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Mr.Waffles

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... a chunk of copal?

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Mr.Waffles

I was encouraged to share this in the forum so here it goes. I was given a pile of "amber" and two pieces that may or may not (most likely not) have something inside. After the "amber" failed the saltwater float test it was proposed that I may have copal, NOT amber. I tried my best to take as clear of pictures as my camera phone would allow. The first piece supposedly it has a "bug or stick or something" inside. The copal, if it really is copal, does not appear very clear, even with a light source behind it.

 

The second piece is a little more transparent when the light shines through with the exception of the mysterious dark object lurking on the middle. (queue the spooky music!) Personally I think that both of these may just be dirt that accumulated in a crack when the copal was forming a long ago but this has apparently been a topic of hot debate.

 

So if ya'll got any opinions on the matter, I'd love to hear them...or if you don't want to share your opinions, just tell me that I've discovered some weird new sub-species of dinosaur and I'll be happy with that. lol :D 

 

 

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hemipristis

This is carnelian, an orange or orange-red variety of chalcedony (a microcrystalline type of quartz).  what you're seeing are internal fractures.  Pretty material, its a semi-[recious stone.

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Mr.Waffles
1 hour ago, hemipristis said:

This is carnelian, an orange or orange-red variety of chalcedony (a microcrystalline type of quartz).  what you're seeing are internal fractures.  Pretty material, its a semi-[recious stone.

 

Pictures I see online of carnelian seem to match my rocks pretty well. The expertise of this forum never fails to impress.

 

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Randyw

+1 for carnelian! Nice rocks! Now aren’t you glad you posted them? Are you going to polish them or leave as is?

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butchndad
2 hours ago, Mr.Waffles said:

 

The expertise of this forum never fails to impress.

 

hey really are amazing.  i'm wearing out google with the new words i'm learning.  today it's copal and now carnelian

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Mahnmut

Hello together.

If in doubt if something is a ) amber or some other fossil resin like copal or b ) a mineral like carnelian ( which I cannot tell for sure from the pictures), they do feel completely different to the touch. The saltwater floating test aims at density of course, but with pieces that are not minute you can also feel it. Amber and Copal feel light, like plastic. Carnelian feels more heavy, like the quartz it is.

Amber and copal also often feel warmer to the touch because they conduct the heat of your hand away more slowly than quartz or glass .

Distinguishing between the different kinds of fossil resin can be tricky, but if it feels like a stone or piece of glass it is not one of these, they all feel like plastic to the touch.

Best Regards,

J

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snolly50

Copal vs amber...

 

Copal will pass every amber "test" except...

 

On a polished area of the suspect, place a small drop of acetone, allow to evaporate, rub the area with a piece of tissue, Copal; will have become sticky - amber is impervious. Copal (young amber) has not had time to completely polymerize, therefore it is altered by the solvent, amber is not altered at all. This is the quickest, surest method to answer the copal/amber question. 

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Randyw
1 hour ago, snolly50 said:

Copal will pass every amber "test" except...

Yes and no.

Amber and copal float in a salt water solution but often at different levels since copal tends to be lighter then amber. (I know I know it’s more difficult to get the mix right so they separate...)

the hot needle test. Copal smells like resin amber doesn’t.

the uv test amber tends to be fluorescent copal doesn’t.
oh and the feel test... but you’ve had to have handled a lot of pieces to tell the difference and it’s hard to explain...

at least from my experiences....

 

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Mr.Waffles
13 hours ago, Randyw said:

+1 for carnelian! Nice rocks! Now aren’t you glad you posted them? Are you going to polish them or leave as is?

Yes, it's good to lay this mystery to rest! lol

I'd like to shine 'em up but I dont have any tools to cut or polish them so they'll have to stay this way for now.

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snolly50
4 hours ago, Randyw said:

Yes and no.

Amber and copal float in a salt water solution but often at different levels since copal tends to be lighter then amber. (I know I know it’s more difficult to get the mix right so they separate...)

the hot needle test. Copal smells like resin amber doesn’t.

the uv test amber tends to be fluorescent copal doesn’t.
oh and the feel test... but you’ve had to have handled a lot of pieces to tell the difference and it’s hard to explain...

at least from my experiences....

 

I suppose it is the level of experience brought to the table...so we must consider my level of amateurish sophistication :heartylaugh: 

 

If it's the proverbial kitchen table level of scientific observation, I believe that the average inquirer might come to believe his copal is amber. That is, if the acetone test is not utilized. 

 

They both float. At the kitchen table level I think it impossible to discriminate the level of density variance. 

 

Hot needle...yep, copal smells kind of like sap you could pluck off a backyard tree; but amber smells too, sweeter, more perfumey. The point being they both smell like an organic substance as opposed to the dead giveaway of a plastic odor. Without experience, the person who typically asks this question on the Forum, I believe, could not conclusively discriminate.

 

I'm relying on memory here (my UV lamp is burned out), but I believe my Columbian copal is fluorescent. The last I saw this material (sold in quantity as amber) was judged to be about 3 million years old. Then again, not all amber is reactive to UV, so its an inconclusive test, if no reaction is noted. 

 

Feel..you are of course correct, but I believe unless someone handled both amber and copal on a regular basis, then that is a criteria best left to such a habituated individual.

 

In conclusion, If there is a mystery piece and the observer is certain it is not rock, glass or plastic; the acetone trial is the best method to discriminate copal from amber. The result is unambiguous, it is simple to perform, and is non-destructive (the sticky copal will polish right back to its previous appearance); these characteristics make it ideal for the novice to employ for an answer. 

 

After submitting I realized that my bloviation left out an important factor, the psychological one. Most testers would want their piece to be amber. Therefore, any difficult to interpret result will invariably lead in the direction of the desired response, right or wrong.

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Randyw

An example of amber fluorescents. This is some Burmese amber I’m going through. In all the pieces I’ve gone through in the 35+ years I’ve dealt with amber I’ve never seen a copal flouresce and amber not.... some amber is really dark and hard to see it but... I’ve got one piece that glows dk blue Almost black. I don’t know why.  And the same with copal. I’ve never come across a piece that did. There are some Colombian amber up to 16 mya if I remember right but it doesn’t come on the market much. And once again that is just my experience and some of the papers I’ve come across....

they are much more striking in real life then in my photos...

But in my experience copal doesn’t fluoresce. 

27FEC6EA-8F3E-4E44-90C1-E505D8BD6394.jpeg

24913BDA-D00A-4763-B295-B45902651EB0.jpeg

AD77C002-57C7-4D93-AF8B-810A5770A296.jpeg

EC7D504E-E840-4837-9EDA-DD03220C7F84.jpeg

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Mr.Waffles
15 hours ago, Randyw said:

An example of amber fluorescents. This is some Burmese amber I’m going through. In all the pieces I’ve gone through in the 35+ years I’ve dealt with amber I’ve never seen a copal flouresce and amber not.... some amber is really dark and hard to see it but... I’ve got one piece that glows dk blue Almost black. I don’t know why.  And the same with copal. I’ve never come across a piece that did. There are some Colombian amber up to 16 mya if I remember right but it doesn’t come on the market much. And once again that is just my experience and some of the papers I’ve come across....

they are much more striking in real life then in my photos...

But in my experience copal doesn’t fluoresce. 

27FEC6EA-8F3E-4E44-90C1-E505D8BD6394.jpeg

24913BDA-D00A-4763-B295-B45902651EB0.jpeg

AD77C002-57C7-4D93-AF8B-810A5770A296.jpeg

 

That's really cool, seeing the amber under a blacklight!

 

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