Amber: It’s Made From What?

Amber Comes From Plants?

Amber comes from plant resin from ancient forests.  This means, of course, that Amber does not qualify as a true stone.  The hardened resin requires one qualification to be labeled ‘Amber’: it needs to be old—very old—like an average of 50 million years old!  Within any genuine Amber piece, one will find fossilized remnants of insects, plants, seeds, feathers, and other small bits that have been preserved to perfection, for eons.

Amber could be called the ‘Unstone’; and once it is polished and shaped by a gemologist, it reveals a delicate loveliness with golden colors and naturally occurring patterns.

Amber Requires T.L.C.!

Due to the frailness of genuine Amber, tender-loving care must be used to keep this precious material beautiful.  Even exposing Amber to sudden changes in temperature can result in the Amber becoming cracked.  Harsh cleaners and even dishwashing liquids can dull the finish.  Additionally, Amber is extremely soft, and scratches quite easily.  A Diamond, being the hardest material known to man, rates a ‘10’ on the Moh’s Hardness Scale. The Moh’s Scale is used to rate a gem’s hardness.  Amber rests on the other end of this hardness scale with a rating of only a 2-2.5.  Because of the softness, abrasive agents must be avoided and ultrasonic and steam cleanings should never be used.  Using a soft, cotton cloth dipped in water or virgin olive oil is the safest way to keep this ‘stone’ beautiful.  Amber is, also, porous, and should never be soaked since it will absorb liquids.  Also, Amber should not be subjected to make-up, perfumes or hairspray; all, of which, can damage this fragile material.

Counterfeit Amber!

Plastics can look very much like genuine amber; but there are a couple tests one can perform to determine your piece’s authenticity.

1) Place your amber piece in salt water; it should float!  If not, then you own a convincing look-alike.  Be aware, though, that some plastic imitations have had air blown into them to make them float!

2) On the backside of your piece, place the tip of a hot needle. If the resulting aroma smells sweet or pine-like, chances are, you have a genuine article.

There are some convincing imitations that will claim to be filled with ‘fossilized’ pieces; and it would be easy to be fooled since even collectors and museums have been taken, unaware, by fabulous fakes.

Buyer Beware!

Always purchase any Amber piece from a legitimate source; but it still never hurts to be fully knowledgeable about what to look for in a genuine piece.

Here are a few pointers:

1)     Hardened resin, from plants of today, do contain organic compounds; but here is what makes Amber, true Amber:  If these organic compounds haven’t had millions of years to break down, you have nothing of any value.

2)    Sometimes, Amber is melted down and is pressed while still warm.  Some  unethical dealers will mix plastic resins with the pressed amber, diminishing the value yet being sold at an ‘authentic’ price.

3)    If you notice an overabundance of bubbles or chunks inside the material, question your piece’s genuineness.

4)    If someone tries to sell ‘Beeswax Amber’ as real Amber, walk away.  This great fake can appear beautifully Amber-like but it doesn’t make it any closer to being authentic.

Miss Carlson is a writer out of the midwest.  She writes about jewelry including jewelry made from Amber as well as Thomas Sabo charms.