How to distinguish amber from a fake
Products made of precious stones have always been in demand - and it is not surprising, because many minerals have such powerful healing abilities that in ancient times they were considered magical. However, such popularity has a negative side - the more popular a gem is, the more often it is falsified. Some surrogates so faithfully imitate the tone and texture of the original that even a professional can make a mistake. Our article and professional jewelers from yantar.ua will help you avoid deception - here it is described in detail how to distinguish natural amber from artificial in any conditions!
Types of fakes
Since ancient times, people have been trying to recreate sunstones (the frozen resin of the ancient Pinus Succinifera pine) using improvised means. Here are the most common imitation materials:
- artificial plastics and resins (bakelite, urea, epoxy, polystyrene, acrylic and polyesters). Many of them have a negative impact on health;
- colored glass or ceramics;
- celluloid and nitrocellulose. Now they are almost not used due to explosiveness;
- bernite - "melted" amber, pierced with many decorative cracks. It consists of polyester resins to which about 5% of natural gems are added;
- products from natural resins secreted by the bark of the Agathis dammara tree and other similar plants. As a rule, they differ in increased fragility and duller color;
- varnishes (amber varnish, hedanite, glessite). They contain a certain amount of crushed stones mixed with rosin, turpentine, linseed oil;
- low-quality or "immature" fossil resins (krantzite, birmite, rumenite, copal). They are found in Africa, South America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Burma. Such gems are more fragile and softer than real cabochons, and their rough surface is covered with a whitish coating.
Reconstruction or pressed amber (ambroid) is not considered fake. It is obtained by compressing fine stone chips with a hydraulic vise at a temperature of 200-250 °C. This method allows more rational use of the extracted raw materials. Ennobled (boiled in oil) pieces of hardened resin are also considered natural.
The variety of fakes is really impressive. However, natural gems can still be found among them - and how to do this is explained below!
Appearance - we look closely at the details
When buying accessories and souvenirs made of precious stones, you should pay attention not only to the design of the products, but also to the main element of the product - the amber insert. Spending a few minutes on this, you will be able to learn the characteristic features of solar gems even in poor lighting or in a hurry.
Hand-made "amber" is inferior to natural in the richness of shades and structure. In such cabochons, there are no color gradations and unpredictable transitions of tones - yes, some Bakelite products have a layered pattern, but the stripes are always directed in one direction and separated by equal intervals. In addition, artificial hardened resin does not change over time, while natural resin actively oxidizes in the open air (this phenomenon is also called photoaging).
Ambroid also has its distinctive features: the air bubbles in it are elongated vertically (this shape is given to them by the strong pressure of the hydraulic press, which compresses the gemstone crumb), in contrast to the perfectly round inclusions in natural amber, and the layers are arranged in parallel.
Carefully study the structure of the gem:
- Numerous clusters of "sparkles" (contrast inclusions visible only at a certain angle) inside the gem are a reason to be wary, because such a color is characteristic of Bakelite products. However, this sign is not very reliable - it can also be obtained by natural cabochons fired in a special oven.
- Evidence of forgery and streams of resin forming a "capillary network".
Another way to distinguish real amber from a fake is its weight. This precious stone is classified as organic or biogenic substances, which means that it was formed as a result of the activity of living organisms (in contrast to minerals created during geological processes). Therefore, the maximum density of hardened resin is 1.3 g/cm3, which makes it lighter than most imitations. For example, a gem necklace weighing 100 g will be quite bulky, while a glass or ceramic product with the same weight will be much smaller.
And, of course, don't forget about texture. Amber has a low thermal conductivity, so it is extremely pleasant to touch - radiant cabochons will always be warmer than the environment. Some people even claim to feel a slight tingling sensation coming from the natural gems.
