The current level of modern technology makes it possible to imitate any natural stone – even such complex and beautiful as amber. The quality of synthetic materials today can mislead anyone. Artificial amber stones can be amazingly beautiful – transparent, sunny, even with some bug or spider inside! And in some cases, it is rather difficult to identify such imitation from a natural mineral.
Artificial amber is made from glass, modern types of plastic, as well as synthetic and natural resin.
But how can you check authenticity of your amber?
Simple ways to check amber
There are several simple ways to check amber:
- Dip your amber in a glass of salt water (3 teaspoons of salt). Glass or plastic epoxy resin amber will immediately sink but natural amber will emerge – because its density is less than that of salt water.
- By placing a drop of ether, solvent or 95% ethanol on the surface of amber, you will not see any reactions. Real amber does not break and will not become sticky. There will be no trace on the natural amber. But on the artificial sample will appear melting, discoloration, etc. Please note that prolonged exposure to reagents the stains on natural amber may remain. 3-5 seconds are usually enough to recognize a fake.
- With the edge of a knife or a razor scratch in an inconspicuous place. Real amber will crumble into small pieces, which can be ground into powder. Plastic will leave elastic chips. The glass will not be scratched.
- Rubbing amber with a cloth or palm until a significant increase in the temperature of the stone allows you to feel a faint resinous odor resembling the smell of pine or turpentine. If you do the same with copal, it will soften and its surface will become sticky. Any synthetics will give out a sharp chemical smell.
- Apply to the non-face side of the stone, a strongly heated metal object for example, a needle. Artificial material immediately finds itself sharp and unpleasant smell. Natural amber always smells exceptionally nice – pine, rosin or church incense.
- Low cost – a clear sign of a fake. Natural amber just can’t be cheap.
- Insects or plants included in amber are not always proof of the authenticity of the mineral. Amber with inclusions has been made artificially for a very long time. Take a closer look at the insect. The wings of insects of the Jurassic period were spread out and opened – slowly getting stuck in the resin, they tried to get out of it. Insects in plastic and glass do not look so vivid, because they are filled with resin in a lifeless form.
Artificial Amber from resin
Very often, fake amber is made from inexpensive low-grade types of resin. Their presence is simple enough to determine. First, they do not smell so much in pine needles and woods. Secondly, they are easy and simple to scratch. You can’t scratch natural amber, which has lain in the depths of the Earth for millions of years, so easy. Thirdly, they have a heterogeneous structure. If you have a magnifying glass on hand, you can also determine the origin of your amber. The natural mineral has a uniform structure throughout its thickness. But in an artificial pebble you will find wavy layered formations, which are obtained in the process of its rapid production.
Another thing that if artificial amber was made from a solid grade of resin called “Copal”. It will be quite difficult to distinguish such a stone from the natural. In addition, the price will also be difficult to navigate – copal so much like amber, that their prices often similar. Amber copals are found on the southeastern coast of Africa – these are either grains, or plates of tar of honey or tea color, transparent and clean, covered with a crust from above, which is removed during processing. But on the West African coast, copals are founded in the form of small symmetrical balls.
So, copal is almost as hard as amber. How to distinguish them? Copal, unlike amber, melts faster and easier. This can be checked at home: carefully put a piece of amber on one side of a hot frying pan, and it will immediately start to smell. So – natural amber exudes aroma, similar to clove. But copal will be strong and unpleasant medicine smell. Another distinctive feature of Copal – a lot of cracks on its surface.
A very important distinction criterion is electrical properties. Natural amber is a wonderful natural dielectric. When rubbed, amber is well electrified and retains a negative electric charge on its surface. Due to its unique electrical properties, amber is widely used in the treatment of various diseases.
Copal does not possess the electrical properties of amber. At the same time, it really looks like natural amber. It is used in the manufacture of jewelry, as well as cut out small objects – jewelry, charms, etc. In addition to copal, other amber like types of resins are used in the manufacture of artificial amber, such as dammar and kauri. Samples of artificial amber are impeccably beautiful, but you should never forget that the true age of natural amber is not even millions, but hundreds of millions of years! It is impossible to imagine how valuable natural amber is, and to be more precise, it is simply priceless! The energy of amber is so powerful that it makes no sense to compare it with modern wood resin, and even more so with synthetic materials. Natural amber is without exaggeration the Ecumenical category.
