Is this AMBER???

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Did you know that the Greek word for amber is "elektron"?

Amber is the fossilised plant resin from ancient forests.  Sometimes this resin has oozed down trees, encasing things such as leaves, seeds and unlucky insects!  Amber is tens of millions of years old.  Some jewellery advertised as amber is actually copal - an immature semi-fossilised amber, which is usually less than 1 million years old.  There are a couple of ways to tell the two apart, although you will risk damaging the piece:
 
1.   Copal is much softer than amber.  Try scratching your piece with your fingernail - if it leaves a mark, then it is not amber.
2.   When touched by a drop of alcohol or acetone, copal will become tacky, but amber will not.
3.   When close to a flame, copal will melt, but amber will soften and turn black on the surface. 
 
Unfortunately, some pieces sold as 'amber' are actually plastic that has been made to (sometimes convincingly) look like the real thing.
 
Luckily for the buyer, there are a couple of effective tests to determine just how genuine it is - and without damaging it!
 
Amber floats in salt water, and plastics will normally sink.  Make your own salt water: add 1 part table salt to 2 parts water and mix until the salt has completely dissolved.  Drop the piece in the water - if it's amber, it will float.  However, this test will only work for amber nuggets i.e. if the amber is surrounded by silver in a piece of jewellery, it will sink because of the silver!
 
Our favourite method does not damage the piece and can be used to test amber jewellery, nuggets, and anything else made with amber:
 
To check whether the piece of amber you have is genuine, place a small bit of thin tissue on a flat surface.  Rub the amber piece (quite vigorously!) against some wool or other natural material until it feels warm.  This will cause static electricity to build up in genuine amber.

Immediately hold the amber piece close to the tissue - real amber will attract the tissue - so if it doesn't cling, it's not amber!


 

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