Isn't there a test for authentic amber where you put it in water to
see if it floats?.....If I've learned anything it's to be wary of
The water test for amber is a test of specific gravity or bouyancy,
however some kinds of plastic material used for fake amber will pass
Much of what is sold as amber is resin, and very often copal is sold
as amber, yet there are millions of years in age difference between
copal and amber.
Many experts insist that the only way to identify true amber is by
pokeing it with a hot needle, but it requires a lot of experience to
identify the difference in the resulting evergreen smell between
copal, resin and amber, plus you have to be quick about sniffing the
puff of fragrance emitted or you might miss it. Plastic is easy to
disqualify with the hot needle test because it stinks.
I test amber with 3 non-damaging tests. Usually fake amber will not
pass all three tests, but true amber will pass all three tests.
To use the specific gravity test, dissolve 4 tablespoons of salt in
a cup of water and then put the amber in the water. If the piece
sinks, then it can be disqualified because it is too heavy to be
To do the static test, I tear up very tiny bits of paper in a little
pile and set them aside while I rub the piece for a long time, it’s
easy to rub on my pants fabric if I’m sitting. Then touch the piece
to the pile of paper bits. The piece can be disqualified if the bits
of paper do not cling to it.
My third test can require extra time to work. It is the smell test,
but if amber has not been stored in an enclosed box and has been
left out in the open for a long time, it can be difficult to
draw-out the fragrance. Sometimes the rubbing that has been done in
the previous test will produce the evergreen fragrance, but I
usually have to hold the piece under the faucet in running water as
hot as my hand can take. Eventually the sweet fragrance will emerge,
and I usually have to hold the piece up to my nose to be able to
smell it. This test is similar to the hot needle test without the
potential for damage to the piece. Disqualify the piece if it does
not smell like the most wonderful thing you have ever smelled. Keep
trying to draw out the fragrance if you don’t smell anything. Amber
smells the way I imagine a primordial forest would smell.
Nearly all of my experience is with Baltic amber, but Dominican
amber should be able to pass the same tests. An unusual test
specifically for certain kinds of Dominican amber is to view the
piece under a black light and see fluorescent colors in it. I never
had success with this test when I tried it on several pieces of
Amber is soft and irregular. I always look for something ugly and
unidentifiable pokeing out of the surface. I avoid amber with sharp
corners because it’s too soft to maintain corners over time. I’m
wary of faceted amber. Colored amber is very rare, so most cherry
amber is probably fake, as well as blue and green amber.
Inclusions that can be identified as insects are usually fake
inclusions (but not necessarily fake amber) because being able to
clearly identify what is inside amber is very rare. Amber can be
melted, and a common trick is to carve a hole in a piece of amber and
put an insect inside then fill the hole with the melted amber.