Identifying amber

amber necklace

amber necklace

Amber, or fossilized tree resin, is a popular and valuable gem often used in jewelry and often displayed on its own. There is, however, fake amber and other substances that can be mistaken for amber. Amber colored plastics and glass are commonly used to make fake amber. There is also the natural substance called copal that is young amber. Copal is very old, but not fossilized yet and is sometimes passed of as genuine amber.

The following are some quick tips which, in combination, help tell the difference between amber and common imitations. These tests are for bare amber. If amber has metal added, like a clasp or a ring, it can effect the buoyancy and static electricity tests.]

* Amber is warm when you touch it. While plastic is also warm, glass, crystal and gemstones are usually cold. Glass and stones are also heavier

* Static electricity test. When rubbed on cloth or even your pants leg, amber becomes electrostatically charged and will attract lint/dust particles and tiny pieces of paper.

* Solvent test. The surfaces of copal and plastics deteriorate when a drop or two of solvent is put on it, but amber is not effected. Plastics are effected by ethyl alcohol and acetone (fingernail polish remover). A few drops of acetone or alcohol put on surface will reveal if it holds up to the solvent. If the surface becomes tacky or dissolves, it’s not amber.

* Buoyancy in salty water. Amber will float in seawater. Dissolve about 3 tablespoons of salt into per cup of water to test this out. Amber should float and many imitations will sink.

  • Fluorescence under black light. Black light makes amber fluoresce, or glow in the dark. Amber can fluoresce different colors, including pink, yellow and green.

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