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How to distinguish real amber from plastic?

Amber (succinite) is not a stone, but a petrified fossil resin of coniferous trees. Nevertheless, according to the Russian grading system, it belongs to the first order jewelry stones and is often subject to counterfeiting and imitation. From our article you will learn how to check amber for authenticity.

Signs of amber authenticity

Each of the methods proposed below is based on the properties of amber, by which you can distinguish the original from the fake: · Densely located, usually uniform, so-called calcinations or sparkles, which are visible in the thickness of the sample, can indicate both a fake – burnite, and the ennoblement of real amber by calcination. · Coloring without color transitions, without textures and inclusions (bubbles) is another sign of a fake. Although now they have learned to fake the texture of amber. · Natural amber, especially untreated, has an interesting color and unique pattern; the transitions from one shade to another are chaotic. Due to this, it looks richer than imitations.

How to determine whether amber is real or fake?

Plastic, tinted glass, bakelite, celluloid, epoxy resins, and bernite can be passed off as amber. There are several household methods of checking, we will consider them below.


Take a sample and use a knife or razor blade to make a scratch in an inconspicuous place. Small fragments that can be easily crushed into powder are what remains of real amber, because it has low hardness. Elastic shavings are a sign of plastic. Glass with a hardness rating of 5 on the Mohs scale will not leave significant scratches.

Saline test

Real amber, as a rule, does not sink in salt water, unlike fresh water. However, some samples of hardened tree resin may be denser than the saline solution and may not float. Therefore, the test cannot be called one hundred percent reliable. However, only samples without frames, fasteners and decorative elements are suitable for testing in this way. To prepare the solution, dilute 2 tbsp in a glass of water. l. table salt. The test will not detect copal and amber made from pressed shavings, but it will easily detect fakes made from plastic. After testing, rinse the sample with fresh water and dry.

Weight and thermal conductivity evaluation

Amber is of organic origin, its density is about 1,05–1,09 cm 3. For example, amber beads are very noticeable both in the hand and on the neck. Whereas plastic fakes will be weightless. If you take amber and a fake glass in your hand, the first one will be warm to the touch, while the glass will retain its temperature longer.

Friction test

Natural amber becomes electrified when rubbed against fabric. If you bring an electrified sample to finely chopped paper, fluff or feathers, they will be attracted. The method makes it possible to weed out, for example, copal, which is often sold under the guise of young amber, and other fakes that do not have the property of electrification.

Heating Odor Assessment

When the temperature of the test sample is significantly increased by rubbing it on a cloth or warming it in the palms of real amber, a faint resinous odor similar to pine or turpentine can be detected. But the copal will soften from the same procedure, its surface will become sticky. If you apply a hot sewing needle to the surface of the sample, succinite will give off white smoke with a characteristic and quite pronounced odor of rosin. At the same time, different amber has different aromatic shades, but with common sourish-resinous notes. Synthesized samples in such a test will melt faster, emitting a pungent chemical odor.

Open flame test

If you try to set the sample on fire with a candle or lighter (hold only with tweezers!), genuine amber begins to light up after about 3 seconds. By holding it over the flame for 1–2 seconds longer, and then moving it to the side, you can see that the original will continue to burn quite intensely with boiling, while smoking. The remaining smoke from the extinguished amber will be white. Glass does not support combustion, and can crack if exposed to sudden heat. The plastic will melt in a matter of minutes.

Solvent test

Here’s another way to recognize amber. Unlike plastic counterfeits, succinite demonstrates relative resistance to alcohol and solvents. Acetone and nail polish remover can change the color or texture of the surface of plastic fakes, and copal will be hopelessly damaged from such experiments. If you place a drop of ethyl ether, ethyl alcohol 95% or other solvent on the surface of the test sample, natural amber will not give any reaction – neither disintegration nor stickiness. Another thing is imitations made from pressed amber and copal: their surface will become sticky upon contact with the solvent. Some plastics do not react when combined with alcohol, but are soluble in acetone. Glass counterfeits also will not show themselves in any way when interacting with these reagents. Attention! The test must be carried out on an inconspicuous area of ​​the product; long-term exposure to solvents may leave stains on natural amber that cannot be removed. 3 to 5 seconds are enough to perform this test.

UV lamp test

If you shine ultraviolet light on a sample, natural amber will give off a bluish glow of varying intensity. Luminescence is clearly visible in transparent samples; as the transparency of amber decreases, it weakens. Smoky translucent samples glow pale blue, the so-called cloud and bone ones – milky white with a faint bluish tint, raw amber with a “sugar crust” – brown tones, blue Dominican amber – blue. Under a UV flashlight, the wavy streaks, banding, and transitions inherent in real amber are clearly visible. Synthetic resin based on bakelite is inert in UV rays; imitations using casein give a yellow glow.