Experiments and tests - we study precious stones
Counterfeiters are constantly improving their craft, and a simple visual inspection is not enough to recognize their products. Here are the methods that allow you to quickly and without additional costs identify a fake when buying:
- hardness test. On the Mohs scale, Polish amber received 2.0-2.5, and cheap kopava - only 1.5. This means that low-quality resin will deform even from the touch of a fingernail, while real sun gems are much stronger. This indicator is also useful if you decide to conduct a test with a scratch - for this you need to run a needle, knife point or razor across the precious stone. A natural cabochon will crumble into small fragments that have a characteristic smell (later they can be ground into a whitish-golden powder), a few elastic chips will separate from the plastic, and nothing will happen to the glass;
- checking for density. To do this, it is necessary to prepare a saturated salt solution - 8-10 teaspoons of NaCl per glass of water - and immerse a piece of hardened resin in it (don't forget to rinse it in clean water and wipe it with a soft cloth). Natural amber will float to the surface, and imitations made of plastics, celluloid, glass, bakelite and burnite will sink. Of course, such an experience can be carried out only with products made of solid cabochons, without the insertion of other materials, and it does not allow the identification of copal, ambroid and some rare varieties of gems with an extremely high density;
- electrostatic test. How to recognize real amber, if you do not have the opportunity to scratch it or immerse it in water? This method will help. All you need is a wool or silk cloth to rub the gemstone with. After that, the natural gem should receive a negative electric charge, so if you bring a piece of paper or a hair to it, it will immediately stick to the surface of the hardened resin. But copal and fakes made of plastic do not have this property;
- luminescence test. Such a check is easy to carry out even in a store - just ask the seller to put a decoration or souvenir under Wood's ultraviolet lamp (it is often used as a bill detector). Natural cabochons will glow in a bluish-white or yellow-green color, bakelite and other similar materials will remain inert, and casein imitations will turn yellow. The more transparent a piece of amber, the more noticeable this effect. Frosted "bone" gems shimmer in a milky white tone with a faint blue tint, while rough weathered gems shine golden brown. In addition, in such lighting, the internal structure of the solidified resin is clearly visible - wave-like inflows, stripes, chips, inclusions and other nuances;
- friction and flammability studies. Amber is the hardened resin of the oldest conifers - that's why it burns beautifully, emitting a pleasant resinous aroma. Once they even used it to heat furnaces, warming and purifying the air. And now this feature will allow you to recognize a fake! To begin with, rub the cabochon against a cloth or the palm of your hand - when its temperature rises significantly, the natural stone will smell of rosin. Then you can touch it with a hot needle - light white smoke should appear, while synthetics will give off black soot and a sharp chemical stench. In addition, the sun gem melts under the point quite slowly - counterfeits darken much faster. And to finally make sure of the naturalness of the solidified resin, set it on fire - it will ignite 3-5 seconds after contact with fire, and then it will boil and continue to burn on its own;
- solvent test. How to distinguish amber from a fake at home? It strongly resists the influence of alcohol, ether, acetone and other similar substances. Therefore, dropping any of them on the surface of a real stone, you will not see any changes. Glass will remain just as inert. But other imitations are easy to recognize - yes, the ambroid will become sticky from the ether and begin to disintegrate, acetone (which is part of the varnish remover) will corrode the plastic, and the surface of the copal will become dull and uneven when in contact even with ordinary water. But be careful - too long contact with aggressive solvents can damage even the best natural stones, which means that such tests should not take more than 5-10 seconds; Checking amber with acetone
- analysis of inclusions. Gems, in which arthropods, animals and plants were frozen millions of years before our era, are a desirable treasure for scientists and collectors. Therefore, they are most often forged by pressing or baking the desired item into the amber mass. As a rule, such inclusions are located in a transparent part of the stone, and they also look deliberate and unnatural - the masters are unable to reproduce the outstretched paws and open wings of real prisoners of hardened resin, who tried with all their might to escape from the trap.
Guided by these methods, you will recognize a fake in time and will not be a victim of fraud. And so that you never come across fake amber, buy souvenirs and jewelry made of solar gems from reliable certified manufacturers who guarantee the high quality and durability of their products - for example, in our Yantar Polissia online store!
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