Tips 27 Jul 2017

How can we distinguish amber from imitations?

Unfortunately, not everything that looks like amber indeed is so.

According to the International Amber Association, Baltic amber imitations include raw materials, semi-finished products or products made of substitute, usually cheaper material, similar in appearance to amber, but with different chemical and physical properties.

Imitation itself is not wrong, provided that a saleassistant points out that information to the the customer. Otherwise it is very unfair practice. There are more and more counterfeits in the market. There are several "do it yourself" ways which define what we are dealing with. However these methods do not give you 100% guarantee. Only laboratory method, using spectrometry in the infrared, gives us 100% certainty.

We listed some home made methods below:

  • Smelling the fragrance after heating the stone

Baltic amber should release, pleasant, resinous scent.

Kopal have a very strong, aromatic smell.

Artificial materials eg. plastic have strong disturbing scent.

  • Reaction to dissolvents

Baltic amber responds poorly to dissolvents (eg.acetone).

Kopal reacts to organic dissolvents after a while. The surface becomes opaque and sticky.

  • Hardness test

The hardness of the Baltic amber is between gypsum (st.hard. 2.0) and calcite (st.hard. 3.0), according to the 10-point Mohs's scale. Breaking the amber leaves thin scratches and crumbs on it.

Artificial materials produce small, spiraly curled flakes after scratching.

  • Macroscopic evaluation 

Baltic amber is warm and light in touch.

Glass is usually hard and cold in touch.

  • Electrostatic properties

Rubbing the Baltic amber for a longer time with some pure cotton, causes sticking scraps of paper to the stone.

  • Test in salty water

The density of the Baltic amber is close to seawater. For that reason the real Baltic amber stone always floats in salty water. For preparation use 30g of salt per liter of water.

  • Infrared spectrometry

Effective and non-invasive identification in case of real amber. A sample for the study is required to have a smooth and reflective surface. The test is fast. We simply place some amber between a diamond reflection plate and a holder, so the beam of infrared radiation contacts with the sample and records signal. The test result is a spectrum. Each resin has its specific and repetitive plot.

 

 

 

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