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. Now, there are some Polish and Lithuanian amber producers who import copal from Colombia and mix it with the oh so special Baltic amber to keep the price low – or increase the mark-up. Now, what is this? Good or bad?
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