Amber Buyer’s Guide
Baltic Amber is the highest quality Amber in the world, with more than 250 different natural shades available on the market. Like all gemstones, Amber is valued by its color, clarity, and the size of the nugget, with a higher value placed on transparent nuggets that have insect or plant inclusions, and for the more desired colors within the natural Amber color range. Baltic Amber is generally more expensive than Dominican Amber.
Generally, rich yellow is the most desired and valuable Amber, though relatively rare deep cherry red Amber also commands high prices. Green and blue nuggets also are rare and can be more costly.
Clear Amber of any color is more valued than pieces that appear cloudy or opaque.
Baltic Amber sometimes contains other once-living plants, insects or animals within it. Due to the rarity, pieces having inclusions are more valuable.
Amber treatments and enhancements
Most Baltic Amber is carved from one naturally formed piece of Amber, and commands higher prices than reconstructed or modified materials created from small pieces of Amber that have been glued or bonded together. An independent laboratory report can confirm that Amber is natural and that an inclusion has not been added later.
Typically, natural Amber is polished in free-form shapes or cabochons or it is made into beads. Often, Amber is carved, and very transparent Amber might be faceted, though this is very rare.
Treatments for Amber include heating in rapeseed oil to clarify cloudy material, but the resulting Amber can sometimes develop circular cracks or marks called “sun spangles.”
Ambroid, or pressed amber, is a material that has been consolidated or reconstructed into a composite. Small pieces of Amber are pressed and bonded together under heat and pressure to make larger pieces, and the resulting material sells for less than natural, non-consolidated Amber.
It is easy to determine whether Amber is real using a number of ways:
- Real amber is warm to the touch and will exude a gentle pine scent. If a stone feels cold, it is most likely fake.
- Amber is lightweight and will float in salt water. To test an unmounted stone, combine 1 part of salt with 2 parts of water and put the stone in it. Plastic, copal or glass will sink, but genuine Amber will float.
- A UV light held to genuine Amber will exhibit a blue or yellowish color. Copal will be white, and plastic will have no reaction.
- The most reliable Amber test is the burn test. Amber burns but does not melt, unlike copal and plastic. A red-hot needle will burn Amber and release a white smoke and pine fragrance. Plastic will melt and exude a chemicals smell. Copal will smell similar to Amber but will melt and will not produce white smoke.
Where to buy Amber
Amber should only be purchased from a reputable source. Large, International wholesale gem and mineral shows with credentialed exhibitors are the most reliable venue for purchasing genuine Amber jewelry and specimens. Always request a report or certificate of authenticity for a major Amber jewelry purchase or for a large Amber specimen. Several world-recognized sources for Amber include:
- JOGS International Exhibits Tucson Show
Each winter, the Amber Pavilion features Amber dealers from Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Colombia and the top Amber importers from the USA.
- GemCrowd Marketplace
The leading online marketplace for rocks, minerals, fossils, gemstones, lapidary rough and jewelry.
- Amberman Jewelry
The world’s largest collection of genuine Baltic Amber jewelry, specimens, carvings and ornaments.
Caring for Amber jewelry and ornaments
- All Amber can melt or burn when exposed to high temperatures.
- Avoid storing Amber in heat or strong light, as it will accelerate the natural darkening process or damage it.
- Avoid rough handling, heat, or chemicals, as Amber can be partially dissolved by solvents and alcohol.
- Never use a mechanical or steam cleaning system on Amber.
- Clean jewelry and Amber using a damp cloth and warm water with only mild detergent.