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All About Amber/ Amber Authenticity Test

There are several tests that can be given to determine if amber is authentic, fake, or is copal.

Acetone Test
This test checks the solubility in acetone. You can also use alcohol (isopropanol or ethanol). Put a drop of acetone on the amber and let it evaporate some. Copal will dissolve in acetone, so it will be sticky and fingerprints can easily be made on the surface. Amber isn’t affected.

Scratch Test
Since it has a hardness of 5 – 6 on the Moh’s scale, it should be easily scratched. Take a pin and try to scratch it. This test will determine if it is a fake make of glass, which would not scratch.

Hot Wire Test
Heat a wire or needlepoint using a flame until it is really hot. Then, touch it to the amber. Does it smell like tree resin?. If it smells like burnt plastic, then it is a plastic fake. Amber has a slightly acrid resinous smell while copal has a somewhat sweet resinous smell. Also, amber takes longer to melt than copal.

Ultraviolet Light Test
Amber will fluoresce under UV light while copal and plastic won’t. There are some sophisticated fakes made by boring a hole in real amber, inserting a bug, then sealing up the hole. Many of the amber authenticity tests won’t detect this. However, if the piece is put under a UV light, it can usually be seen that it is a fake.

Static Test
Rub it vigorously with a soft cloth. It will obtain a static charge allowing it to pick up small bits of paper. Copal won’t do this.

Brittle Test
Shave off a small piece of amber. It should be brittle and break up easily. Plastic wouldn’t be this brittle.

Floatation Test
Another test is to float amber in salt water. Amber will float in a heavily salted solution of water. Most plastics and copal will sink. Use a mixture of half a pint of water and seven heaping teaspoons of table salt.

Polarized Light Test
Put the amber between two sheets of polarized glass. Then, rotate one of the pieces of glass. You should be able to see a display of rainbow colors in either amber or copal. It wouldn’t be seen in most plastics.

Inclusions Test
Another way to tell if amber is authentic is to look at the inclusion. Most insects in amber are now extinct or have changed from their present day counterparts. Also, fake amber typically has bugs that have their legs curled up or spread apart in a neat fashion. Real amber may show signs of a struggle to get free, and certainly wouldn’t have bugs with neatly curled up legs.

Analytical Tests
These tests involve expensive scientific equipment. The methods involve infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry which produce a graph with peaks representing the chemical composition. This test can differentiate between fake and real amber, as well as determine the type.

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