No matter if you’re buying amber at a market or in a store, there’s always a chance it’s fake.
Fake amber can be made from copal, plastic, glass, synthetic resin, dyed or treated resin, a combination of materials, or bakelite. Fakes often look like real amber but there are signs to look for to see if they aren’t genuine, like being too perfect or not scratching easily.
Let’s take a look at what fake amber is made of, why people do this, and where you’ll find fakes for sale.
In this blog post, you’ll learn:
- All the materials fake amber is made from
- Who makes fake amber and why
What fake amber is
Fake amber can be made from various materials. Here are some common materials used to create amber imitations:
A resin is a sticky goo that some trees release when they get cut or hurt. The resin seals the hole and stops germs from getting inside the tree and damaging it, so it acts a lot like a scab does when we cut ourselves.
Trees drop resin on the ground. This resin hardens over thousands of years and eventually becomes a fossil over millions of years.
Copal and amber are both from tree resin, and copal is often mistaken for amber. But copal is a younger resin that’s been in the ground for a much shorter time than real amber, which is a fossil and is millions of years old.
Copal is often used to imitate amber because they look so similar and share many of the same properties. Copal can contain trapped insects and natural materials, just like amber, but these are not as well-preserved or ancient like those in genuine amber. Also, copal is not as hard or as stable as true amber.
Certain types of polymer plastics, such as celluloid, can be heated and molded to imitate natural amber. These imitations even have a similar color and translucency to amber.
But plastic imitations usually have a uniform or consistent appearance, without variations, so they don’t have the natural imperfections and inclusions found in real amber.
Inclusions in real amber are tiny objects or materials that become trapped and preserved within the hardened resin. These inclusions can include a wide range of things such as organisms like insects, spiders, or even small vertebrates, as well as plant material, pollen grains, air bubbles, mineral fragments, and other debris.
Glass can be shaped and colored to look like amber, but it lacks the natural imperfections and organic inclusions found in genuine amber. Also, fake glass amber usually has a higher level of clarity and uniformity.
Glass is harder and less susceptible to scratching than amber. Also, it doesn’t age and oxidize like amber can under certain conditions over time.
Synthetic resins, such as phenolic resins, can be used to create amber-like gems.
Phenolic resin is molded into fake amber pieces by being heated and poured or pressed into molds, then left to cool and harden.
Synthetic resins can closely resemble the appearance of real amber, with a similar color, transparency, and hardness. The resins can also be molded and shaped to imitate amber’s natural organic forms.
But synthetic resins lack the natural aging, inclusions, and chemical composition of real amber.
Dyed or treated resins
Clear resins may be dyed or treated with chemicals to imitate the color and optical properties of amber. These treatments imitate the natural variations in color and translucency seen in genuine amber.
Dyed or treated resins may look a lot like real amber, but they don’t have certain inherent properties or the stability of real amber. Over time, the dyes or treatments often fade or change, revealing their true nature.
Some imitations combine various materials, such as small pieces of real amber mixed with resin or other substances, to create a composite material that looks like genuine amber.
People do this to make specimens that look just like the real thing, at a low price, and are so beautiful and close to perfect that they can be sold for a lot of money.
Composite amber may visually resemble genuine amber, including its color, transparency, and sometimes even the presence of trapped insects or plant matter.
But if you look closely at a composite fake, inconsistencies can often be seen, like visible seams or layers where different materials have been joined together.
Over time, the different materials in the composite may react differently to environmental factors and might not age or oxidize in the same way as natural amber.
Who makes and sells fake amber?
Fake amber can be produced by various individuals or groups involved in the production and distribution of counterfeit or imitation gemstones and jewelry.
Fake amber is found worldwide because people love amber and it is a valuable gemstone, so there’s money in the counterfeit market. Some regions, such as areas with a long history of amber production or those with thriving jewelry markets, may see a higher prevalence of fake amber.
If you want to be sure you’re buying real amber, only purchase from reputable and trusted sources. Work with certified gemologists or get expert advice to help you identify the real deal.
Some common sources of fake amber include:
There are individuals or groups who intentionally create and sell fake amber, either through online platforms, local markets, or other channels.
They may try to pass off the imitations as genuine amber to deceive buyers and make a profit.
In some cases, manufacturers or artisans involved in jewelry production may unknowingly use fake amber due to either limited knowledge or the intentional use of cheaper alternatives to reduce costs.
These imitations can end up in the market through jewelry stores or other retail outlets.
Mass production facilities
Certain factories or facilities that specialize in producing imitation gemstones, including fake amber, may mass produce these items and do a good job of making them look real.
These imitations can then be distributed through various channels worldwide.
Fake amber is commonly found on online marketplaces, where sellers can list and sell products without strict regulations or verification processes.
Buyers should exercise caution and thoroughly research sellers before making a purchase.