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How To Identify Authentic Amber

Amber is a natural tree resin that can be molded into the same shapes as chemically-made “plastics”. Most amber used in jewelry will range from yellow to brown in color. It runs a range from transparent to translucent. You might see a perfectly clear piece with no “cracks” or inclusions or your amber may be full of these. There is an immature type of amber, not as desirable, known as copal amber. It will not stand up to the tests below. So, if you have something that looks like amber but doesn’t pass these tests, it is copal amber or a plastic. There are several tests to identify amber (some more sophisticated tests which I’ve not mentioned here but can be found on the Internet). Yy favorite test is the static test.

Static test: Rub your amber against a cotton cloth. It will become electrostatically charged. The charged amber should pick tiny pieces of paper like a magnet.

Solvent test: Please be careful here and don’t ruin your jewelry. You can apply a drop of acetone (fingernail polish remover) to your amber. If it becomes sticky or tacky, it is not true amber. Wash your jewelry as soon as you complete the test.

Bouyancy test: Amber will float in salt water. Make a solution of 2 ½ teaspoons of salt per cup of water and dissolve. True amber will float.

Hot needle test: Heat a needle in a flame until it is red hot. Touch the tip of the needle to a hidden place on the amber. True amber will noe melt quicky and will put off a grey smoke.

The necklace photographed above can be found in my eBay store.

Visit My eBay Store: MidCentury Jewelry

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Boho Ivory & Bone Jewelry — How To Identify Ivory?

Went to a local antique store today, looking for jewelry. I ended up buying a ton of bohemian style ivory, amber, bone & horn pieces. Most will end up on my web site since eBay has now banned ivory from listings.

How can you identify ivory versus bone?

Ivory normally has a finer appearance than bone. It will have fewer marks and striations in the material. Sometimes with bone you can see with the naked eye some cracks, black lines, pits, etc. See the lines in the bone on the bottom bangle? Ivory would not have these lines.

If you look at ivory with a loupe, it may show a slight grain or cross-hatching in the material on back.

There is a “hot pin test” for ivory. True ivory is virtually impenetrable with heat and so will not be damaged by this test. Take a needle or a straightened-out safety pin and heat it until it is red-hot. In an unobtrusive spot on the piece, poke it. If the piece is true ivory, there will not be a hole and there will be a tiny mark. Smell the spot. It should smell like burnt protein (burnt hair). Bone is also resistant to heat, but not as much as ivory. It will not put out the same strong smell as ivory.

Bone is not free of grain and will have little “pock marks” in it where the marrow or blood was. You may have to use a loupe to see these pock marks.

Ivory can yellow over time.