Some Tests to help you to identify Amber from it's imitations
The popularity of Amber has increased since the advent of the film Jurassic Park. It has been proved very easy to imitate genuine amber with the use of lightweight plastics and synthetic materials. Plastic is commonly used and can be distinguished from natural amber by a few simple tests.
Be very careful when bidding for Amber jewellery on Ebay as there are a lot of fakes and unscrupulous sellers about... buy only from reputable sellers with good feedback.... and please remember that even these can get it wrong sometimes...
Take great care when carrying out these tests in order to avoid damaging genuine amber.
Rub the piece of amber briskly against a natural fabric such as cotton; genuine amber becomes electrostatically charged when warm. Tear up some small pieces of newspaper. Real amber will attract the paper and lift it slightly.
Amber will float in sea water (which is why it is often found on the beaches of the Baltic after heavy storms (and parts of Norfolk and Suffolk)). Put 2 and a half tablespoons of salt in a cup and add water - amber will float - imitations will sink.
Copal and plastic will deteriorate when in contact with as alcohol, ether and acetone. Let a few drops of nail polish remover or alcohol fall on the surface of the piece - it it becomes tacky to the touch it is not genuine amber. Amber will not feel tacky or dissolve under these solvents.
Heat a sewing needle and place the hot point in an unobtrusive place on the amber. Genuine amber when heated will produce a whitish smoke and smell of burning pine wood, a sweet and pleasant smell. The hot needle point will make amber brittle and chip off. Plastics give an unpleasant odour similar to camphor or carbolic acid (it will pong! - believe me, you will know the difference). The hot point of the needle will also make plastic sticky and leave a black mark. Celluloid gives off a camphor odour when heated or dipped in hot water.
I hope these few tests will help you to identify the genuine article from the fake.