Some basic on amber can be found at
http://www.gemsociety.org/info/gems/Amber.htm - There is more
out there. A word of caution, some people have a
vested interest, so be skeptical, much like natural turquoise is so
hard to find, not really, they just don't want to pay for it and so
invent a rationalization, a "story" actually. Sad to say this
sometimes applies to other tings as well.
It sounds like you've been listening to some of these folks, Jake.
Alcohol testing is said by some to be biased as you may get a
false result on non-Baltic amber, such as Lebanon, Burma,
Dominican, and Sicilian, New Jersey, etc., etc., etc. Other types
came from different trees and is not the same chemically, so this
may not be a good test, unless it is said to be Baltic.
I don't believe any amber is affected by alcohol. Ether, which is
also sometimes recommended for testing purposes, is another matter.
As for Colombian, there is material from Santander, this has some
What qualities are these?
However this is not accepted as amber and doesn't meet all
qualifications. To sell it as amber could cause problems, at least
if you ever wanted to be taken seriously as a professional, the
stuff is great for wire wrapping, just tell them what it is. I do
not sell any or have I, nor do I think I will, but I wonder if
Santander should be differentiated to set it apart from other
copal. To those who repeat that (all) Colombian copal is only a
few hundred to (at most) a few thousand years old, this is taken
from someone who it is said never tested the Santander material.
In any event according to Geologists the deposits were laid down
between 1 and 2 million years ago, and some perhaps 3, I will
believe them on this, as they have no interest.
Who is it that said this about which geologists? Dr. George Poinar
has looked into the subject rather deeply, and in his book "Life in
Amber" states flatly that if it's Colombian, it's not amber. Here's a
quote from Platt's site on the Santander material:
"Significant copal deposits exist in Columbia, South America in the
Santander province. This material is less than 1000 years old."
And from the other site I mentioned:
"Dr. David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History in New
York City states ...'As for Colombian copal, it's all several
hundreds of years old, according to C-14 analyses that I have done on
several different samples...' "
If you want some more confirmation of this, see this article in the
I will use excerpts from Identifying True Amber. "In some cases
copal, which is tree resin which has not yet fully fossilized to
amber and may be anything up 3-4 million years"
The source you cite above (Arnold Heide) is more conservative on
the age of copal:
"Copal: Copal is the name assigned to resins that have not yet
completely changed to amber. They are concentrated in the estuaries
of tropical rivers (e.g. Africa). They are geologically younger than
amber, at the most some ten thousand years old, and may contain many
Who wrote "Identifying True Amber"?
Debate still rages in the UK about certain Kenyan deposits as to
whether they should be called copal or amber and I have heard of
similar arguments concerning deposits found in South America."
(This last is a reference to the Santander material mentioned
above.) This last is interesting; there exists copal old enough to
be amber. But is not. We do not yet know just what turns copal to
amber, some have suggested some conditions but we really do not
know. Do you know that some copal (a small amount) comes from the
I didn't know that. Where did you hear about it - Ebay? That's the
only place a Google search for "Baltic copal" led to. Here's a
typically confused listing:
ebay link removed
The seller affirms that these beads are "Baltic copal" even though
they were bought in Greece and were said to come from Turkey.
(Baltic, Balkan, what's the difference?) Ebay is a great place to
find copal (or who-knows-what) misrepresented as amber and sold with
liberal servings of dis
I read on this list a suggestion that you could tell amber from
copal as it is darker. This is wrong. Below is from a cutting
hose, realize that this has been going on since the ice age. And
although this is treated the same thing happens naturally,
spangles (blitz) occur naturally, but it is almost certain to have
been man induced, as is much of the "amber" coloring. I have seen
a photo taken in the 60s of Bitterfield amber in large piles
stored outside in the sun over time to "cure" it, this dose some
of the same.
Most jewelry professionals recognize the characteristic round "sun
spangle" fractures as typical of Baltic amber, originally cloudy from
minute air bubbles, that has been cooked to transparency. These are
not generally considered desirable, but are tolerated in low-end
product. If you found "special techniques" to avoid them, this would
be a valuable discovery...