Real or Fake?

Here is a list of materials used for amber imitations and how you can spot them:  We get our Baltic Amber from a trusted reliable company who product tests their before shipping!  

 

Copal

Copal is often sold as Baltic amber. With enough time, Copal would become amber, but Copal isn’t truly fossilized. Copal is ‘young tree resin’ (1 thousand to 1 million years old), whereas true amber would be closer to 40 million years old. Natural inclusions are possible in Copal, but usually they are falsified. It will still diffuse the "sweet" smell of burning resins, just like real amber, making it difficult to spot.

Glass

Glass is pretty easy to distinguish; it’s more solid, cold to the touch, etc. It can’t be scratched by metal and is fireproof, whereas real amber can be scratched and will burn if exposed to flame.

Modern Plastic

Modern plastic (polyester, polystyrene) are used to produce artificial amber with inclusions that look very real.  However, like in Copal, falsified inclusions are too big (more than 10 mm) and clearly seen, inserted in the very center of the plastic. After heating, it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.

Pressed Amber

When small remnants of amber are fused together using high pressure or a major heat source, the result is called “pressed” amber. While pressed amber is cheap and relatively available, it will not perform the same way original, natural amber does. Because the original pieces of amber have been compressed, the singular power of each piece is compromised. It is inexpensive to buy, but if you’re interested in the healing aspects of Baltic amber, you will not experience them with the pressed product. Pressed Amber will look more like plastic: perfectly round, no air bubbles or imperfections. However, it will burn and smell like real amber, so you have to largely rely on a visual inspection to tell pressed amber from the naturally formed beads. 

None of these fakes will provide the health benefits that our customers are seeking, so we only carry real Baltic amber imported directly from Lithuania in the Baltic region.

 

HOW TO TEST YOUR AMBER

1. The Smell/Burn Test

Natural Baltic amber has that specific pine resin smell, which is difficult to obtain when producing falsifications.  

Unfortunately, most of the tests in this area involve heat and fire and, we’ve found, are horribly difficult to do well - particularly if you are trying not to totally destroy your necklace in the process!

To perform the smell test, you have to either burn a bead (hold with tweezers into a candle flame) or, if you don’t want to destroy your jewelry, stick a hot needle into a spot that’s less noticeable. Carefully smell the smoke - if it smells a bit like pine, it's good; if it smells like burnt plastic, that’s bad.

It is also possible to heat the amber by rubbing it between your palms and then smell it, but that can be difficult if the amber is polished.

2. Visual Inspection 

The first thing you’ll want to look out for is plastic, pressed, and glass amber that is obviously "too perfect."  Amber beads can be polished to near-perfect rounds, but if all of the beads on your string are totally picture-perfect, something is probably wrong. Real amber has air bubbles, and if clear enough to let light pass, you’ll see imperfections within the bead, cracks, etc. Real amber is warm to the touch and has a slight ‘tacky’ feel (verses slick like glass). It also feels lighter in your hands than you would expect it to.

3. The Saltwater Test 

Several pieces of each shipment are tested in saltwater to check that they float. Aside from looking at your amber, the next least damaging test you can perform is to mix up some salt water and throw the necklace in.  Real Baltic amber floats; fakes don’t. An 2-oz glass of lukewarm water with 2 heaping tablespoons of salt will help with your testing!  Want to watch an instructional video?

 

 

4. The UV Light Test 

Real Baltic amber will fluoresce under UV light, while Copal won’t. This is a super easy test to do, particularly if your amber is the on lighter side.  

5. The Acetone Test

This test checks the solubility of the amber in acetone. You can use alcohol (isopropanol or ethanol) or even nail polish remover. Put a drop on the amber and let it evaporate some. Copal will dissolve, so it’ll be sticky, and fingerprints can be made in the surface; amber will be unchanged. Another way is to dip the string of beads into some nail polish remover, and, in some cases, you’ll see the color run right off of imitations. This test won’t hurt your amber if it’s real.  

6. The Static Test

Rub your amber vigorously with a soft cloth. Real amber will develop a static charge, allowing it to pick up small bits of paper, whereas Copal won’t.

We test every batch using the smell, visual, and salt water test!


For more info about Baltic amber, see What is Baltic Amber

Please take a moment to check out our current stock of Baltic amber and other healing jewelry in our SHOP!