Sunday, March 16, 2014

When Amber...isn't.

These guys are our examples for the day. Say hello to Baltic Amber, African "Ocean Amber" copal and Colombian Copal.

I'm sure there are a lot of blurbs in blogland about this very thing, but I wanted to share my own adventures in getting my paws on some amber. I just want to say here that I know what amber is. I have friends with Lithuanian grandmas that sewed amber pieces into their clothes to make the journey overseas to America. Amber is precious and a little bit rare, and this is why we all love it! 
This. Is Baltic amber - the good stuff

So when I bought some "Baltic amber" from a seller on Etsy and was not terribly impressed with it, I left neutral feedback. The seller was not pleased. She swears that stuff was Baltic amber. I think she was hoodwinked on her end -- the stuff she sent me was copal.

I dubiously sacrificed a piece of it to some "testing" to make sure it wasn't plastic. It burned sooty, it smelled piney and it floated in salt water. It was an organic thing, but it wasn't fossilized amber. 
This is Colombian copal. From Columbia. Not the Baltic Sea.

Copal is amber's younger, smellier, stickier cousin. It's amber that isn't ripe yet. When you touch it, it leaves a slight sticky funk on your hands. Copal also tends to craze, which kind of makes me worry about the future of anything I'd use it in.
This is another kind of copal from Africa called Ocean Amber. I nabbed it from Kandu Beads. It's so smooth and nice to pet! :) 

I hope this was a little bit educational. I learned to not challenge the opinions of suppliers on Etsy, lest they set me on fire. I also learned in all of my research that the big honkin' amber ring I bought for $8 on eBay all those years ago is probably heat-treated, compressed Baltic amber. The cute little inclusions in it aren't leafy bits, but exploded bits of condensation. Darnit.

Oh well. It's still my favorite. The other rings in the picture are a skull wax seal ring from Sue Gray Jewelry, and story stack rings from Delias Thompson. They also make me smile. :)

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