About Amber

Amber is the fossilized resin from ancient forests. Amber is not produced from tree sap, but rather from plant resin. This aromatic resin can drip from and ooze down trees, as well as fill internal fissures, trapping debris such as seeds, leaves, feathers and insects.

Amber is formed as a result of the fossilization of resin that takes millions of years. Although a specific time interval has not been established for this process amber age is considered 40-50 millions of years.

There are several amber clasifications such as location were it was obtained from sea or land.

Sea stone and scoopstone refers to amber found in or near the sea. Scoopstone is the amber gathered from seaweed. Amber was named scoopstone because of the nets used to gather it from the seaweed. Sea stone or sea amber is collected as it is washed onto the beach or directly from the water (amber floats in salt water). While some people were fishing for food or pearls, others were in search of the "gold of the north". People did fish for amber in the past.

When amber is in contact with the sea, sometimes barnacles and other skeletons of colonial crustaceans will cover the surface.

Some amber procured on land is termed pit amber. Pit amber is mined from rock strata called "blue earth" and the source of most Baltic amber. This amber is covered with a crust, which obscures the quality of the piece. Sea amber is usually superior to mined amber because the waves provide polish, a uniform quality and there is no crust on the surface.

Another method of classifying amber is by color and degree of transparency.

Colors of amber include yellow, orange, red, brown, green, gray, bluish, white and black. Even more subtle shades and combinations are among them. Usually Baltic amber is yellow or bright yellowish.

Only a small quantity of amber is clear - because of the effects of the sun, most of it is opaque.

The degree of transparency varies in amber from clear to cloudy. Clear amber is transparent and usually ranges from pale yellow to dark reddish yellow. Cloudy amber can be semi-transparent to opaque.

Amber is not always one-coloured: the unique combinations of two or more colours and shades, patterns (sometimes they form the most brilliant compositions of art) can be found. For these reasons amber becomes attractive, charming and unique.


Inclusions are all the objects that are trapped in amber. It can be both organic and inorganic.

Over a thousand species of insects and crustacea have been found in it. The most familiar of these are insects and spiders, but there are many other things that have also been trapped. These include bacteria, fungi and many different types of plants such as botanical debris, carbonized wood, cones, needles, and bark. Invertebrate animals (those without backbones), include worms, snails. You can also find vertebrates, but these are extremely rare and consists of frogs, lizards, birds' feathers and mammal remains.

Most insects are perfectly preserved inside of amber - the tiniest hairs and scales could be seen. Most of the insects were entrapped while being alive - sometimes were blown by the wind, sometimes a tree exuded bigger quantity of resin while they were sitting on the trunk. So there is sometimes evidence of a struggle, such as concentric lines in the amber around them. Some flies and harvestman spiders are able to break off their legs to enable their escape. Isolated legs are often seen in amber, as well as flies with some of their legs lying nearby. Some flies are trapped while still mating, whereas some isects lay eggs in amber just before dying.

The world's largest amber deposits come from the shores of the Baltic Sea, where amber has been harvested, traded, and crafted into decorative objects for at least 13,000 years.

Amber serves many wonderful purposes. For example, amber was first used for medicinal uses. For example, amber was ground to a powder and then mixed with wine. The belief was that the properties when consumed provided relief from croup, asthma, fever, and tonsillitis. Also a chunk of amber or the powder was being kept in a small vial was worn around the neck, which is how it first started being worn as jewelry. Amber was also used in treating painful ear conditions. Again, in powder form, amber was being mixed with honey and rose oil, and then put into the infected ear and here's now amber earrings!

Amber quickly became a popular choice for jewelry. Along with its healing powers, amber has radiant color and durability. Therefore, it was quickly designed for rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, pendants and even hair jewelry.


Copal is sold as Baltic amber, but in fact this is very young tree resins( 1000- 1million years old). Natural inclusions are possible in Copal, but usually they are falsified. Insects are inserted in them that are too big and too good-looking. Copal melts at rather a low temperature (lower than 150 C ), and tends to melts rather than burn. After heating it diffuses the "sweet" smell of burning resins.

It is easy to distinguish glass from amber: it is more solid; it cannot be scratched by metal. Glass is cold and fireproof.

Fenolic resins
Frequently, this material is found in artificial amber beads. These amber beads have especially exact shape (oval, faceted), the color is very similar to real amber (dark red, cloudy yellow, limpid). After heating it does not diffuse the smell of pine-tree resins, which is characteristic for Baltic amber.

Celluloid (cellulose nitrate) is usually yellow and cloudy. Optically it is difficult to distinguish it from amber. Celluloid is more solid and not so combustible. After heating it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.

This is a plastic made from milk. The beads have cloudy, turbid yellow color. It is a little bit heavier than amber. After heating it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.

Modern plastic
Modern plastic (polyester, polystyrene) are used to produce artificial amber and inclusions. Optically this substitute can hardly be distinguished because with it authentic amber colors and limpidity can be obtained. Like in Copal, falsified inclusions are too big (more than 10 mm) and clearly seen, inserted in the very center of plastic. After heating it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.


"Smell" tests

Smell tests are the most effective because natural amber has a specific smell, which is difficult to obtain when producing falsifications. After heating real Baltic amber diffuses the specific delicate fragrance of pine-tree resins. Falsifications using Copal diffuse the smell of "sweet" resins when heated and those using other materials diffuse the smell of burnt plastic.

  • "Rubbing" tests
    (The best way is to rub into the palm of the hand) It is possible to heat real amber by rubbing until it releases the smell of pine- tree resins. This needs a very strong hand, as it is rather difficult to heat amber (especially when polished) to the necessary temperature, and it could be difficult to make an experiment with amber set in jewelry, as trying to rub it into other materials the amber could get scratched.
  • "Hot needle" tests- the most effective
    To stick a heated needle into an imperceptible place in the amber (a hole of a drilled bead, etc.). If you smell definite pine-tree resins it means it is real amber. Deficiency: the slight mark of burning remains-this is incorrectable.
  • Amber is fragile - sticking with a hot needle you will notice some cracks, while a needle will pierce plastic without cracking it.

Salt-water test

The specific gravity of amber (copal and polystyrene also) (1.04-1.1) is a little bit lower than the specific gravity of salt-water (1.15). Therefore, those materials will all float in the water, while others will sink.

Pour 7-8 full spoons of salt into 300ml of water and stir. After several minutes of stirring the salt will dissolve. Carry out the test and wash the sample with pure water. Deficiency: it will not detect polystyrene and copal; and jewelry (with metal, strings of beads and clasps make the piece sink).

To be finally convinced that floating material is amber, the "hot needle" test is indispensable.


IR-spectroscopy is the most effective scientific method for identifying fossil resins. Baltic amber could be characterized by IR-spectrum segment called "Baltic amber shoulder".