell like clear amber.
Hot temperature (when smoke starts to come out) enhances smell of plastic. In other colors pine smell is strong enough to overcome plastic smell, but in such light clear amber testing temperature is very important. So do not burn it - touch with hot metal and smell it right away.


Heated Baltic amber has weaker pine/colophon smell than not heated amber. It looks like, that some of that smell goes a way during the process of heating. But when you have such amber, try harder to feel that hint of pine smell. 
Scientists say, that natural cherry color also was formed by heat, most probably in forest fires. for this reason intensity of depends a lot on shade of amber and for the same reason it does not shine so dramatically under UV light.. 

Copal
In one of the videos in Youtube I saw woman saying that amber is a bit gummy, my face expression was like that: o.O ... because copal might be gummy due to young age (1-5 million years old) and process of polymerization did not went so far in it like in natural Baltic amber (age 40-60 million years old).
Copal can go through most of the tests which amber goes through, but usually it is in more gummy state than amber is and has more sweet smell that amber does. Amber's hardness is similar to nail hardness, so it is quite hard and not gummy for sure.

Air Bubbles
If you see air bubbles in stones, you know that it is glass fake. This does not work on Baltic amber. Some amber pieces do have air bubbles and from those bubbles scientists got information about what atmosphere was on earth 40-60 million years ago. So if you see bubbles in Baltic amber, it does not mean, that amber is fake.

To conclude..
The only perfect way to test amber is costly tests in laboratory. If you test amber at home, you will need some knowledge... :)

How to make Baltic amber teething necklace?

P.S. I am sorry for mistakes - English is not my native language.

10 comments:

  1. Good article,I love Baltic amber

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  2. I love amber teething necklace , I bought amber teething anklet, I hope it help for my little baby

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  3. i own a large piece of red amber , darker amber . a buddha figurine , 12" tall and waighs 4 lb , it is hand carved . and to many raw pieces of amber are there . some places like the belly the head and a few otheres are highly polished while othere plces are duller . .. i knew it was authentic amber when i purchased this piece at a flesa market here in florida. $ 30.00 that guy did not know what he had . and i did not tell him either . .he would not have understood anyhow . he has lighter colors going up his right arm and shoulder.. like jellow and orange . when i hold him against the sun . he looks like fire inside . with an awful lot of debri , mostly on the bottom and middle . . lesser on the top. i can see what looks like a large folded leave . more like see through debri in that fold . pieces i cant make out . about a little over 1" long . small white pieces . and like grass and moss . so much of it i never seen in my life before . also ane more thing . you dont see on buddha figurines . his head is not even with his pot belly , his head faces to the left . so he is looking to the left , i took all the tests i think the are the best . to authenticate real amber . the water test is out . i have to take him to the dead see . a human will float , and i do not trust that salt water test . anything the waight of a tiny piece of amber will float , take a piece of wood it will float . the salt is what carrys the opjects . i small piece of amber has to float in fresh water . salt will hold things up . that test is not for me . i took acetone and poured it all over the bottom . and let it sit there . then i wiped it of , . no damager to the piece . i had to hold my nose to the piece for any odor . just a very very faint pleasant odor . even my cat liked and he rubbed against the buddha. i did it again ,no damage . then i used nail polish remover with acetone . poured that all over the bottom . . i just wiped it of . shiny as ever . and a very faint pleasant odor to my nose . then i took 2 long wood matches . lit them and held them against the bottom . i let it burn till it got to close to my fingers .i let it cool of just a smitch of black residue on my fingers when i wiped it clean no damage done . i did it again . .. again no damage to the piece i couldent even tell where i burned it . and again a very faint pleasant odor, holding my nose right on the burned spot . then i took 1 match lit it and burned a spot near his arm and hand on the right side where the color is lighter. jellow and orange and the amberis thinner held the match there. and watched the amber burn it burned eve\n. no sticking no melting . nothing , and again . my nose got the very faint pleasanrt odor , and no damage . cant even tell where i burned that piece .. shiny as before..i know this is a very rare and millions of year old red amber piece . there is no such thing . as a piny or what ever smell . the older the piece the lesser the odor or fragance . i only got . holding my nose to the piece a very very faint pleasanr smell . i call it , i know i do not have a bad nose . the hot needle did not penetyrate the piece . but i scratched with a metal pen . my name on the bottom . .is there anything else i have to know ?? please let me know . luckys289@aol.com

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  4. Copal has a sweet, pleasant smell. Copal is also fossil resin, but much younger than Baltic amber, do not have same healing properties as natural Baltic amber and cost much cheaper than Baltic amber does. Also there are other kinds of embers in the world (you might check the map in my blog http://oldknowledge.blogspot.com/2010/09/what-is-amber-amber-is-neither-stone.html ), they are also not so valuable as Baltic amber is.
    The only way to be absolutely sure is this Baltic amber or not is to check it in laboratory. But my guess would be, that the piece you have is copal.

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  5. Nice post!!!People get the information on above post. I am really so happy to see this post & get to know idea. How beautiful is all of that made it those stones are so attractive. I also purchased some stone from DR Fine Jewels for making like as you.

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    1. I will repeat it under this blog entry too. DR amber almost does not have amber (succinic) acid, so it does not have such healing, pain relieving, calming properties as Baltic amber.

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  6. I have an amber ring made in Gdansk Poland, I'm assuming it's genuine Baltic amber.

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  7. Any body can help me, I see some Amber from a dealer, I did the water test, but the supper grade Amber was floating in freshwater and saltwater. the B, and C, grade is sinking in freshwater saltwater.

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    1. Sorry, the B, and C, grade is sinking in freshwater but floating in saltwater.

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    2. If it was white amber, or foam like amber, it is possible that it floats in fresh water too. White opaque amber gets its color from microscopic bubbles. Foam like amber has biggest bubbles inside.

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