Our amber is fairly typical of the amber coming out of the Dominican Republic. This type of amber is known for being relatively clear and often has inclusions such as plant material and insects. Ours has a tiny insect trapped inside.
There are several types of amber on the market. Baltic amber comes from the shores of the Baltic Sea, and can be a variety of colors. it is generally darker than Dominican amber, and can also be milky in color. This type of amber is often made into jewelry or other pieces of art. Amber has been used for decorative purposes since Neolithic times. One of the most spectacular works of amber was the Russian Amber Room, which was paneled, decorated, and covered in Baltic amber in just about every way imaginable. It was sadly destroyed during WWII, but a replica has since been made that closely resembles the original.
Amber forms from tree resin, which is initially a sticky liquid capable of trapping small objects or animals within it. Over time, if this tree resin is buried, the pressure and temperature of the sediment above will transform the resin into a substance called copal. Many times, copal is marketed as being amber, even though it is not chemically the same. Increased temperature and pressure will eventually induce the chemical changes that make amber.
One can perform several tests to see if amber is real. The easiest is to rub the piece with cloth. Real amber will become charged, and attract small particles like dust. One can also make synthetic seawater. Amber will float in seawater, while glass and most plastics won’t. If you aren’t worried about destroying the amber, one can also use solvents such as ethyl alcohol or acetone, which will dissolve plastic but won’t harm real amber. The last and most destructive test it to take a red hot needle and insert it into the stone. Plastic will give off a foul, chemical smell; real amber will exude a pleasant, piney smell. I performed the buoyancy test and the electrostatic test on our amber, and it passed.