How to tell your amber is real?


Although uncommon in Australia, imitation amber is being sold on the commercial market. There are many imitations of amber, some natural and some synthetic. The most common natural imitation is copal, which is closely related to Amber. As with Amber, Copal is also fossilised from tree resin but from a different variety of pine tree and less ancient. The synthetic imitations include plastic and even glass but they are not very convincing. Here are some tests you can perform to determine if your baltic amber is real.


Taste it

Wash the specimen with mild soapy water then rinse and dry thoroughly. Taste it – do you detect a chemical, strong, or unpleasant taste? If so, it may not be amber. Amber has no taste.

Scratch it

Amber is quite soft but your fingernail alone should not be able to scratch it. Try scratching your “amber” with your fingernail. If it marks, it isn’t amber.This is an effective test in distinguishing copal from amber, as copal is very soft and can be scratched with a fingernail.

Smell it

Rub the specimen briskly on a piece of cloth until it gets warm, then smell it. If it’s real amber, it should produce a mild pine or turpentine odour. If it smells like plastic or chemicals, it isn’t amber. Beware that if it has the right smell, it still may be copal.

Is it electric?

Amber holds a charge of static electricity within. To see if your “amber” is static, place some small pieces of tissue on a flat surface. Rub the amber briskly on the carpet until it is warm and hold it closely above the tissue pieces. If the pieces of tissue are not attracted to the specimen, it is not amber. If tissue is attracted to the specimen, it may be amber.

Does it glow?

Try this if you have a fish tank at home with an ultraviolet light. Place your “amber” under the light. If the specimen fluoresces a pale blue, it may be amber. If it doesn’t glow at all, or glows a colour other than pale blue, it is not amber. Copal under a short-wave UV light shows hardly any colour change wheres amber fluoresces a pale shade of blue.







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