Photo by Ayla87
Amber teething necklaces are a hot new trend which started several years ago in the natural parenting community. Many parents are realizing the benefits of using amber teething necklaces for relieving the symptoms of teething in infants and toddlers. But many parents are concerned over whether the teething necklace they have purchased is genuine or not. Most blogs and online articles make false claims regarding the authenticity of amber jewelry and several of these give incorrect information on how to test amber's authenticity.
In an effort to gain credential, some sellers of Baltic amber teething necklaces have resorted to the nasty trick of spreading rumors that fake amber teething necklaces abound and that you can only be sure of purchasing real Baltic amber if the necklace is expensive and purchased through a reputable dealer (conveniently, such as themselves). One of the most popular myths perpetuated among proponents of amber necklaces is that cheap amber necklaces are all made in China and that these necklaces are made of plastic, not real amber. This is false.
China and Lithuania are both major dealers of wholesale amber teething necklaces and you're just as likely to have purchased one as the other despite what your seller may have told you as there is no way for the buyer to determine in which country the necklace was strung. Baltic amber does not come from China, but Chinese companies purchase it and then string it before shipping it around the world. Labor in China is very inexpensive, much like Lithuania which pays some of the lowest wages in Europe. (Source: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/I
Also, the idea that fake plastic amber chip necklaces are even available is laughable. Baltic amber is incredibly inexpensive. In fact, wholesale prices of genuine Baltic amber necklaces can be found as low as 32 cents each when purchased in large lots of 10,000 or more online. At these prices, it makes no sense to think that a company would spend more money to produce expensive, convincing, high-quality plastic fakes with unique shapes and colors only to sell them for next to nothing. Very large pieces of amber are often faked because it is profitable to spend more money to create a convincing fake if it can be sold with a higher payback. But there is little reason for anyone to try to produce a fake version of amber chips which are extremely common and easy to come by. I have purchased three amber teething necklaces. One was very expensive and came from the popular seller, Inspired By Finn which is known for its guarantee of genuine Baltic amber. One was made in China. I paid $20 for the first and $8 for the China-made necklace. All three tested positively as genuine amber.
This is obvious in the fact that wholesale Baltic amber necklaces average about $2 each in the global online market. Genuine Baltic amber necklaces are incredibly common in the Baltic region and simply visiting Lithuanian gift shops online, one can see that most teething necklaces run between three and ten US dollars each. The only reason people in the United States assume that Baltic amber chips are so rare and expensive and prone to faking is because Baltic amber teething necklaces are a relatively new fad in the US and lack of knowledge about Baltic amber prices in addition to this still-new trend of amber necklaces has created artificially high prices in this country. It makes no sense to fake amber teething necklaces. Why would a counterfeiter waste time and money trying to produce fake pennies when they could make $100 bills?
Amber items prone to being fakes are most commonly pieces which contain insect inclusions as well as large pieces used in fine jewelry. It was also common several decades ago to find celluloid pieces of costume jewelry made to look like large pieces of amber. Vintage amber jewelry should always be tested. Also, jewelry with large beads or stones, especially if they are perfect or uniform in shape, should be tested. A very expensive teething necklace with large, uniformly shaped beads may be under suspicion. Amber chip necklaces have no reason to be faked and are highly unlikely to be counterfeit. (http://www.ambericawest.com/more_fake_am
"But I've tested one I bought and it was a fake."
Some purchasers claim to have purchased a necklace only to find it was a fake. While this may happen in some very rare cases, the most likely reason is because the test performed was not reliable or because it was performed incorrectly. Most tests for Baltic amber are difficult to determine or may otherwise not be good tests because they only test the possibility of it being Baltic amber and further tests need to be performed to confirm this. Sometimes several tests need to be carried out on one piece of jewelry.
A good website for determining whether your amber teething necklace is real or fake is by checking out National Museums Scotland's article entitled "Identifying Fake Amber." It includes a relatively thorough set of visual tests in which you can determine if your amber is real or fake. (https://www.nms.ac.uk/our_museums/nation
The most common materials used to make fake amber include the following:
GLASS - Glass is heavier than amber and cold to the touch. Glass feels like stone. Amber feels like plastic and is very light and warm to the touch.
