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Identifying Natural Baltic Amber

How to identify natural baltic amber and how to classify it properly.

synthetic amber egg and natural baltic amber nugget
Natural Baltic Amber Nugget
Synthetic Amber Egg

The rising prices and popularity of Amber goods stimulate the production of fake Amber, which is continuously improved and manufactured in ever increasing quantities. Only Infrared Absorption Spectroscopy (IRS) can reliably check whether a given piece of Baltic Amber is real.

Treatment in autoclaves offers possibilities which were not available in the past, such as complete, seamless and invisible combination of two pieces of natural Amber. This opens up possibilities for the manufacture of falsified inclusions since it is now possible to not only join together two parts of a nugget completely and invisibly in a way making it exceedingly difficult to discover the fact, but also to place insects, feathers, or shells between them.

It is only possible to discover that such amber was clarified. Confirmation of the authenticity of such an inclusion requires a lot of specialist knowledge and experience in the scope of biology. Discovering that an amber nugget was fused from separate parts in an autoclave is not possible. As already stated, it is only possible to discover that the amber was clarified.

Amber imitations are currently manufactured almost all over the world and some of them are intentionally made in such a way as to make examination and identification difficult even for experts.

Today it is difficult to determine that we are dealing with top quality natural Baltic Amber or treated amber, or even tiny amber elements pressed together. Infrared absorption spectroscope examination of amber does not provide a clear answer. Identification of succinite through the analysis of the spectral curve from an IRS examination only shows the functional groups which do not change during the thermal treatment or pressing of amber.

A significant role in the popularization of the correct classification of amber goods and gemstones has been played by the International Amber it fair held in Gdansk Poland. It is the world's largest Amber fair. The organization has been maintaining its leading position at the organizers focus on the importance of natural Baltic Amber, guaranteeing safe purchases of top-quality Amber products to buyers. Under the fair rules and regulations, products from other resins must not be sold or even displayed. It is allowed to show unique specimens of natural resins accompanied by a description of they type in place of origin.

Amber Classification

The Commission of Experts of the International Amber Association of Poland, have developed principles of classification of Amber gemstones. Those classifications are as follows.

Natural Baltic amber (Succinite) – gemstone which has undergone mechanical treatment only (for instance: grinding, cutting, turning or polishing) without any change to its natural properties.

Modified Baltic amber (Succinite) – gemstone subjected only to thermal or high-pressure treatment, which changed its physical properties, including the degree of transparency and color, or shaped under similar conditions out of one nugget, previously cut to the required size.

Reconstructed (pressed) Baltic amber (Succinite) – gemstone made of Baltic amber pieces pressed in high temperature and under high pressure without additional components.

Bonded Baltic amber (Succinite) (doublet, triplet) – gemstone consisting of two or more parts of natural, modified or reconstructed Baltic amber bonded together with the use of the smallest possible amount of a binding agent necessary to join the pieces. International jewelry and gemology organizations recommend providing customers with exhaustive information on the gemstone modifications applied.

The classification of Baltic amber gemstones was adopted by the Board of the International Amber Association on December 2011, 1999, as amended. Last amended on December 02, 2011.

Amber Identification

The smell of Amber is unique – when rubbed, heated or burnt, amber gives off a pleasant resinous smell, which is a basic property making it possible to identify the stone.

The characteristics smell emanating from from incense burner during church services is written easily recognizable. All types of false amber known today may be distinguished from natural Amber by smell.

Amber is warm and light to the touch, which makes it possible to distinguish it from glass.

When scratching the surface of amber it gives up tiny pieces of the stone, while scratching this surface of a synthetic resin product results in the appearance of spiral shavings. In contrast to synthetic masses, amber easily powders.

Amber nuggets float on the surface in salt water and sink in fresh water.

amber with insect

Large inclusions of mummified animal life are probably falsifications.

In the picture you see an insect inside a clear resin. These are sold as amber with insect inclusions. The one in the picture is made in a "factory" in China. A whole line of these products was offered to us with a "certificate of authenticity" as being baltic amber.

 

Treated amber stones, including those with inclusions, are marked by bright colors only on the surface. Inside, they are almost colorless.

Amber is a precious material. If you have given a price that is significantly below the market price, you should suspect that you are buying some falsification. You must consider the subtle substitution of amber from South And Central America or Asia for Natural Baltic Amber. The ambers from those regions are less valued than Natural Baltic Amber and sell at a lower price. This price difference makes it easy for traders to dupe those who are concerned only with price or to sell to others who make Polish jewelry knock offs.

Amber reacts poorly with ether and various solvents. It reacts to them in a variety of ways, but it takes several days to react. Falsifications made of copal react to ether and acetone (nail varnish remover) after a short while. Their surfaces first become matt and then sticky

Where immediate decisions are necessary, such as in a trade situation, an expert may only use simple measures such as examination under a magnifying glass or microscope. The decision as to the authenticity of the product will be primarily based on the comparison of features and characteristics of amber and the expert's critical analysis, which requires specialist knowledge and experience.

At a higher level, it is possible to make a more careful assessment, for example identifying the type of resin with the help of a spectrometer. This type of examination requires detailed knowledge and highly specialized preparation.

Other Ambers

Apart from Baltic Amber, we can find other fossil resins in jewelry and other objects of art, including Rumenite, Symetite, Burmite, Dominican and Mexican Amber. Even though all of them are amber, they should be clearly labeled because they differ significantly in age, properties, hardness and usefulness for jewelry. It has become established to designate amber based on its country or region of origin.

Contemporary resins, called sub-fossil resins or copal, are anywhere from several hundred thousand to a few million years old and are still too young to be called amber. In geological terms, 1 million years is but a fleeting moment and so the inclusions contained in these young resins are species of contemporary plants and animals. Sculptors and jewelry made from the sub-fossil resins quickly lose their smooth surfaces, and if not clearly marked as such, are marketed as Baltic Amber fakes.

 

A word to the wise. Know your seller.

You can get a list of companies that manufacture using only in natural baltic amber, plus amber and silver jewelry catalogs at Amber Catalogs.

You can get catalogs for natural baltic amber directly from Poland at Natural Baltic Amber.

You can buy Natural Baltic Amber retail and wholesale at Natural Baltic Amber