How To Test Amber

How To Test AmberTo say amber is an extremely fascinating gemstone will certainly not be a wrong statement. It is a beautiful semi-precious gemstone that mysteriously reflects ancient life. This organic gemstone originated from tree resin. These resins were exuded from pine trees hundreds and thousands of years ago. It has a bright yellow color that oozes a striking spark. 

Studies show that this gemstone has been in use since at least 1398. It was primarily used for the creation and scaling of jewelry along with other regular use items. It is mined heavily in Poland as around 6000 businesses now mine and process this semi-precious gemstone.

Amber is said to have various effects on the human body. It is said to assist the body in the renewal of cellular tissues. Furthermore, amber helps the body to forget the past and focus on the future with a positive outlook. It protects the body from negativity and aids in healing. Shedding light on its physical effects, it is commonly believed that amber supports inner ear and the thyroid along with neurological tissue.

There are various methods used to test for real amber. The main ones are:

  • Sand test.
  • Odour test.
  • Knife test.
  • Salt water test.

We will investigate these tests in more depth, but first lets learn about the history of ths beautiful gem

Properties of Amber

Amber’s geological name is “Succinite” that is derived from the Latin name succinum, which means juice. Its original name i.e. amber is derived from ambergris. However, it has no actual similarities to ambergris apart from the fact that it is found in the ocean in certain regions. It is mostly mined but some Baltic amber is gathered from the nearby coastal areas. 

Amber is categorized in the category of organic gemstones, in which very few gemstones fall. It is basically fossilized tree resin. Some ambers also contain entombed extant or extinct biological matter. how to test amber

Some people mistakenly term resin as tree sap. There is a difference between these two terms; resin is the semi-solid amorphous organic substance concealed in pockets and canals through epithelial cells of a tree while the sap is a fluid that circulates through the vascular system of the tree.

Amber is created by natural oxidization, evaporation of terpenes & molecular polymerization process; which turns it into a fossiliferous resin. This process is termed “amberization” & can take over a period of up to millions of years to complete.

History of Amber

The history of amber dates back to about 5 to 24 million years. Its source with abundant inclusions is from the Dominican Republic. Some commercial sources for amber are 100 to about 144 million years old, depending on their location.

Copal/Copalli is known as “young amber”. Its majority is 50 years to 10,000 years old while some amber is up to millions of years old. Similarly, Columbian copal is said to be 250-10,000 years old. As per some scientists, oldest copal is 33,000 years old. It was found in Misunani, Japan.

How To Test Amber

The majority of commercial amber dates back to the period of time quite a long time after the Jurassic Period and the Cretaceous Period after the dinosaurs were extinct. The reason was a change in climate and landscapes along with lack of the few types of trees that manufactured amber type resin.

The use of amber for adornment purpose started around 1100-8000 BC. A simulated form of this gemstone, Albumen amber, has been used since the 1400s. It was invented by Leonardo De Vinci.

It is to be noted that not all amber or copal is suitable for making jewelry. This is due to the fact that they have varying properties. The use of marketable amber for making jewelry started around 5-65 million years back.

Investigation of Amber

Now that you have known about the history, properties and other details of amber, let’s move on to its investigation that will help you to know whether it is real or fake. Before that, let’s first know why it is important to investigate an amber. The major reason is that many jewelers now sell fake ambers at the rates of real ones. These are hard to distinguish as they have almost the same look and feel.

Some common lookalikes of ambers that are currently sold in the market include glass, copal, casein, celluloid etc. Apart from these, jewelry made from polyester and plastic is also often sold in the name of amber. So, to avoid yourself suffering from huge losses by buying a fake amber, read on this in-depth guide on the investigation of amber.

There are various methods to investigate whether an amber is real or fake. Some of the major ones are discussed below:

Sand Test

Put sand anywhere on the amber and then smell it; real amber will always smell of resin/pine forest. On the other hand, if it is made of polyester or plastic, it will smell very unpleasant similar to odor produced when a plastic bag burn.

Needle Test

Heat a needle and let the tip burn in a place where it cannot be seen; for example, through a borehole. If the amber is real, it will give the pleasant smell of resin/pine forest. In case, if it isn’t real, the smell of burned plastic will be produced. If the amber is made from other materials such as celluloid or casein, it will give the odor of camphor or burnt milk respectively.

Knife Test

Take a knife and cut the amber with it. If it is real, it will have a crack and wouldn’t produce a nice edge. On the other hand, plastic will create a nice shiny face

Salt Water Test

Take a glass of plain water and add salt water in it. Dip the amber in it. If it sinks, its either amber or polyester, if it floats, it is plastic.

Other Important Differences

Brown glass jewelry is also often mistaken for amber. The differences between both these pieces are that the former is heavier and harder as compared to the latter. Similarly, old jewelry of horns can have a very high similarity with amber. However, it is slightly heavier. Furthermore, when conducted the smell test, it produces a very unpleasant odor of burnt hair.

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