Discovering the Hidden Gems of Burmese Amber: Unveiling the Science Behind Testing Amber Stones in the Laboratory
Facts About Amber Stone
Amber is not a chemical compound with a specific chemical formula. Instead, it is a fossilized resin produced by ancient trees that has undergone physical and chemical changes over millions of years. The exact composition of amber can vary depending on the species of tree that produced the resin, the age of the resin, and the conditions under which it
Typically, amber consists of a complex mixture of organic compounds, including terpenes, acids, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, and esters. It also may contain small amounts of inclusions, such as bits of plant material, insects, or other organic matter, that were trapped in the resin before it hardened.
The exact composition of amber can affect its physical and chemical properties, such as its color, density, and thermal conductivity. The composition of amber can also be used to identify its origin, as different regions may have unique combinations of chemical compounds in their amber deposits.
Can amber be tested in laboratory?
Yes, amber can be tested in a laboratory to determine its authenticity and properties.
There are several laboratory tests that are commonly used to test amber, including:
Ultraviolet (UV) fluorescence test: This test uses ultraviolet light to see how amber reacts. Authentic amber will emit a strong yellow or green fluorescence under UV light.
Thermal conductivity test: This test measures how well heat is conducted through the material. Authentic amber has a low thermal conductivity, while imitations, such as plastic, have a higher thermal conductivity.
Specific gravity test: This test measures the density of the material compared to water. Amber has a specific gravity of between 1.05 and 1.10, which is significantly different from many imitations, such as glass or plastic.
Refractive index test: This test measures how light bends as it passes through the material. Amber has a refractive index of between 1.54 and 1.57, which is significantly different from many imitations, such as glass or plastic.
Microscopic analysis: This test involves examining the material under a microscope to look for characteristic features, such as the presence of inclusions, that can help determine its authenticity.
These laboratory tests can help determine the authenticity and properties of amber, and they can be useful for verifying the quality of a piece before purchasing it. However, it's important to note that some laboratory tests can be performed incorrectly or misinterpreted, so it's recommended to have the tests performed by a reputable and experienced laboratory.
Aside from the scientific methods mentioned in the article, there are several other tests that can be used to identify and authenticate amber stones:
- Warm Needle Test: A hot needle is gently poked into the stone. If it leaves a white mark, the stone is most likely plastic. If it melts, it is possibly genuine amber, but this method is not foolproof.
- Burn test - Amber can be burned and will give off a distinctive pine-like scent. This test can be useful in determining the authenticity of the amber, however, it is not recommended as it can cause damage to the piece.
- Hot needle test - This test involves heating a needle until it is red-hot and then touching it to the surface of the amber. If the material is authentic amber, it will not burn or melt, but will instead emit an odor of resin.
- Scratch test: Amber is relatively soft organic stone. It can be scratched easily with a knife. If the scratch leaves a white mark, the stone is likely to be fake.
- Touch Test: This is a simple method that involves rubbing the stone between your fingers. Genuine amber has a warm and smooth feel, while imitations will feel cold, rough, or waxy.
- Salt water float test: Amber will float in salt water, while plastic and other synthetic imitations will sink.
- Acetone Test: A drop of acetone is placed on the stone. If it dissolves the stone, it is likely plastic. If it has no effect, the stone may be genuine amber.
- Electric conductivity test: Genuine amber is a good conductor of electricity. It can be tested using a multimeter.
- Thermal Conductivity Test: This test measures the amount of heat conducted by the stone. Amber has a lower thermal conductivity than glass or plastic, which makes this test another useful tool for identifying amber.
- Density Test: Amber is lighter than glass and heavier than plastic, which makes density testing another useful method for identifying amber.
- Polariscope Test: This test is used to determine the birefringence of the stone, which is a measure of the double refraction of light through the stone. Amber has a unique birefringence pattern that can be used to differentiate it from other materials.
It's important to note that these tests are not foolproof and it is best to use a combination of tests to determine the authenticity of an amber stone. It's also recommended to seek the advice of a professional gemologist or laboratory if you're unsure about the authenticity of a stone.
Identification of Amber Stone
There are several methods that can be used to identify amber:-
Physical properties: Amber is lightweight, warm to the touch, and has a distinctive golden-yellow color. It is also known for its unique "floating" property - when placed in saltwater, authentic amber will float, while imitations, such as plastic, will sink.
UV light test: Amber will emit a strong yellow or green fluorescence under ultraviolet (UV) light, while many imitations, such as plastic, will not.
Specific gravity test: Amber has a specific gravity of between 1.05 and 1.10, which is significantly different from many imitations, such as glass or plastic. A simple test to determine specific gravity involves suspending a sample in a liquid, such as saltwater, and measuring its relative weight.
Refractive index test: Amber has a refractive index of between 1.54 and 1.57, which is significantly different from many imitations, such as glass or plastic. A refractometer can be used to measure the refractive index of a sample.
Microscopic analysis: Examine the material under a microscope to look for characteristic features, such as the presence of inclusions, that can help determine its authenticity.
These methods can help identify amber, but it's important to note that some imitations, such as high-quality resin, can mimic the physical properties and appearance of amber. Therefore, it's recommended to use a combination of these methods to determine the authenticity of a piece. Additionally, it's a good idea to have a sample tested by a reputable gemology laboratory for a more accurate determination.