Evrything You Always Wanted to Know About Amber
When buying amber it is very difficult to identify if the stone is real Baltic amber or a counterfeit as there are many materials available on the market and different techniques which make it possible to produce stones similar to amber. Nevertheless there are some simple methods to test the material we have.
For example, most fakes are made of plastic and sink in salty water. Baltic amber will float on the surface, unfortunately so does copal. Copal, much like plastic, does not fluoresce in ultraviolet light, whereas freshly polished amber does. In a stream of hot air, copal softens and starts to melt while polished amber is resistant to melting. It is the same as far as alcohol, ether and other solvents are concerned. Amber bears immersion very well, it may only get dull on its surface while copal becomes sticky just after a few seconds. If we can afford it, we can probe the material with a heated needle. The needle enters amber with difficulty and it is easy to pull it out. In the case of copal the needle gets fused and you will need to apply a large force to pull it out. When burning amber it gives off a characteristic smell of resin.
All methods mentioned above are not 100% trustworthy. Reliable results can be achieved only by examining an amber sample using spectroscopic or chromatographic techniques, but it is impossible to conduct this kind of examination at home and it will not show results quickly. What can we do if simple attempts do not bring any effects and more complicated ones can result in damaging the stone? A good solution is to buy amber jewelery from recommended suppliers who have all the certificates for these goods.
In Poland these certificates are issued by The International Amber Association.
Parameters which characterize succinite include:
melting point: 287–300°C, according to other sources—up to 380°C,
softening point: 150–180°C,
refractive index: 1.539–1.542,
solubility in organic solvents: poor,
response to heating: pure resin scent,
response to flame: burns with a smoking yellow flame,
in UV light: blue,
presence of inclusions: gas and organic matter (fauna and flora).
How do you recognize true Baltic amber?
Properties of Baltic Amber (succinite)