Posted on 03 July 2017
As it is with the world, humans always find new ways to try to copy nature. Amber was discovered during the early 18th century when a group of scientists found a way to synthesize it. Natural materials were made into less valuable copies and slowly brought into the market. These pieces were used as jewelry and, naturally, their price was high.
Nowadays fake Baltic amber has flooded the market, and most people do not even realize it. People intend to purchase these amber pieces and think of them as genuine because they cannot tell the difference. Sadly, many of these people are exploited as merchants who sell fake amber usually do so at a high price.
Of course, any ordinary person can be deceived and may not be able to tell the difference. However, a person with a good understanding of the healing powers of the stone, as well as its texture and quality, can differentiate fake amber from real amber.
To make things easier, we recommend that you purchase a genuine piece of Baltic amber from a trustworthy source. This will drastically reduce the probability of purchasing fake amber when you are in the market for authentic amber pieces.
What Else Looks Like Amber?
Amber has many look-alikes. Therefore, having knowledge of their existence is crucial in being able to tell the difference. If you have bought a genuine amber piece as recommended above, this should be easy. Here are some stones that imitate amber:
A younger form of tree resin, Copal is sometimes sold as amber because it looks similar to it. However, you can tell the difference as Copal melts rather than burns at a lower temperature than amber (around 150oC). After melting, Copal also emits a sweet smell.
Probably the easiest difference to point out, glass is more solid and cannot be scratched by metal. It will reflect light and break into pieces when thrown to the ground.
3. Phenolic Resin:
They are mostly used in beaded jewelry. They have the exact same shape and color as amber. This makes it difficult for someone to tell if a piece of jewelry made of phenolic resin is real amber or not. However, if you burn phenolic resin and it does not give out the same pine-tree scent that authentic amber emits, the piece is most likely a fake.
If you put celluloid and amber together, you will not be able to tell the difference at first glance. However, if you were to burn celluloid, it would give off a smell of burnt plastic, which is a clear sign that it the object is an amber imitation. Celluloid is also not as combustible as amber.
Similar in appearance to amber, casein is made from milk. A heavier, plastic-like material, casein can be differentiated by burning it, as it too exudes the smell of burnt plastic.
Different Tests to Identify Fake Amber
Different tests can be done to determine whether or not the amber you are purchasing or already have is real. Smell is said to be the most effective way to differentiate the two, as Amber has a specific pine-tree smell when burned. However, if you want to avoid burning your jewelry, here are some tests that you can do to determine if your amber piece is the real deal or a convincing fake:
1. The Salt Water Test (Easiest & Most Effective):
This test is extremely easy and effective. All you have to do is mix two cups of warm water with a quarter cup of salt in a bowl, then stir the mixture until the salt has completely dissolved. Once you have done this, place the piece of amber in the solution. If the piece of amber floats to the top then it is indeed authentic amber.
2. The Rubbing Test (Simple & No Mess):
One of the easiest methods, when you rub real amber on the palm of your hand, it is said to give off its iconic smell. This occurs due to the heating effect produced by friction between your hand and the amber piece. If you employ this method and there is no pine-tree scent, then your amber piece is most likely not authentic.
3. The Feel Test (Straightforward & Super Easy):
Genuine amber is lightweight and slightly warm to the touch. This is due to it being underground for millions of years and because of its chemical composition. You can distinguish fake amber that is made of glass from the real thing because glass is harder, cooler, and heavier than authentic amber.
4. The Hardness Test (Quick & Uncomplicated):
Another important and easy way to check your amber piece is by checking its hardness. By conducting this test, you can immediately determine whether the amber piece is real or not. Genuine amber is relatively soft. Most fakes are either hard solids or have that plastic feel to them. With small beads, all you have to do is press them between your thumb and index finger.
5. UV Test (No Experience Needed):
If you have spent a lot of money on buying amber, this is the best test for you. For this, you will need a UV lamp. Amber has a kind of blue or green color when placed under a UV light. Therefore, if your amber piece shows up as another color when placed under the light, it is not true amber.
6. The Hot Needle Test (Best Done by Amber Experts):
This is a test is mainly used to check for plastic fakes. If you insert a hot needle into a plastic object, it will melt, however, if the object is made of real amber it will begin to crack. However, to distinguish the piece from other materials, make sure to smell the piece you have, and if it smells of pine-tree resin, it is probably genuine amber.
Note: Avoid conducting this test on small amber beads, as it may destroy the bead completely.
7. The Heating Test (Best Done by Amber Experts):
This test is mostly used to check if the amber piece contains any other materials. Natural ambers contain small bubbles in its microscopic structure. When you apply heat to amber, these bubbles evaporate making the amber piece transparent. The higher the temperature, the darker the amber becomes.
Note: Do not conduct this test on small amber beads, as they will melt completely.
Amber is a natural healing stone. To synthesize and create fakes of the original only goes towards making it difficult for those who seeking help. The gemstone is also used as a catalyst for spiritual healing, thereby making it an important part of many people’s lives.
This is the reason why you should be careful when picking out amber for yourself or someone. Not only could someone be over-charging you for a fake, but you could also be unknowingly buying something that does not possess healing properties.
While the tests we’ve mentioned in this article are great for amber you’ve purchased, it’s also wise to have amber pieces you’re considering buying checked by a professional. We also suggest buying amber pieces from merchants who can guarantee you a certificate of authenticity with any purchase. At the end of the day, you have to invest your time, money, and effort in the right purchase.