Tips on Avoiding Fake Baltic Amber Beads


True Baltic amber can be hard to distinguish from imitations. If you’re looking to add some amber to a necklace, bracelet, or earrings you’re designing, you’ll want to make certain that the beads you purchase are authentic Baltic amber. There are ways to tell the difference between fakes and the real thing.


What is amber?

We have ancient, extinct pine trees to thank for the beautiful amber beads, gemstones, and carvings we have today. The sap from these pine trees was fossilized over an expanse of millions of years. The fossilization process turned the sap into gemstones that contain anything that became entrapped in the pine tree sap while it was soft.


The most common characteristic of true amber is that it is not uniform in shape. It will not be found in perfectly formed, clear beads. There will be imperfections in the amber because of what it is: the petrified sap of a pine tree. Included imperfections may be a seed, an insect, or a hollow void that formed a bubble. It could include any particle that may have fallen into or become entrapped in the sticky pine sap.


Test your amber.

To determine if the beads you’re buying are authentic Baltic amber, you’ll need to do a bit of easy testing. There are numerous ways to show your beads as fakes vs. real, and it is recommended that you examine a sample specimen. Common ways that we can use to test the authenticity of amber are found below:


Check the Moh’s

The Moh’s scale of hardness is a scientific tool used to determine how hard a mineral is by testing how easily it can be scratched. Since most specimens of a given mineral are of an almost identical hardness, the Moh’s scratch test is a reliable way to identify one mineral from another.

Amber has a hardness of 2 – 3 on the Moh’s scale. Using appropriate scratch sticks that you can get from any online scientific or homeschool website, it is simply a matter of trying to scratch your sample to determine its authenticity.


Hot Needle Test

This test is very simple and straightforward. Using a cigarette lighter or stovetop, heat the tip of a needle in the flame until it is glowing red. Push the hot point into the sample bead in an imperceptible place, like the hole of a drilled bead. Authentic amber will melt slowly, emit sooty fumes, and release the distinctive odor of pine.


Feel the Burn

A simple way to test for the authenticity of your amber is to rub your specimen bead vigorously on a soft cloth. If your sample bead is true Baltic amber, it will omit a faint resinous smell. Fake amber may begin to soften or the surface become tacky. True amber will become charged with static electricity from the rubbing. If this happens, the bead will pick up small pieces of loose paper when you pass the bead over them.


Taste the Plastic

One of the most common substitutes for true amber is plastic. Another easy test is to give your sample bead a little taste. You’ll want to wash it with mild soapy water and rinse in plain water before trying this test. Lick the bead, just as you would a lollipop. True amber has hardly any taste to it. A plastic substitute will have an unpleasant or chemical taste.


The Eyes Have It

True Baltic amber may contain bits of flora or trapped insects. Recall that authentic amber is millions of years old. Most of the trapped specimens included in true amber will be extinct or significantly different from modern day examples of the species. If your specimen has a complete insect inside it, and it’s one you readily recognize, chances are you’re looking at fake amber.


Scalpel, Please

True amber is fossilized tree resin, and can therefore be brittle. To test your amber’s authenticity, you’ll need a sharp knife. Carefully try to shave off a small bit of the amber from a section of your bead that won’t be noticed. If what you have is real amber, it will fracture and splinter. If your sample is plastic or a polymer, it will be able to be cut. You’ll be able to remove tiny shaved pieces without the material splintering in any way.


True amber has a beauty all its own.

True Baltic amber is one of the most beautiful stones available for custom jewelry design. The irregularly shaped beads and signature golden, honey color are perpetual favorites with young and old alike. Use it as accents in your jewelry design or emphasize it as the focal beads of your piece. No matter how you decide to display it, Baltic amber will add a measure of class and elegance to your creation.