Myths and legends

How to determine whether amber beads are amber or not?

Amber has been counterfeited at all times. Therefore, if you bought amber beads or you inherited them, it is difficult to be 100% sure that the stones are natural. There are, of course, some ways to verify the authenticity of a stone, but only a specialist can make a final verdict.

Appearance of amber

Real amber is very rarely homogeneous – it contains asymmetrical patterns, iridescence, transitions from one color to another, and the beautiful texture of the stone is especially visible when illuminated with an ordinary flashlight. There are about 350 shades of amber in total! Low-quality natural stones include ambroid – pressed amber, which is an alloy of individual pieces and amber chips. It has all the beneficial properties of amber, but to a lesser extent, since in this case the succinic acid is exposed to heat. Ambroid is almost impossible to distinguish from solid amber, although some experts argue that air bubbles in molten amber become oval rather than round. In addition, as a result of pressing, color transitions become sharper and take on a geometric shape. There are no contrasts in natural amber, and the color changes smoothly, without sudden transitions or boundaries. However, miracles can be done in a chemical laboratory, and now even ambroid is colored so that it can be confused with amber.
Copal, “young” amber formed over the last few tens of thousands of years, is also classified as a low-grade natural stone. Since copal is created from the resin of more modern trees, it, unfortunately, does not have the healing properties inherent in amber. It can often be identified by small cracks on the surface. The presence of insects in amber does not guarantee authenticity, since a spider or butterfly can also be placed in a fake to be convincing. True, in this case, imitation amber can be distinguished by the type of insect. The fact is that millions of years ago, mosquitoes and midges, finding themselves in the resin, tried to fight and get out of the amber captivity, so they froze in motion with their wings spread. The fakes use dried insects, motionless, with folded wings. In addition, ancient mosquitoes and spiders looked a little different, and they were much smaller in size. And most importantly, over a hundred million years they have long since become incorporeal and almost transparent, only a semblance of a body remains. If you see a familiar mosquito or fly of familiar sizes and bright colors in a piece of amber, most likely it is a beautiful fake.

Two practical tips on how to recognize amber at home

Experienced experts have a trained eye and identify amber from a photograph, which can be sent to oldamber@mail.ru. The appraiser will also provide an approximate value of the stone if it is valuable.
At home, you can test amber in two ways – in a saline solution and with a hot needle. The saline solution must be sufficiently concentrated – at least 4 tbsp. l. salt per glass of water. Real amber always floats on the surface of a saline solution and sinks in fresh water. Fake stone sinks in any water, but plastic always floats. First, you should immerse the beads in ordinary water, and then in salt water – this way the comparison will be more clear. However, this test does not always work, since a high-density stone, such as amber “Brown Bochata” beads made of brown barrel-shaped beads, will also sink in a saline solution if it is not concentrated enough. Many people, when doing the experiment incorrectly, think that they have fake amber beads, although this may not be the case. A similar experiment should be carried out with amber beads without decoration, since due to the presence of foreign materials, the amber will sink in any case. After the experiment, you should rinse the amber thoroughly, otherwise a salt crust will appear on it. The second method of checking is more reliable and effective, and for this you will need a needle and a lighter. A needle, red-hot over a fire, must be applied to the bead – of course, in the hole for the thread. White smoke will immediately appear, and if there is a smell of resin, then it is amber, and if there is a smell of burnt wiring, then it is plastic. Under no circumstances should you touch the outside of the bead with a needle, as this will immediately reduce the cost of the beads by about 5 thousand rubles.
This method will not help identify pressed amber, which can only be determined by drawing.

Unconventional ways to authenticate amber that can ruin its beauty

Amber is harder than copal, but softer than glass, and if you run a needle across the surface of the material, a scratch will definitely remain on the amber, but not on glass, whereas copal can be easily scratched even with a fingernail. However, it is not recommended to scratch amber beads with a needle if you plan to subsequently sell the amber, because any defect will reduce its value. On the Internet you can find advice to run a sharp knife across the stone. It is believed that using this barbaric method you can accurately identify natural stone, which will immediately begin to crumble, and shavings will appear on a plastic product from under the knife. This is true, but you still shouldn’t spoil the beautiful stone that nature created over 100 million years. There are brave souls who test the authenticity of a stone with fire, placing it over a gas burner or frying it in a hot frying pan. Yes, they will certainly see the result, since real amber burns with a large flame, emitting a pleasant aroma of incense, the smell of copal is reminiscent of medicine, and all types of plastics smoke and smell of burnt rubber. It’s scary to imagine what will happen to amber, every gram of which is worth its weight in gold!

