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The Ultimate Guide to Identifying Real vs Fake Amber

Amber is a beautiful and unique organic gemstone that has been cherished for thousands of years. But how do we differentiate real amber from fake amber, and what are its physical properties?

In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about identifying real amber and understanding its physical properties.

Identifying Real Amber

Real amber is an organic gemstone that is formed from fossilized resin. It is a soft and lightweight material with a low hardness of 2 to 2.5 on the Mohs scale, meaning that it can easily be scratched.

Real amber also has a low specific gravity of 1.06-1.10 g/cm3, which is lighter than other gemstones. When it comes to identifying real amber, there are several characteristics to look out for.

Real amber has a distinctive blue fluorescence that can be seen under UV light. It also has a pine scent when rubbed or heated.

In addition, real amber often has deformed inclusions, such as gas bubbles or insects, which are evidence of its organic origin. On the other hand, fake amber can be made from materials like glass or plastic, and will often have perfect inclusions that were intentionally added to make it appear more real.

Fake amber also lacks the pine scent and blue fluorescence of real amber, and may have a synthetic smell.

Non-

Destructive Tests

There are several non-destructive tests that can be used to verify the authenticity of amber. The saltwater test involves dissolving salt in water and then placing the amber in the solution.

If the amber floats, it is likely real. Another test involves rubbing the amber against a piece of cloth or wool to create static electricity.

Real amber will attract small objects, while fake amber will not. UV light can also be used to identify real amber, as real amber will fluoresce blue under UV light.

Finally, examining the inclusions inside the amber can also provide clues to its authenticity. Real amber will have deformed inclusions, such as insects or bubbles, which are evidence of its organic origin.

Destructive Tests

If non-destructive tests are inconclusive, there are several destructive tests that can be used. A hardness test involves scratching the surface of the amber with a sharp object.

Real amber will easily scratch, while fake amber will not. Another test involves using a hot needle to melt the surface of the amber.

Real amber will have a distinct pine scent, while fake amber may smell burnt or like plastic.

Physical Properties of Real Amber

Appearance

Real amber can range in color from yellow and golden to orange-to-red, brown, honey-color, white, bluish, and greenish. It can be opaque or transparent, with a unique and characterful appearance that comes from the organic inclusions within it.

Origin and Formation

Real amber is formed from fossilized resin that came from ancient pines. It is a unique substance in that it isn’t defined by a clear crystalline structure, but more by its characteristic feel and look.

It takes millions of years for amber to harden, due to its soft and easy-to-scratch texture.

Hardness and Specific Gravity

Amber’s low hardness and specific gravity mean that it is softer and lighter than other gemstones. This makes it easy to scratch, but also means that it is lightweight and comfortable to wear as jewelry.

Inclusions

One of the most distinctive features of real amber is its inclusions, which often include insect specimens from millions of years ago. These inclusions can be twisted and damaged, having been embedded in the resin under unusual circumstances that can help paint a picture of ancient life on the earth and how it has evolved since.

Conclusion

In conclusion, real amber is a fascinating and beautiful organic gemstone that has been cherished for thousands of years. It is a unique substance with a low hardness and specific gravity, and is easily identified by its blue fluorescence and pine scent.

If you are looking to purchase amber, it is important to be able to identify real amber from fake amber, and to understand its physical properties. Whether you are a jewelry enthusiast or a collector of ancient artifacts, this unique organic gemstone is a timeless and cherished beauty.

3) Types of Fake Amber

Amber has always been an attractive gemstone, so it is of no surprise the enormous demand for it over numerous years. Due to the rarity of authentic amber, fake amber is often found in markets and shops.

Here are the different types of fake amber that can be found in the market:

Natural and Synthetic Imitators

These imitators are often an attempt to make a product that looks like real amber but is more attainable. Natural imitators include copal, which is a young resin, less than a million years old, mined in Central and South America.

Bakelite, casein, and celluloid are early compounds similar to plastics that were used for jewelry in the first half of the 20th century. Newer plastics like epoxy, glass, polyester, modern plastics, and phenolic resins are also used to imitate amber.

Such fake imitators do not give the authentic charm of the amber.

Enhanced Natural Amber

This type of fake amber is formed from natural amber that has been enhanced, thermal-treated, or fused. One popular enhancement technique is heating, which alters the original color of the amber to produce a more desirable hue, often warm and red tones.

Thermal treatment like sun spangles and ambroid also modifies the color and appearance of amber. Pressed or assembled amber, formed from small pieces of amber that are pressed together to re-create a bigger block of amber.

It lacks the smooth surface texture and a considerable rough surface texture compared to the real one, which can be seen up close.

Visual Identification

One of the visual identification markers of fake amber is homogeneous stripes or tiny mosaic-like patterns that are deliberate, perfect, and lack character. While the authentic amber is an irregular, slightly bubbled surface texture, with organic inclusions added to the charm.

