Is it real amber?

BE CAREFUL! There are lots of groups on the Internet (and in real stores) selling amber fakes!

All amber at the Amber Gallery is genuine Baltic amber, and has been obtained from reputable sources, and has been carefully examined with a microscope and by other methods personally to guarantee you its authenticity. We ONLY sell genuine Baltic amber with fossil inclusions, such as insects, spiders and plant fragments.

Do you own any amber that has a questionable heritage? Feel free to contact us regarding an appraisal of the authenticity of your amber pieces. You can't always tell just by looking, even for an expert, so it pays to have important pieces checked out carefully.

Quick Tip: Telling real Amber from Plastic forgeries.... One of the simplest non-destructive tests that you can do yourself is to clean and taste the specimen. Carefully washing with soap and water, then with just water, should leave a clean specimen ready for this test. Lick the specimen slowly several times, allowing the subtle taste to linger. It should be extremely subtle - real amber has almost no taste at all, leaving at most a very slight, tingly sensation. We think this "taste" may actually be just a touch sensation, not a true response of the taste buds. Most plastic or other polymer forgeries, on the other hand, carry a distinctly nasty taste that screams, "Imitation!" Don't be fooled, remembering this simple taste test can save you considerable trouble in your adventures with amber.

Commonly referred to as tree sap, amber is anything but sap.  Amber forms from resin and contains succinic acid, or succinite.  Sap is the fluid substance which flows in the heartwood of the tree and provides nutrients to the tree itself.  Resin flows beneath the bark and protects the tree when it's wounded by boring insects or loses a branch due to storm damage.  Resin flows like syrup and has a distinct piney, sweet smell.  The piney, sweet smell is due to chemicals in the substance known as terpenes.  When you see a photograph of a mountainous area full of trees, and there is a light, misty cloud hanging over the trees - that is due to these aromatic chemicals being released by the conifer trees.  Time and particular strata that the amber lay in for millions of years help those terpenes break down and escape from the resin, forming amber.  Immature amber or copal is a substance in which all the volatile terpenes have not yet left the resin.

Testing: It's not really difficult to tell real amber from fake plastic or copal.  You can try just a few simple tests:

1.Copal (immature resin) and plastic fake amber do not hold up to solvents.  Take a few drops of acetone (fingernail polish remover) or alcohol and drip it over the surface of your piece.  If the surface becomes tacky, or the fluid takes on the honey golden color of the substance, you can bet it's not amber.  Amber is not harmed and will not dissolve under these solvents.

2.Amber does not melt.  It will burn away like incense.  Copal will melt, as will plastic. However, the plastic will release a horrible chemical smell upon burning, while copal may release a smell similar to that of amber.  Amber smells sweet, piney and pleasant when burnt, the very reason it has been used for centuries as incense.

3.Amber is buoyant in salt water.  That's why it is easy for locals on the Baltic Coast to find it washed up on beaches, especially after storm events. The amber gets stirred up from a layer known as blue earth, which is beneath layers of silt and clay on the ocean floor. To do this test, mix about 1 part salt to 2 parts water and dissolve the salt completely.  Drop your piece into the mixture.  Plastic and copal will drop out, while amber floats. 

Ask Us! If you have any further questions, contact The Amber Gallery.  Several people have contacted us about pieces they own or have found and wonder if it's true amber.  Digital cameras take wonderful photos and if you would like to send us a photo of your piece, just let us know.  Even a regular photo should scan nicely.  We are very interested in where some of these pieces are found and in acquiring more pieces to add to our collection.

Smoothstone Design, Inc., 1999