Useful Amber Shopping Tips
- Useful Amber Shopping Tips | Amanda Bass Designs
Plenty but Unsuccessful Attempts in Imitation Amber
People found various ways to imitate amber with the use of plastic (most common), copal (pre-amber tree resin substance), glass and other types of resin have come close to amber and made it possible to fool naked eyes. Since inclusions in amber are rare to find and command good prices in the international market, falsification of amber inclusions is widespread.
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Because of rarity, how much it is sought by amber lovers around the world, the top quality amber with pre-historic inclusions is often sold by unscrupulous merchants. However there are some simple precautions you can take to avoid buying fake amber. What you do not know can put you at a disadvantage.
- Firstly, only buy from reliable merchants;
- Check merchant's return policies, refund polices;
- Never fall for deals that are marketed as a rare deal, once in a lifetime offers, limited time offers, or unbelievable deals;
- Be careful of Chinese amber, It is not real amber. Chinese glass and plastic products such as paperweights, desktop vanity products, and costume jewelry including pendants and rings that have large real insects is not real amber. They call it amber but it is insect simple glass and plastic products that have artificial dead insects and Archimedes often purchased from Chinese and Vietnamese farmers.
Modern insects are not likely inclusions in amber. It has been reported that some amber is bored and insects or small animals "introduced"; then the hole is filled with some modern resin of the same color. Most of the insects embalmed in amber are extinct species. It the embalmed inclusion in the resin is from an extant species, or one that may be found in nature, the resin is most likely copal and not amber.
- If you have an opportunity to perform tests, the following tests can give a pretty good indication of the genuineness of amber:
- Smell Test: Smell tests are the most effective because natural amber has a specific smell, which is difficult to obtain when producing falsifications. Amber smells sweet, piney and pleasant when burnt, the very reason it has been used for centuries.
- Rubbing Test: It is easy to distinguish glass from amber: it is more solid; it cannot be scratched by metal. Glass is cold and fireproof. If you have strong hands, rub the fake amber into the hands until it releases the smell of pine- tree resins.
- "Hot Needle" Test is most Effective: To stick a heated needle into an imperceptible place in the amber (a hole of a drilled bead, etc.). If you smell definite pine-tree resins it means it is real amber. Deficiency: the slight mark of burning remains-this is uncorrectable. Amber is fragile - sticking with a hot needle you will notice some cracks, while a needle will pierce plastic without cracking it.
- Saltwater Test: Real amber floats in salt water. That's why it is easy for locals on the Baltic Coast to find it washed up on beaches, especially after storm events. Pour 7-8 full spoons of salt into 300ml of water and stir. After several minutes of stirring the salt will dissolve. Carry out the test and wash the sample with pure water. Deficiency: it will not detect polystyrene and copal and jewelry (with metal, strings of beads and clasps make the piece sink).
- Solvent Test: If the amber piece is the immature resin called copal, it will deteriorate when solvent comes into contact with it. Plastics are broken down by alcohol, acetone and ether. Placing a few drops of fingernail polish remover, or dripping alcohol on the surface will show if the amber piece will hold up. If it becomes tacky to the touch, it is not real amber. Real amber will not have a tacky feel or dissolve with these solvents.
- Buoyancy Test: True amber will be buoyant in seawater or float. This is how amber is collected from the Baltic Sea after it is washed up on the beach. To test, place amber into salt water, about 2 table per a cup of water. If the amber is real, it will float. Imitation amber will sink.
- Heat Test: When amber is heated, it will produce a whitish smoke and have a pine wood burning smell that is sweet and pleasant. Many ancient civilizations used amber as incense. To use this test heat a needle held with tweezers and touch the amber on an unobtrusive spot. If the amber is plastic, it will make it sticky and leave a black spot and give off an unpleasant odor.
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