Amber FakesBy Mark Chervenka
Jurassic Park, dinosaur blood, mosquitoes
In Jurassic Park, scientists created living dinosaurs from dinosaur DNA taken from blood sucking prehistoric insects preserved in amber. New pieces of fake amber with insects were released to the market to supply the demand apparently created by the popular book and movie.
True amber is vegetable resin, such as tree sap, which has become rock hard, or fossilized. It can be many colors but is usually brownish-yellow or reddish yellow. It is hard, brittle and translucent. Unmounted and unpolished dime sized chunks of real amber retail for about $10 an ounce in rock shops. One to two inch pieces of polished amber with unusual or large insects such as centipedes, can sell between $100 and $1000. The new fakes are made of plastic casting resins (although the insects are genuine) and retail from $5-$50.
There are several easy tests you can perform to authenticate amber. 1) Amber is warm to the touch--it reflects your body heat because it is a poor thermal conductor; plastic feels cold. 2). If you cut an edge, amber crumbles; if cutting produces shavings, it is not amber. 3). Touching amber with a hot needle will produce a pinewood scent. If the needle makes a black spot, it is not amber.