Gentle testing methods that are safe for natural stone

There are three more ways to check that will not spoil the stone. If amber is rubbed against natural fabrics (silk or wool), it will become electrified and begin to attract, like a magnet, small pieces of cut paper. Sometimes plastic exhibits similar properties, but they are very weakly expressed, and copal does not have electrostatic characteristics at all, so in this experiment it is easy to distinguish it from real stone. Some fans of chemical experiments check the authenticity of amber by dropping acetone and alcohol on it. Nothing will be done to natural stone, but plastic fakes, copal and ambroid can be thrown away after testing, as they will lose their external luster, become rough and change color. If you do not plan to part with artificial amber beads, it is better not to use this method. Glass also does not react with acetone and alcohol, so this method cannot be considered very reliable. By the way, you should not get carried away and pour solvent on amber beads, otherwise stains may remain if they are exposed to chemicals for a long time. Some appraisers use a small ultraviolet flashlight to illuminate the amber. A natural transparent stone, when transilluminated, shines with beautiful blue and green shades of varying degrees of intensity, depending on the degree of transparency of the amber. The so-called bone and cloudy opaque amber acquires a milky hue, and its patterns and tints become clearer and more noticeable. Counterfeits do not have luminescent properties and remain yellow, while untreated amber under a lamp produces a brown color.

Subtleties and tricks when counterfeiting amber

Fakes are often subjected to artificial aging, tinted, varnished and smoked for a more saturated color, and under the influence of high temperatures followed by cooling in sand, even imitation amber begins to “play” with shades of light. However, the experienced eye of the master unmistakably exposes the false radiance. Sometimes the stone is heated in linseed oil or in foil, and to obtain a beautiful color it is boiled in honey. Modern “masters” are ready to do any tricks for the sake of profit, so it is very difficult to distinguish a natural stone from a fake. Moreover, in the store you cannot make a saline solution or apply a hot needle to amber beads. Amber experts advise in these cases to take a closer look at the appearance of the stones or rub the bead in your hands so that it warms up. The smell of fresh pine needles will “give away” real amber, and all types of fakes will not smell at all. It is better to buy amber beads in specialized stores, where each piece of jewelry has a certificate of authenticity. If you have amber beads at home that you inherited from your grandmother, you can check them using two home methods or send a photo of the jewelry to the email address oldamber@mail.ru. You can get very good money for natural amber, since it is very highly valued, especially when it comes to Baltic amber.

How to distinguish natural amber from a fake

In this section we will focus on how to distinguish real amber from plastic at home. This question is asked by many people. We will try to reveal it as fully as possible and give some advice on this topic.

Immersion method

The most popular way to identify amber is by immersion in salt water. How reliable is it? The physics of the phenomenon is that the density of amber, unlike plastic, is lower than the density of salt water. That’s why amber floats and plastic sinks. However, this effect can only be observed at a strictly defined density of the brine solution. If it is small, the amber will sink. If it is too big, both amber and plastic will float. The optimal density of the solution for the experiment is obtained by adding two tablespoons of table salt to 200 ml of water (a small glass) and dissolving it completely. To begin, lower a piece of plastic, such as a button, into the solution. She must drown. If it doesn’t sink, then the solution is too strong and needs to be diluted a little until the plastic sinks. And then we immerse the amber in the solution. He should float up. Keep in mind that the difference in density between amber and plastic is not very large, and therefore adjusting the density of the solution is of great importance. In this way you can check, for example, amber beads. But a brooch with amber will not work due to the presence of metal, which has a density approximately 10 times greater. We need another way.

Hot needle method

Amber is the fossilized resin of coniferous trees. When heated, it emits a rather pleasant pine smell. When heated, plastic emits the smell of burnt electrical wiring. We heat the needle red-hot and place it in an inconspicuous place on the product. Amber – almost does not melt, emits a pine smell, the needle leaves almost no trace. Plastic melts easily, emits an unpleasant chemical odor, and a hot needle easily penetrates it, leaving a deep mark.

Indirect signs of amber authenticity

Keep in mind that amber was formed in natural conditions, and quite rarely has an ideal structure. This is what we will proceed from. Let’s consider two types of natural amber: 1. Natural transparent amber, not subjected to heat treatment. The range of shades is from lemon to reddish (quite rare). If you carefully examine it under a magnifying glass, you will probably notice very small inclusions in natural amber, such as pollen, debris, air bubbles, internal defects, etc. 2. Natural opaque or translucent amber. Natural amber is characterized by surface defects: small lacunae, microcracks, tiny dark inclusions, etc. — Also, a good indication of the authenticity of amber is the presence of an amber crust (or traces thereof) on the back of the stone:

Well, one last test.

As you know, if amber is rubbed on woolen fabric, it becomes electrified and begins to attract light objects: pieces of paper, feathers, etc. This is how it is done: As for necklaces, remember: natural amber beads are very rarely the same shade and structure. It is almost impossible to select even a dozen identical beads in a product. Therefore, if you see a necklace consisting of ideally shaped beads, strictly the same color and structure, then most likely it is either pressed (melted, molded) amber or plastic. Is it possible to 100% guarantee the authenticity of amber using the specified identification methods? No you can not. But 90 percent of it is possible. We issue a certificate of authenticity for nuggets with inclusions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button