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Amber With Bug Inclusion - Need An Opinion


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Picked two of these up at an auction several years ago and need to know if they are real or fake.

Selling them and don't want to mis-lead anyone.

Only have the two images of the smaller one.

Thanks in advance.



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Just looking at a photo usually can't help in identifying amber. You need to do one or more of the tests below.

Rub the amber fast & hard with your thumb or a finger (your trying to heat the amber up). Quickly bring the amber to your nose & smell it. There should be a slight pine scent.

Heat the tip of a pin until it is glowing red. Touch it to the amber--- if real you'll get a pine scent. No telling what it will smell like if it is a fake. Please note this WILL leave a mark on the amber!

Here's a website about testing amber http://www.ambergallery.com/Is_it_real_amber_/is_it_real_amber_.html


:popcorn: John

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My two-pennyworth. I don’t think that piece can be verified from pictures alone. Was there any indication at auction where it was claimed to come from? The pictures are a little small but it appears to be a shield bug(?) What was in the other piece? How big is it?

My first reaction is that there’s rather too much going on inside the piece and the flora/fauna look “arranged”. I don’t see any hazing/milkiness on or around the specimen, nor any sign of outgassing from decomposition. Often the absence of those features means it’s a fake produced by drying the inclusions before covering them in melted copal or plastic resin. When plastic resins have been used, the insect specimens often have residual original colouration (generally a bad sign). That’s also sometimes the case for copal fakes but they’re often autoclaved, which destroys the colouration and darkens the specimen (also the amber), so we can’t rule that out here.

I’m not in complete agreement with what is said above, or with the information in the link provided. Particularly, I would not rely on the “rubbing” test for any odour. Many ambers have no smell at all using this test (it depends on age among other things) and it won’t reliably distinguish between amber and copal or distinguish copal which has been autoclaved to harden it. Also, many amber specimens are heated in rapeseed oil to clarify them and improve the visibility of the inclusions, which also negates the possibility of any odour. In particular, I would also not rely on the brine test to distinguish between amber and copal. My advice would be as follows:

As a first and very simple non-destructive test I would suggest wiping part of the surface with a piece of tissue dampened with plain tap water, giving your mouth a swill-out with water and then licking the wiped area with the tip of your tongue. Then wait a few seconds and concentrate on any kind of aftertaste in your mouth. It’s not conclusive, but if you can taste anything of a “piney” nature then it’s almost certainly copal (which could mean “genuine” but recent or assembled fake); if you can taste anything chemical or unpleasant then it’s a resin fake. Genuine amber should have almost no taste.

If you have access to a UV “black light” (of the kind used by Dee-Jays for example), see if it fluoresces. Most ambers will fluoresce with typical bright colours of yellow, orange, blue or green. Ambers with naturally darker colours (in daylight) tend to fluoresce less strongly or may only have fluorescent flecks within the specimen. Copal does not usually fluoresce at all and if it does, it will be very weak. The colour of amber fluorescence may also help determine the origin – for example Dominican material characteristically often fluoresces bright blue and sometimes green (or both). Minimise the exposure to UV for only long enough to make the determination.

As a next step try the brine test. Add ten teaspoonfuls of ordinary salt to half a cupful of warm water and stir until no more dissolves. Amber and copal will float in this solution. There’s very little difference in specific gravity between them and the values overlap. Amber is usually in the range 1.05 to 1.10 and copal between 1.03 to 1.08, so the brine test is not good enough to make the distinction. I am deeply suspicious that many dealers selling fancy “amber” specimens continue to tout this test as definitive. Almost all plastic resins will sink. Remember to wash the specimen afterwards in plain water and immediately pat dry with a soft cloth.

Next, you could try the acetone test. If you don’t have acetone, you can use nail-polish remover which is usually acetone-based. Check to see if it is labelled as such - not all brands are. If the remover makes claims for other ingredients like moisturisers/oils or smells of pear-drops don’t use it. The cheap basic brands are more likely to be suitable. Put the tiniest drop onto an inconspicuous area, wait about 20 seconds until it has evaporated and then press a piece of dry tissue paper onto that area. Then pull it away. If there is any stickiness then it’s not amber. Copal and some plastics will produce stickiness.

There are additional non-destructive tests but not of the kind that are simple to perform. A better picture of the inclusion might help (someone better at it than me) determine if it is a modern species. The other specimen (if claimed from the same source) might also add to the story on a “guilty by association” basis if it raises suspicions.

Beyond that, you’re into destructive tests which will leave a mark of some kind on the specimen so let’s wait and see if any of the above are helpful.

Edited by painshill
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I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew);Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who [Rudyard Kipling]

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Thanks for all the advice but I think I am better off having an expert in the field look at them.

There was no story with these, they were simply in the showcase and when the auctioneer got to them, I bid on them.

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An expert at the local auction house was almost certain these amber pieces were not genuine amber due to their size.

She also rubbed them [her method] and could not get a pine scent.

The good news was a necklace pendant, she also looked at while I was there, was 10K gold.

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