Cheap imitation or real amber? Succinite verification methods

November 14, 2018 /  

Amber is one of the oldest and most popular materials used in jewelry, which is also the first decorative mineral used on a mass scale in history. He was known in ancient times, being a trade object for most Europeans living at that time. The transport of amber at that time ran through much of Europe, the so-called "amber trail".

Amber is an element of Polish culture, as evidenced by even the largest exhibition of this mineral in the world, which takes place every year in Gdansk. In addition, Poland is the world's largest producer of amber jewelry, and our products are popular all over the world. The continuing popularity of "Baltic gold" for centuries, as well as the prestige and quality of amber jewelry, means that there is still high demand for it. Unfortunately, popularity is also an opportunity to trade in artificial amber. So how do you distinguish real mineral from imitation?

Real, natural amber has special physical and chemical properties. Some of them can be easily checked at home and some require specialized tests.

The most important features of amber:

amber is light, however heavier than the weight of water, amber floats in salt water. Thus, the home verification method can be the brine technique, which involves salting water and throwing amber into it - it will float. However, it should be remembered that if our amber has some metal elements - this method will not work.

the so-called. shell fracture- chipped amber is associated with the structure visible on the top of the shell or has a stepped structure.

- burning amber is another home verification method. The burning amber burns, emitting a characteristic resinous smell. It is interesting that one of the names of the mineral comes from this property - Bernstein "burning stone". Baltic amber should smell nice, pleasant, resinous, capals have an intense, aromatic smell, and imitations usually smell like burned plastic. A resinous smell is also felt when a hot needle is applied to real succinite. In addition, small, pulling threads will appear on the needle. The only downside of this method when testing jewelry is its destruction.

amber has electrifying properties, so when rubbing it with a suitable material, e.g. wool, we stimulate these properties and amber can attract small pieces of paper. It is interesting that these electrical properties are reflected in the scientific nomenclature, because the Greek electron means amber. However, this is not entirely the right method because rubbed plastic will also attract pieces of paper.

- Baltic amber is relatively soft - on a 10-degree Mohs hardness scale it is between gypsum (hardness scale 2.0) and calcite (hardness scale 3.0). On the scratched amber surface, a white scratch and fine crumbs are formed, while after scratching plastics form spirally curling chips.

Baltic amber feels warm and light, imitation is usually heavier and cold, e.g. glass. 

amber reacts poorly with solvents (e.g. with acetone), initially the amber will tarnish, but it will quickly return to its previous form, while the imitations tarnish quickly, and their surface becomes sticky.

Therefore, there are possibilities to verify the naturalness of amber in home conditions. However, they are not always 100% effective or safe.

One of the most effective and used in the world research methods of succinite and other resins is infrared absorption spectroscopy. In Poland, infrared spectra are obtained by two methods - transmission and reflection.

The Amber Laboratory operating at the Amber Museum in Krakow uses the reflection method in an ATR spectrometer. It is a fast, effective, and most importantly non-invasive method of identifying Baltic amber as a raw material and products made from it. Infrared spectrometry covers the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation in the range between the visible area and the microwave area, i.e. between 14300 and 200 cm-1 (0,7-50um). Infrared absorption spectroscopy uses the phenomenon of selective absorption of infrared radiation by various substances. Absorption occurs when the frequency of infrared radiation vibration is equal to the frequency of natural vibrations of atoms or their coordinating groups.

The result of the analyzes is a reliable diagnosis of the authenticity of amber. It is also the basis for issuing a certificate of authenticity. Therefore, we invite you to buy our certified, and above all natural products. In addition, our museum laboratory offers the possibility of testing the authenticity of products and conducting expertise for individuals, companies, offices and institutions. We invite you to cooperation!

Visiting the exhibition Amber Museum

Ladies and Gentlemen! From November 2023 the form of our Amber Museum is changing. The current exhibition is smaller and available to you as part of the Boruni Gallery.

Adults and children with guardians can visit the Museum without prior reservation during the museum's opening hours.

Opening hours:
Mon - Thu 10:00-20:00
Fri - Sun 10:00 - 20:00
Admission is free.
Telephone: +48 513 511 512

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