Natural Amber, without enhancement, just the way it is found in the mines, has become rare. You wouldn’t believe what is being sold as “Natural Amber”. This especially true when you look at the commonly available Baltic amber.
Mainly East European amber companies promote the advantages of their amber: they have dominated the amber trade and have given Baltic amber a prominent place throughout the world. Altering the colour and clarity of amber has been known since Roman times. Experiments would lead to astonishing results. For instance, amber would be boiled in the fat of a suckling pig, rap seed oil etc. Being part of history, most of the treatment are considered perfectly acceptable. On top of it most people don’t know or care if this real amber has been treated or modified from it’s original stage. But some do.
Nevertheless, most dealers are not educated enough to know the difference between natural amber and treated amber – or don’t want to know. ”Very few people actually can tell you what is genuine amber no less tell a fake from the real thing when they look at it,” according to Gary Granai of the Poland Chamber, Inc. ”This includes people who are selling amber.”
As a result, natural Baltic amber in it’s original form is not found very often on the market. Most of what is offered is an industrialized product , treated and enhanced, reconstructed and improved. As an example, many times you can recognize treated amber by the famous “sun spangles” (flints or scales). In some cases, the back of an amber cabochon would be painted and re-heated to produce green amber. In combinations with advertisements like: “The deep forests of our wide land produced this natural green color” or similar Business Speech (B.S.) gets the phantasy of the buyer going and the customer falls for it.
There is also pressed Baltic amber (from small pieces, meal and rejects melted together under high pressure, called “genuine amber”) and even “ambroid” (pieces of real amber imbedded in plastic) that are found on the market. Pressed amber is generally very even in color, the way you can see it in some commercially available Baltic amber jewelry. Real natural amber as it comes from the mines, is never as even. Careful: the best varieties of pressed Baltic amber are not discernible from natural Baltic amber. After the treatment, it still possesses the features of “succinite”, so it is permitted to be called “real amber”.
If you are interested in purchasing only natural amber, make sure to get confirmation or certificate that you buy NATURAL amber, subject only to mechanical treatment (for instance: grinding, cutting, turning and polishing) without any change to its natural properties. So you sell what the gullible public wants. Regrettably, no matter how persistently the International Amber Association tries to get the manufactures and dealers to declare the nature of their goods, and to weed out the good from the bad, the black sheep in the heard are taking over the white with the help of the gullible public.
Bottom line is that if you want to be 100% sure that you are buying Natural Amber without any doubt, buy Dominican Amber. Dominican ‘amberos‘ are much to “primitive” to improve their amber. They don’t need to do it either. Because Dominican amber is beautiful by itself… naturally.
on the block.
It’s a whole gang.
In IAA’s (International Amber Association) view of considering it is a counterfeit and deception when Copal (hardened or not) is falsely sold as amber, you might agree perfectly. But know that neither the IAA nor their members seem to be strong enough to seriously shun companies who do it or who fail to call amber modifications by their real name. Neither do they openly speak up against them calling a spade a spade. When you mention it to them and they go: “Tsk, tsk, tsk… bad boys, bad boys.”
As a member of the IAA myself, and I do defend natural Baltic amber as a wonderful material, beautiful and extraordinary, full of folklore and history. It still has the fame of the mystic, sacred material of ancient times that carries on. There definitely are still some craftsmen in Baltic countries who keep up this old, honorable tradition. These deserve to be defended. And you will know the natural material, when you see it. The Poland Chamber of Commerce writes: “Natural Baltic amber is used in high quality fashion jewelry and art creations. It is asymmetrical, not always uniformly colored, sometimes has imperfections and looks like something that would have been shaped by nature and not man. No two pieces are ever the same.
A renowned scientist, Prof. Dr. Mark R. Mayer
comments on how you can recognize natural, untreated amber: “First of all, beware of pieces are too uniform or too perfect. Amberization involves processes that result in imperfection in pieces, imperfections that often give amber its personality. So, bubbles, plant debris, clouds, inner layers, cracks and fissures, insect parts, opacities, swirls and stress lines are present to some degree in most pieces and can help verify authenticity. Beware, for example, of a necklace (or masbah) of perfectly matched, transparent beads — that would be most unlikely.”
So, where does this leave us? Look around and see what you find: Beautiful beads of the same color, pure and one like the other for low prices. This is how it works: ”The rejects, unusable raw stones, grindings and small pieces that result from the cutting, grinding and polishing are used to make “Genuine Amber” (=mixed natural and pressed amber) and Ambroid….” (Poland Chamber of Commerce) You get what you pay for. If you get cheap amber, it is likely ambroid or low quality pressed amber.
These are genuine Baltic amber beads made by pressing Natural Baltic amber.
“Unpressed Natural Baltic amber beads are not available because it is not possible to manufacture them either reliably or within any reasonable price range. Amber is a tender gemstone and does not lend itself to machine work and to hand make uniformly round beads from natural Baltic amber is out of the realm of reasonableness and cost.”
Where you may start wondering is that on one hand “copal treated with high temperature and pressure” is bad, but “Baltic amber treated with high temperature and pressure” is good. The only reason for measuring with two different units is that modifying Baltic amber has a long tradition and is therefore accepted, and even considered an “art” (=good), whereas treating copal the same way is new (=bad). It also presents a strong competition to the Polish amber industry, therefore it can’t be good. Naturally.
And modifying Baltic amber is correct, proper and accepted. The ambiguity in judgment can be seen when modified (’improved’) Baltic amber is allowed to be called “True Amber, ”Real Amber”, “Genuine amber” etc. The unknowing public does not understand those technical terms and considers them together with “Natural Amber” all the same.
Seriously, did you know that “Genuine Amber” meant pressed amber, heat enhanced and often completely changed from it’s natural form and color? Were you aware that it is permissible to use flakes of different material, colour backdrops made of enamel or paint in jewellery products decorated with Baltic amber (succinite) gemstones and still call it “True, Real and Genuine”?.
As long as the amber associations do not put down the foot to change and eradicate even slightly misleading expressions, there is little chance in successfully weeding out misbehavers. Imagine, modifications are even legalized by the rules of “Classification of Baltic Amber (succinite) Gemstones.”
Scary, isn’t it? In contrast, Dominican amber is NEVER enhanced, does not need plastic surgery. See: Domincan Amber
Also check: Wikipedia – Dominican Amber
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