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Gigantic Chunk of Amber?


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Galahad

I don’t know from which locality this specimen originated. I found it among my late grandfather’s property. From what I can gather, this is an extremely large specimen of amber. It weighs approximately 110 lbs, measures approximately 22” x 18” x 11” and features many interesting inclusions from what i can see.

 

I’ve performed a scratch test, hot needle test, acetone test, smell test, saltwater test, UV light test, and specific gravity test… all of which seem to confirm its identity as amber. If this is true, however, based on the information I can find, it would seem that I’ve come into possession of one of the largest pieces of amber on record. You can imagine my skepticism at having made this discovery in a small neighborhood in southern Indiana…

 

I haven’t a clue what to do next—please help!

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Fossildude19

Contact Guiness Book of World Records.

I think the current largest is 105 pounds, in Germany.

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oilshale

I would guess more colophony. Colophony was produced in large quantities from amber residues by distillation and shipped in barrels.

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Galahad
38 minutes ago, oilshale said:

I would guess more colophony. Colophony was produced in large quantities from amber residues by distillation and shipped in barrels.

But would they have left organic inclusions in colophony?

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DPS Ammonite
49 minutes ago, oilshale said:

Colophony

It appears that colophon is the same as pine resin which is modern to very recent tree resins that are millions of years younger than amber.

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosin

 

How hard is the 110 lb piece? Does a metal knife blade scratch it? Will a sharp piece of calcite scratch it?

 

 

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oilshale

Are there any recognizable fossil remains in the piece? 
Raw rosin may have impurities such as needles, bark, or unidentifiable lumps/clouds.

The melting point is quite low - only 110 to 120 °C.

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snolly50

The fact it was found unaltered (I assume) by acetone should rule out modern resin.

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Galahad

Both a steel blade and a sharp piece of calcite are able to scratch it.

 

As far as the inclusions go, it’s hard for me to say just what exactly is going on inside of piece, especially given its thickness. But I’ve attached a few photos that show some of what’s going on under the surface…

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Galahad

Yes, the acetone left it unaltered.

 

I wanted to rule out copal when I performed the acetone test. I already had a couple small pieces of what I thought were amber that I was performing the same tests on as a kind of “control.” But in this test, both my smaller pieces got very sticky, and turned the acetone their yellow-orange color. A piece I took off of this specimen, however, remained hard & smooth and did not bleed into the acetone.

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Top Trilo

Can you show a picture of the UV test? Its very interesting whatever it is.

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Galahad

Sorry to post so much back to back, but you all have given me a lot of good info to apply here! (Thanks, btw!)

 

So I took a sample of my specimen and placed it under my Wagner heat gun for about 2 minutes on the low setting (750°F heat output), and then an additional 2 minutes on high (1100°F). There was no melting. At one point it looked like it cracked internally, but it didn’t break either. There was, however, a very pleasant aroma filling my garage. Haha.

 

Photo here shows exposure to UV light..

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FEC5C1B9-53D5-47D7-903C-667E8A4E5D39.jpeg

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Top Trilo

Wow, very interesting, it would be really cool if it is amber, everything seems to check out but I'm not an amber expert.

Here's the link to the Guinness page for largest amber (111 pounds).

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/66767-largest-piece-of-amber

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DPS Ammonite

Take a small piece, grind it up and see if it dissolves in denatured alcohol. Amber should not dissolve. 

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snolly50

Are any contemporaries of your grandfather living? A friend or other relative may remember some discussion regarding the unusual piece and might provide clues as to the origin. Was your grandfather a collector of gems/minerals/fossils/oddities? Was he a traveler with any explorations of note? How was the piece stored? Was it carefully put away (valued) or was it dumped in a shed? Any additional info (if possible) might prove instructive or at least interesting.

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Galahad

So I crushed up some of the material and poured denatured alcohol over it. It did NOT dissolve. Hopefully I used small enough pieces and left it soaking for long enough. I photographed the process:

98389843-EE92-4C59-ACCE-46989844F854.jpeg

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FranzBernhard

:Confused02:. To say the least!

Are you a chemist or something related? You are quite knowledgeable about control tests etc. :dinothumb:.

I am surprised that it doesn´t melt* under the treatment of your heat gun (around 500°C°!). Would you like to hold one of the splinters shown above directly into a flame? It should melt*, if its is amber.

*Edit: Not really melting, but it should become soft. Have you tried to poke it with a needle during treatment with your heat gun?

Franz Bernhard

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Mahnmut

Hi Galahad and welcome to the forum.

Very interesting!

It would be great if you found the worlds biggest known piece of amber in your heritage!

I still think something like raw rosin/colophonium is the most probable explanation, and many tests used to differentiate between amber and recent resin or copal will be not enough to rule out synthetic or treated resins. The nice smell you mentioned and relatively old age (can you tell roughly the latest year your grandfather can have acquired this?) speak rather against the synthetic resins I know. But there are products similar to rosin that are distilled from natural resins, thus containing less volatile compounds than the fresh stuff. Those may have higher melting points and resistance to solvents than even copal for example, maybe even more so when they had another 50 years to harden and polymerize.

As Snolly50 said, some detective work beside the chemistry may also help to solve this riddle.

Best Regards,

J

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oilshale

We already had such a problem with a huge piece of "amber" several times.  These chunks at that time have weighed 18kg and 61kg! We couldn't figure out what it was - amber, rosin or something else. Frustrating.

The simplest would be to make an IR spectrum.

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DPS Ammonite

Maybe it is time to post this also on Mindat; they are good at figuring out what something is made of. Plus, some Mindat members made have access to testing equipment. 
 

Alternately, maybe the Amber Research Laboratory at Vassar College can help:

 

https://pages.vassar.edu/arl/amber-research/#research

 

Contact info:

https://pages.vassar.edu/arl/contacts/

 

 

Paper that mentions the Lab using IR:

 

https://www.persee.fr/doc/anata_1018-1946_2012_num_20_1_1325

 

nfrared Spectroscopy of Amber Samples from the Artemision Excavations of 1904/1905

by Saijit Kaur, Edith Stout, Tripta Kaur, Venora Estridg

Anatolia antiqua. Eski Anadolu  Année 2012  20  pp. 39-43 

Référence bibliographique

 

 

 

 

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I'd look at the dimensions of the world record holder. 110 pounds seems heavy for amber that size. This is a guess of course and not saying it isn't amber.

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Top Trilo

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to keep us updated please.

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Bone Daddy

I think provenance will make or break a specimen like this. It's an exciting piece, but it's without context. Unless we know where it was found or where it was bought, then we can only guess. You could have it analyzed and authenticated, but that will involve some time and expense. As Snolly said above, ask around in the family or circle of friends for stories or clues.

 

My best advice would be : take the specimen (or a large sample of it) to a nearby university that has a good Earth Sciences department and have a qualified professional evaluate it first-hand, And then keep us posted on what the verdict is.

 

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