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Amber Jewelry Advice

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Amber Pellets, gemstones

Amber Pellets

Photo by Albert J. Copley / Photodisc for Getty Images

What Is Amber?:

Amber is resin that seeped out of trees millions of years ago and became rigid over time. Amber is yellowish to deep orange or orange-brown in color and is hard enough to be polished for use in jewelry.

Amber can be opaque or clear and it sometimes contains plants, seeds, insects and other items that became trapped as the gooey sap flowed from trees.

How Can I Tell if My Amber is Genuine?:

Plastics are sometimes used to make jewelry that resembles amber, but unfortunately, the tests recommended to determine if amber is genuine either won't work for amber that's set in a metal or will damage the amber.

  • Amber floats in salt water, but plastics normally sink. You can try that method for an amber nugget, but jewelry set in metal cannot float.

  • Touch a hot needle onto the substance's surface. If the odor is pine-like, it is probably amber. Plastics and other human-made compounds will produce a chemical-like odor the test will damage your amber.

Amber Fakes:

Even collectors and museums have been duped into buying specimens that aren't genuine amber. Buy your amber from a reputable source, especially if you're paying a prime price for it.

What is Copal?:

Copal is immature amber -- let it rest for a few million more years and it will be the real thing. Some jewelry advertised as amber is actually made from copal.

Copal is aromatic and has traditionally been used as incense.

What is Blue Amber?:

"Blue" amber is found in the Dominican Republic, and doesn't actually appear to be blue in all types of light. Many experts feel that the blue shading is caused by fluorescence.

Always assume that inexpensive amber in varied colors either has been manipulated in some way or is not genuine. Much of it is dyed, heat treated or fake.

Amber Color Variations:

Amber's color varies from light to very dark, and some pieces reportedly do appear tinted, probably by the colors of the materials trapped inside.

Inexpensive jewelry with insects and other objects "trapped" inside is not likely to be made from genuine amber.

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