Amber Vs Copal – Differences And How To Test A Piece


This post contains affiliate links: Full Disclosure 

At first glance, amber and copal look very much the same, but the truth is there are many differences between the two:

Copal is tree resin that’s less than 10 million years old and is not fossilized. Amber is fossilized tree resin that’s 10 million years old or older. So copal is a stage between fresh resin and fossilized amber. Leave copal for a few million years in the right conditions and it becomes amber.

There are actually several differences between amber and copal, so let’s explore what makes them so different and how to test if a piece is real amber or copal.

Amber and copal pieces for comparison
Are these amber or copal or a mix of pieces? Let’s find out!

In this blog post, you’ll discover:

  • What makes amber and copal so different
  • A table of differences between copal and amber
  • Easy ways to test for amber and copal

The differences between amber and copal

Here’s a list of differences between amber and copal…

Amber is much older than copal

One of the greatest differences between copal and amber is age.

Amber is tree resin that fell to the ground 10 million years ago or more. Depending on where it’s found, amber can come from the Cretaceous, Jurassic, or Paleogene periods. These periods span from approximately 66 to 252 million years ago. So some amber is over 200 million years old!

Copal is resin that’s been in the ground for less than 10 million years.

tree resin creates amber
Amber and copal are both from tree resin.

Amber is a fossil, copal is still resin

Because amber is so old, it has been through a chemical process called polymerization and turned into a fossil, along with any plants, insects, or debris that got caught in the resin as it dropped from the tree. Amber is much more stable and durable than copal.

Copal starts off as wet resin but has not completed polymerization, so it’s an intermediate stage but is still a resin, not a fossil. Copal is not as stable as amber because it is much younger.

Amber is golden, copal is lighter

Amber usually has a rich, warm color like yellow, orange, or brown. It can also sparkle with sunbursts.

Copal, on the other hand, is often lighter in color, like light yellow or even white.

Amber and copal deposits are in different places

Two of the biggest amber deposits we know of today are in the Baltic region and the Dominican Republic.

Millions of years ago, the conditions in these areas were very different. There were thick sub-tropical forests full of now-extinct coniferous trees that released an immense amount of resin. In the Baltic region, the sea was low and salty, making it the perfect place to preserve all that sticky stuff.

  • The Baltic Amber Belt on the south-eastern shores of the Baltic Sea is where Baltic amber is found, and it includes Poland, Russian Oblast Kaliningrad, Lithuania, and Latvia.
  • The Dominican Republic in the Caribbean is another significant source of amber. This amber is often called Dominican amber or Dominican blue amber, known for its unique blue hues.

Copal is primarily found in tropical regions across the world, including Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. These regions provide the ideal climate and tree species that produce copal resin.

  • In Central and South America, countries like Mexico, Belize, and Colombia are known for copal production.
  • African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar are also recognized for their copal sources.
  • In Southeast Asia, countries like Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia have notable copal deposits.

Amber is more valuable than copal

As a general rule, amber is more valuable than copal because:

  • Amber is a fossil and much older than copal, making it rarer.
  • Amber provides a glimpse into the past many millions of years ago, with extinct species trapped inside it.
  • People are willing to pay more for amber if amber is what they really want.

The following table compares the average price between copal and amber, based on current market values:

GradeCopal Price Per Gram (USD)Amber Price Per Gram (USD)
Low-Grade$1 – $10$1 – $20
Medium-Grade$10 – $50$20 – $100
High-Grade$50 – $100+$100 – several hundred dollars
© Jewel And Crystal Guide

Table of differences between amber and copal

The table below is a quick guide to all the differences between amber and copal that I explained in detail above:

AgeLess than 10 million years old10 million years+
ColorLight yellow, sometimes whiteGolden, but can be different colors
OriginCentral America (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua), South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil), Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Congo, and Cameroon), Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, and Malaysia), India (particularly in the northeastern states), Caribbean (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and the Middle East (in countries such as Yemen and Oman)Baltic Sea region (Poland, Russia (Kaliningrad), Lithuania, Latvia), Dominican Republic, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Ukraine, the USA, Canada, Romania, Italy, Lebanon, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, the UK, Morocco, China, Japan, New Zealand  
ValueUsually less valuableUsually more valuable
© Jewel And Crystal Guide

How to tell if a specimen is amber or copal

It’s difficult to tell the difference between copal and amber but here are some things you can do to help you decide what a specimen is:

Flame test

Because copal is much younger than amber, it has more smell in it.

If you rub the piece hard and fast on the bottom of your palm and it gives off a piney or citrusy smell, then it’s more likely to be copal.

But if you have to put a red-hot pin or needle onto the piece to release some smell, then it’s more likely to be amber.

Acetone test

Put a few drops of acetone on the piece. If you don’t have acetone at hand, try gasoline.

If it becomes tacky or sticky after a 3 seconds, it’s copal. If it evaporates and has no effect on the stone, it’s amber.

Cut test

Scrape an edge of the stone with a sharp knife.

If it chips away, it’s amber. But if the knife cuts through it, it’s copal.

UV light test

Shine a UV light on the specimen in a dark room to see if it glows.

Amber fluoresces or shines under UV light, emitting a blue or yellow-green glow, while copal doesn’t shine at all.

If the piece shines a color other than blue or yellow-green, you probably have some other crystal or gemstone in your hands.

Here’s the full list of all the tests you can do to check if the piece is real amber.

Monique from Jewel and crystal guide

I’m Monique, and I’m passionate about giving the facts and uncovering the mysteries of jewels and crystals.

I believe there’s a place for both science and mysticism, and this is where the two meet for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Jewel And Crystal Guide participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate programs. If you buy a product or service through a link, I may receive a small commission from the sale for referring you, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Sidebar - Free Guide
What you get from the Cleansing crystals PDF for free
Get it now button for sidebar


Monique loves crystals and has been collecting them for many years.

She loves learning about how they form, where they come from, and how they help us in our daily life.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Jewel And Crystal Guide.


Related Posts
Aventurine Vs Jade – Differences And How To Test A Stone

Aventurine Vs Jade – Differences And How To Test A Stone

Aventurine and jade can look a lot alike, especially when aventurine is dark green. Even though they can look the same, they definitely aren’t the same: Aventurine is quartz crystal that’s most often green and has a shimmer. Jade is one of two different materials:...

read more
Real Amber – 12 Most Common Questions Answered

Real Amber – 12 Most Common Questions Answered

Got some questions about real amber? I’ve already covered how to test if a piece of amber is real and everything you need to know about amber in this guide, but there are still a few unanswered questions that simply must be answered. So, without further ado, below are...

read more