Read more about amber
Amber authentication Checking the authenticity of amber Signs of authenticity of amber How to determine whether amber is real or fake? Amber (succinite) is not a stone, but a petrified fossil resin of coniferous trees. Nevertheless, according to the Russian evaluation system, it is classified as jewelry stones. Amber is a mineral of organic origin. Fossil resin is 35-140 million years old, but it was mainly formed in the Paleogene – 50 million years ago) Amber is a waste product of Pinus succinieferra trees. After their death, coniferous trees fell into marine sediments, where the wood turned into brown coals and the resin into amber. The brown coal was destroyed, and the amber accumulated in the remains of decomposition, called “blue-green earth,” from which it was then washed out by the waves of the sea.

How to distinguish fake and imitation amber.

Today there are a lot of fake amber on the amber market. They are made from bakelite, casein, polyester, polystyrene, epoxy resin and other materials. How to understand such a variety of imitations?
Of course, in the store no one will let you scrape the product with a knife or rub it with ether or set it on fire. First of all, pay attention to the color, inclusions, transparency of the insert or beads. 1. Appearance As a rule, fakes have multiple inclusions of air bubbles and so-called sparkles, as well as a uniform color of beads along the entire length of the jewelry. Natural amber, especially that which has not been subject to heat treatment, has an interesting color with transitions of shades into one another and a unique pattern. In natural amber, the degree of transparency depends on the presence of the smallest voids. It can be transparent, translucent or opaque. Color: colorless, chalky white (foamy) and bone white, yellow, golden or honey yellow, orange, red-brown. 2. The weight. Amber is one of the lightest gems. Plastic, and especially glass, fakes are noticeably heavier and also colder to the touch. 3. Static electricity method. The fact that amber, when rubbed on a cloth, becomes negatively charged and attracts small pieces of paper, etc., is not always a diagnostic method, since some plastics have the same properties. True, in amber this property is more pronounced, which makes it possible to identify a certain number of fakes. But if there is no electrification, it is an obvious fake. 4. Smell when burning. If you apply a heated needle to the surface of amber, white smoke with a characteristic resinous smell will appear. Amber, being a resin, burns well, releasing a specific smell of rosin (amber was previously called “sea incense” and was used to fumigate rooms as incense, as well as for medicinal purposes). A sample of natural amber, after entering the flame, lights up within 3 seconds; after the flame is withdrawn, the stone continues to burn with a large flame. Of course, plastic beads will “smell” completely differently. 5. Water “procedures”. Natural amber, with the exception of some varieties, sinks in fresh water and floats in salt water (the average density of amber is 1,05-1,12 g/cm1,26; amber has the lowest density of all precious and semi-precious stones; for comparison, synthetic resins bakelite density 1,28 – 1,33 g/cm³, casein – density 8 g/cm³). Try drowning a sample of amber by placing it in salt water at a concentration of 10-XNUMX teaspoons of salt per glass of water. Natural amber should float to the surface. But fake amber will remain lying at the bottom of the vessel. Plastics and modern resins (except polystyrene) have a higher density than amber and will sink. This method is of course effective for beads and samples that are not set in metal. 6. Shine. Amber fluoresces when exposed to ultraviolet light. In ultraviolet light, natural amber gives a “cloudy” light from light green to yellow, but most of it produces blue shades. Transparent amber glows pale blue, cloud, bastard and bone amber glows milky white with a faint bluish tint. The intensity of the blue glow depends on the degree of transparency of the amber. The more transparent the amber, the denser the luminescence colors in it. They can vary from light and grayish blue to violet. The weathered crust luminesces in brown tones. You can ask a cashier at a supermarket or bank to put an amber item into an ultraviolet banknote detector and see for yourself that it is genuine. 7. Mechanical method. Using a knife or razor blade, cut a strip from the surface of the amber in an inconspicuous place. If you see spiral-shaped soft shavings, this is a fake. Real amber crumbles shallowly and is also ground into powder. One of the most famous imitations of natural amber is pressed amber, the so-called ambroid – a product obtained by processing at high temperatures and high pressure from amber flour and small pieces of amber with or without the addition of dyes. Ambroid looks like real natural amber and has all its inherent physical properties, but does not contain succinic acid, and therefore is called amber only conditionally. Unlike natural amber, this type of amber softens under the influence of ether: if the surface of pressed amber is moistened with cotton wool and ether, it becomes sticky.

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