COPAL - Copal is immature fossilized resin which is softer than amber and is used in manufacturing. It is younger than Baltic amber and does not contain succinic acid. Copal will melt when heated and will burn if set on fire.
PLASTIC - Like copal, plastic beads will melt when heated or set on fire and they will release an acrid, toxic, chemical-smelling smoke. Plastic beads will be perfectly uniform in color, shape and size and will have no cracks or imperfections in their surface except perhaps a seam line indicating that it was injected into a mold.
There are many kinds of tests that claim to determine whether amber is real or fake, but most of these tests are difficult to determine. Some of them do not really work at all. These are the most common tests you will find for determining if an amber teething necklace is real or fake:
THE SCRATCH TEST - Real amber will scratch when rubbed with the tip of a pin or needle. Glass will not scratch. However, plastic and copal will also scratch, so this test cannot be used to determine whether your amber is real or fake, only if it is glass.
THE SALT WATER TEST - This is a commonly suggested test for amber, but this test can be misleading. The instructions for this test are to dissolve sea salt in water until no more will dissolve, then to place the necklace in the water. Amber will sink in fresh water but will float in a concentrated salt water solution. This can be misleading, however, as copal will also float in salt water. Only glass and most plastics will sink. (http://www.minsocam.org/msa/collectors_c
BURNING - This is a good test for amber but will ruin your necklace. The instructions are to place the piece of amber in a flame. Copal and plastic will melt and may catch fire. Amber will not melt or burn but will smolder. Obviously, this is not a practical test for a teething necklace as it will ruin the necklace and is very likely to also burn through the cord, destroying the entire piece of jewelry.
RUBBING ALCOHOL - This test may be difficult to determine on many pieces of jewelry. Dipping a couple of the beads into rubbing alcohol will do nothing to amber or most kinds of plastic. It may make copal beads sticky or they may appear cloudy once the alcohol has dried.
ACETONE - This is the most reliable of all of the tests and one of the easiest to carry out at home. Putting acetone (nail polish remover) on one of the beads will do nothing if the bead is amber. If it is plastic or copal, it will become sticky to the touch and you will be able to leave a fingerprint in the surface of the bead.
HOT NEEDLE - This test is a little difficult to determine. It involves holding a hot needle or pin in a candle flame until it becomes red-hot, then pushing it into a bead in an area where it will not easily be seen such as near a hole. With copal and plastic, the needle will melt into the bead. With amber, the needle will be more difficult to push into the bead and it will create small cracks where the needle was inserted. Plastic will give off a foul odor while copal and amber may give off a smell of burned pine.
SEAM TEST - Look around the edges of your beads. Are there seam lines? If so, your beads are either plastic or glass. You will not see this in chip or nugget necklaces, usually only in larger beads that are uniform in color, shape and size.
UV LIGHT - This test is partly true. Real amber will glow in UV light, but some amber glows only very faintly and it may be difficult to notice. It is not a reliable test for amber and may not prove that your amber is fake.
RUBBING/SMELL - Many claim that amber has a pine smell or that you can rub the amber in your hands and it will release a pine smell. I am sad to say that I have never smelled anything from any genuine piece of amber either by sniffing or rubbing, so this is not a reliable test to prove that your amber necklace is for sure a fake. Also, copal also has a pleasant pine smell, so this test also does not prove that your amber is real.
"How can I make sure I am buying genuine Baltic amber?"
While it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to find any fake amber teething necklaces, there are some ways that you can ensure that you are purchasing the real thing. First, try to buy from retailers that guarantee their necklaces are genuine Baltic amber and that have good return policies. This way, you can test your necklace when it arrives if you want to and if it is a fake, you can send it back for a refund.
Don't let price deter you from purchasing the teething necklace that you want. Choose where you purchase from based on how you want your money to be spent. Some choose very inexpensive teething necklaces to save money. Others want to support mothers working from home and would rather pay more for a teething necklace from a WAHM business. Often, the look of the piece of jewelry is what matters most to the buyer.
For more information on amber teething necklaces, see my other article entitled, Do Amber Teething Necklaces Really Work? The Science and the Myths Behind Amber's Rumored Curative Properties.