Artificial amber solves only aesthetic problems. At the same time, it is almost impossible to call fake resin work synthetics, since resin is still a natural material. Copal is generally considered to be “young amber” and may be a few hundred or even thousands of years old. Jewelers consider him as “low grade amber”.
Modern resin is mined from various trees and shrubs. For example, dammar resin is prepared from plants growing on the East Indian islands – Borneo, Java, Sumatra, etc. Kauri resin is extracted from coniferous Kauri trees that grow in New Zealand. All artificial amber from modern types of resins are checked in the same ways listed above.
Another type of fake amber is the so-called pressed amber (ambroid), which appeared in market at the end of the 19th century. Small amber crumb is pressed under a hydraulic press without oxygen at a temperature of 200-250°C. Externally pressed amber is very similar to a natural mineral, but you can still distinguish it. Imitation will give uneven coloring. Parts of the ambroid can differ dramatically from each other in color, while the color transitions are very sharp and have a clear geometric shape. Contrast pieces are very reminiscent of a traditional quilt. A particularly characteristic feature is the abrupt transition of the matte part into the transparent one. While the color of natural amber changes very smoothly, without any lines and borders of color.
Modern methods of imitation gems are constantly being improved. With the help of powerful dyes, the overall palette of multicolored ambroid pieces is aligned in a uniform shade. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish pressed amber in simple ways.
The natural mineral has a wide range of color – honey, reddish brown, dark brown, cherry color. At the same time, it is characterized by natural transparency.
Pressed amber is noticeably more turbid, almost never transparent (with the exception of small areas). And most importantly, it does not possess the unique ability of natural amber to play with shades of light.
If you carefully examine the ambroid, then you can see another clear sign – it is elongated air bubbles. Air bubbles are also found in natural amber, but they always have an ideal spherical shape.
Thanks to modern technology, today there are many ways to manufacture ambroid. Regardless of the method, only natural amber crumb and amber dust are used. Many do not consider ambroid as artificial amber and fake, they attribute it to low quality amber. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that after industrial processing, the energy structure of the mineral also changes, which is extremely important if the product is planned to be used for medical purposes.
Artificial Amber from other materials
Artificial amber can be made of glass. To determine the origin of such an instance, swipe over its surface with a copper needle. There will be no trace on the glass sample, and a barely noticeable strip will appear on the natural sun stone.
To prevent damage to the surface of natural amber – use the easiest way to check: immerse the stone in a salt solution (300 g of water / 50 g of salt). Glass will surely sink.
Plastic imitation of amber will have to be scratched to get to the truth. Artificial amber is made from bakelite, bernate, and others. Plastic chips during mechanical impact, natural mineral – crumbles. In addition, if you try to heat the surface with a lighter flame, the plastic will instantly melt and become charred, emitting an unpleasant synthetic smell.
Ennobled amber also has its own distinctive features.
Amber is ennobled for a very, very long time. To give it a beautiful reddish tint, it is boiled in honey. To make it brighter, boil in vegetable oil, adding organic dyes. After boiling, a characteristic net of small cracks appears on its surface.
Sparkling amber is a natural or extruded amber that has undergone a thorough heat treatment at a temperature of 220°C. On the surface of the sparkling amber, you can find small fan-shaped cracks, which create an additional magnificent play of light and shade. This sort of refined amber is highly valued in the jewelry market.
It should be noted that the natural stone that has undergone heat treatment invariably loses some of its healing properties and loses aesthetic properties more quickly with constant use.
Special and non-standard verification methods
High-quality fakes of amber are very difficult to distinguish visually, and you don’t always want to spoil any sample. In these cases you can use professional methods. One of these – ultraviolet rays (medical equipment).
If we consider natural amber under the flow of ultraviolet light, then it will shine with a divinely beautiful blue tint and other colors. Copal and ambroid are molded only in milky white. Synthetic amber does not shine under the rays of ultraviolet.
Sensitive people and psychics determine the authenticity of amber, simply by taking a stone in hand: a powerful energy emanates from a natural mineral, which is felt by barely noticeable warmth and light tingling. An ordinary person, too, can feel something – synthetic materials, once in their hands, will immediately seem unpleasantly cold to you, and will heat up for a long time.