Knowing how to spot real amber from the fake amber is necessary if you want to invest in genuine organic gems. There are many simulants out there or imitations of amber because, like mineral gems, amber is rare and can be expensive if used as raw material for the mass production of ornamental goods. There are several ways to know if what you are holding is real amber or fake amber.
How Can You Tell If It Is Real Amber?
Many people don’t know that natural amber can be used to generate a fair amount of static electricity quickly, and this can be used as one of the first tests for authenticity.
Take the item that you want to test and rub it vigorously on a surface like a piece of fabric or your jeans. Rub the item for about twenty seconds, to generate static electricity.
Get a few strands of hair and position it close to the amber you are testing. If it is real amber, the hair strands will quickly pull to the direction of the amber.
If not, nothing will happen. Fake amber doesn’t generate static electricity as real amber does, so if the hairs don’t stick, be suspicious because they should.
The Touch Test
Like many organic or mineral gems, amber doesn’t like matching the ambient temperature of the room, unlike glass, metals, and plastic.
In a warm room, amber will feel fresh, and in a cool space, it will feel warm on your hands or fingers. Genuine amber is also lightweight – and you can compare it to glass items of the same size.
The glass items will always be more substantial than amber because amber isn’t made of minerals, metal, or melted silica. Amber is the fossilized resin derived from old trees. It is not precisely tree sap, but it’s 100% organic matter that has undergone natural processes to appear and feel the way it does.
The Saltwater Test
Genuine amber will not sink in saltwater – it will readily float. Mix salt and water in a glass and drop the item that you want to test. If the purported amber floats immediately, then there is a big chance that you are holding the real thing.
If the item sinks to the bottom of the glass, you may have something else. The material is denser, so it sinks, unlike amber resin, which would have a consistently light density because of its natural origin.
The UV Shine Test
This sounds a little like sic-fi, but it does work. Genuine amber reacts to UV light, and the effect is readily observable. To perform this test, lay the amber on the table and turn off the light. Grab any UVB or UVA lamp and shine the UV rays on the amber for a full minute.
If all goes well, the amber resin glowing from UV light exposure. The glow is not going to be harsh or similar to fireworks, but rather, it will be a gentle glow that is observable in the darkness of the room.
The Mold Mark Test
The color of amber can be approximated by mixing a variety of dyes or pigments. With so many chemicals now being used to recreate natural colors, we cannot rely on color alone.
Untrained eyes will be unable to distinguish between real amber and fake amber based on color alone, mainly because the appearance of amber pieces can vary significantly from sample to sample.
Instead of focusing on the color alone, we recommend checking the form of the amber. Do you see lines or tear-off areas that might suggest that the item was made using a mold? The reason we are saying this is that all mass-produced plastic products come from a mold.
Even bathtubs are created with gigantic molds held by hydraulic machines. If you see such mold marks on the item that was supposed to be amber, then you are holding a fake. Amber can’t be melted and molded, and you can only sculpt with a more massive block of amber to created designs.
So if the claim is that the item is 100% amber, it is far from the truth, and you won’t be getting value from your money when you buy it.
The Upside Down Test
This is another strange test that shows just how zany this organic gem can be. If you have a relatively clear vision, hold the amber to your eye and try to see through the material. Can you see through the amber? Good! If you notice anything awkward from what you see, yes, your eyes are working, and yes, that is real amber.
Real amber creates an upside-down image of anything that is reflected behind it. If you don’t see the visual inversion and you can look through the item as if you were looking through any glass, then it likely is glass.
The Hot Pin Test
We don’t recommend the hot pin test on just any amber (especially the completed ones). Use this test only if you find something that looks amber, and you would like to know if it is the real thing. Here’s how you can use the hot pin test.
First, grab a pair of pliers and hold a regular pin against a lighter or candle. Make sure that the tip glows red hot. Hold the suspected resin on the one hand and push the tip of the glowing pin against the surface.
The hot metal will burn through the material slightly.
Do you smell something that reminds of pine trees? If you do, then you are holding in your hands real amber resin. The reason for the odor is that the hot metal is burning through oils in the resin structures that off-gas or release the musky pine tree scent. Of course, if you have an amber ring, this test will damage the jewelry setting, so we can’t do that.