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Layers of deceit in the Amber Market



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Orange Room Supporter
Amber is supposed to be a fossilized pine resin (mostly from Pine forest in the Baltic that became fossilized millions of years ago, the Ambergris from whales is different). But the market is flooded with fakes and semi-fakes all around the world, but especially in the Arab world.

1- Bakelite / Catalin / Faturan / Sandalous / Korba / Plastic


Bakelite and all its different names is a synthetic plastic that has fooled Gulf Arabs for centuries. Mainly because like amber it oxidizes (changes in color over time) and sometimes has an artificial smell to it but without rubbing unlike Amber (usually Faturan smells like medical anesthetic). To the point that Iraqis and Kuwaitis advertise Bakelite pieces as "Kahrab" and "Kahraman" in well-renowned shops and sell them for large sums of money, when most of it costs nothing and is modernly produced in Syria and Turkey.

Myth 1: Bakelite cannot be produced anymore because formaldehyde / [insert other material] was only allowed in WW2.

I know people who produced "Faturan" pieces, which are the same as Bakelite with minor differences in smell and standard orange color, in 2010. And see tons and tons of Bakelite in the market, when the Germans didn't produce that much Bakelite to begin with in WW2. The Bakelite market is 99.9999% Fiction.

How to identify:

Pass over hot steam, it emits a relatively awful plastic smell. Pass Amber it produces a pine scent.
Doesn't change color under UV.
Doesn't float in salty water (per proper salt portions)
Rubs on white paper leaving orange trails regardless of its color.
Usually more uniform in color than Amber, but it does oxidize as well due to German genius.

2- Pressed from Amber Dust and Modern Heated + some plastic additives or not


It's identifiable through texture, heavier weight and repeated patterns in some. The main feature that it smells without rubbing and doesn't do well in UV tests or show uniform glow.

How to identify: Odd texture. Uniform specks and inconsistency under UV light. Small color change under UV light.

3- Modern Reconstructed Amber / Formed Amber


That's 99.999% of the market nowadays, especially in Lithuania. It's the same technology as pressed, but they press more believable rocks and alter the color and add texture... But because of the process, the 100% Amber material loses many of its natural characteristics, doesn't oxidize properly and loses some of its smell due to being heated for color and rigidity.

It's very hard to identify... In some cases you need a microscope and notice it's formed from lack of natural deformities and cracks, or from the dust clouds within it. But in most cases, it's identifiable through the lack of color differences in a piece. Usually formed has two dominant colors in it. E.g Yellow or off-white color, white dust, transparent and red lines / blood streaks from heating. There's also the pressed cherry amber ones which are uniform cherry red or black.

This article summarizes an academic paper that explains how it ca be identified...

5- Bonded Reconstructed Amber


Very popular in the Gulf. It's basically Amber "bonded" with plastic or another Type of Amber. The amber is usually pressed and reconstructed, and at a loss of some of its natural characteristics. Just to look like an expensive pattern in a rare natural Amber rock.

How to identify: Enlarged by a microscope shows lack of imperfections, UV light would show different glows for different amber material used and no glow for transparent plastic and additives. Some of its pieces are so light they even float in non-salty water as opposed to actual amber.

4- Copal / Other fossilized resins that are younger and cheaper than Amber


Another disturbing thing about Amber is that it cannot be aged... It's just guesswork. So a hard-enough Copal rock from the Dominican Republic can pass as Amber and be a very beautiful natural piece... Given that is fluorescent under UV light, omits a smell when rubbed with wool and looks like Amber. There's also other tree material and resin very similar to Amber sold around the world which are beautiful, but they are sold as Amber to be sold at higher prices. Sometimes the young resins are too weak and frail that they add some plastic to make them rigid.

How to identify: From look and texture, blue or green in shade transparent amber is usually South American. On rubbing with wool, it becomes sticky if it isn't old enough, while Amber shouldn't. On applying acetone to it, it melts if they've applied plastic to it.

5- Heated Natural Amber - Treated to fake oxidization and age

For Amber to look orange and reddish brown, most natural pieces have been heated to produce the red / orange / brown color as opposed of waiting for them to oxidize naturally. A talented amber seller could have heated them in a way where it would be impossible to know if they were heated or not.

How to identify: An obvious heat treatment is where they're all the same brown or red color across... Different beads would oxidize differently if it was a natural process. One may be yellow while another could be brown. If it was heated cunningly with color differences among the beads, you can know that through seeing strong red colors or red lines / blood streaks... Or brown patches that seem too strong for the piece. But it's generally guesswork. If it's very heated (like many pieces in the Gulf), usually it loses it's strong pine scent which old amber should have. Especially if it's originally Yellow Amber which has more acid and scent than other pieces, relatively speaking.
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  • Myso


    Active Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    Forgot to add

    Heated Modified Amber... Literally cooked in oil to produce deformities.


    Fake Insect inclusion Amber... When any insect bigger than 1cm in a natural amber piece makes it a museum piece. But these fakes trod big modern insects they included, sometimes in Copal and other times in pressed Amber



    Legendary Member
    Orange Room Supporter
    Your threads are so niche. Like what on earth makes you think we care about prayer beads?