In contrast, the counterfeit amber’s surface is silky and shows no inclusions. On close examination, these inclusions are often created from plastics, making fake amber easier to identify.

4) Testing Amber with UV Light

Fluorescence of Real vs. Fake Amber

Authentic amber typically fluoresces bright greenish-blue to blue when exposed to UV light.

On the other hand, impostors and unprocessed raw amber specimens commonly do not fluoresce. Raw amber samples show milky white or chalky colors that lack the fascinating and unique blue hue of authentic amber.

Therefore, when you hold it under the UV light, it should fluoresce blue as you change its position.

Specific Types of Amber

Baltic amber is known for its rich colors and is the most popular type of amber. Baltic amber has a distinct weak to moderate blue fluorescence under UV light, unlike other types of amber.

Meanwhile, blue amber is an exceedingly rare type of Dominican amber that fluoresces dark blue to bright neon green when exposed to the right frequency of UV light. It has a vivid and dramatic color, which is highly sought after by collectors.

Conclusion

In the world of gems and minerals, Amber has a unique place because of its history and charm. However, it’s essential to differentiate real amber from fake amber before buying, as fake amber has no intrinsic value but looks identical to the authentic amber.

The techniques we have described, like non-destructive methods and UV light testing, can help you differentiate real and fake amber quickly. Ultimately, if you keep in mind the unique characteristics of real amber, you can substantially minimize the likelihood of purchasing a fake amber piece.

5) Differentiating Real and Fake Amber

Due to the popularity of amber, fake amber is prevalent in the market. In the previous sections, we explored the types of fake amber, its physical properties, and the methods for identifying it.

In this section, we will discuss additional techniques to help differentiate real and fake amber.

Specific Gravity

Real amber has a specific gravity between 1.06-1.10 g/cm3. A simple test to determine specific gravity is to weigh the amber then place it in saltwater.

If the amber floats, then it’s real. However, if it sinks, it’s either fake or treated amber.

Static Electricity

Real amber gets charged when rubbed against a material like wool or silk, generating static electricity. Therefore, if you rub the piece of amber with a piece of wool or silk and then hold it against various items, such as a hair or piece of paper, you can observe od different electrostatic forces.

Fake amber will not give rise to these forces since they are made of different materials.

Inclusions

Inclusions add character and value to the authenticity of the piece. Real amber’s inclusions consist of crooked and damaged insects, bubbles, and plant materials, and are visible to the naked eye.

If the inclusions are perfect, in a grid-like or patterned formation, the amber is likely fake.

Hardness

Real amber has a low hardness of 2-2.5 on the Mohs scale, making it easy to scratch. Treated or fake amber may have a fake scratch mark on its surface to imitate natural wear and tear.

Therefore, before buying, use a sharp object to scratch a small portion of the surface as a basic test.

Pine Scent

Real amber releases a pine or resin-like scent when rubbed or heated; a synthetic smell is indicative of fake amber or treated amber.

Treated Amber

Treated amber is often the result of thermal treatment, a process that alters the color or clarity of the amber. But the thermal methods can reduce the color stability and reduce the lifespan of the amber.

Detection of treated amber can be achieved with UV light testing, visual inspection of the texture and inclusion patterns, and careful observation of the item’s history.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the popularity of amber has led to the market being flooded with fake or treated amber. The characteristics of real and fake amber are different and can often be easily detected with simple tests like specific gravity, static electricity, inclusions, and hardness.

These tests can help identify its authenticity. Buyers should always be aware of treatment techniques that could be used to improve a piece’s appearance; some treatments can damage the piece integrity and lifespan.

It’s important to know the techniques mentioned in this article to avoid being swindled while buying amber. The more knowledge one has on the properties and tests relating to amber, the better the chances of getting a genuine piece of this charming gemstone.

In conclusion, authentic amber is an organic gemstone formed from fossilized resin and has a unique charm and history. Differentiating real and fake amber is essential to ensure you are making a worthwhile purchase.

By looking at the specific gravity, static electricity, inclusions, hardness, and pine scent, buyers can identify fake amber. Also, UV light testing can distinguish between treated and fake amber pieces.

By understanding the techniques mentioned in this article, you can minimise the chances of being cheated when buying amber, and you can enjoy and appreciate the unique beauty and energy storage of real amber.

FAQs:

1.

What is the specific gravity of real amber? – Real amber has a specific gravity between 1.06-1.10 g/cm3.

2. Is fake amber always made of plastic?

– No, fake amber can be made of other materials like glass, polyester, and phenolic resins. 3.

Can all types of amber fluoresce under UV light? – No, only certain types of amber, like Baltic amber and blue amber, fluoresce under UV light.

4. How can I tell if amber is treated?

– Treated amber can show signs of color enhancement or have an overly smooth surface texture when compared to authentic amber. 5.

Can I use a scratch test to identify real amber? – Yes, real amber will scratch easily when compared to fake amber.

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