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Amber - Copal or tree Sap

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I realize these items are not meteorite related, but since many of you hunt dry lakes I was wondering if anyone has ever found anything like these. I found them while searching for meteorites on a dry lake bed in California. There are two and they look very similar: both in size, texture, and color. At first I though some kind of plastic; but after further study, I believe they are copal (tree sap) or maybe amber. They are very soft and brittle; in fact one has fractured apart already. This leads me to believe they are some sort of tree sap and not amber.

The colors are amazing. When you look through it with a bright light behind it, the green really shows along with amber and red.

I found one at the start of the day and the second at the very end of the day – I think in the same area. Also, they were towards the middle of the lake – not near the edge.

:confused0013: :confused0013:


Greg Stanley





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Aloha Greg,

I have seen them before but I always threw them away thinking they were some sort of melted glass. If you can bring a couple to Franconia when you show up next week.

Aloha and see you out there.

Stan aka Kaimi

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Greg, how goes it?

Those are awesome looking things. Make sure and save them for your collection no matter what they are. Nice pics as well.


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Amber is fossilized sap...if they are amber you should see small inclusions in them, possibly even insects or parts of insects...if it is glass you won't be able to pry pieces off without breaking the glass, if it is plastic it will feel like plastic and be very uniform on the inside...some people can discern the difference between amber and plastic-beads with their teeth...they feel different.


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You can also tell the difference between amber and plastic by heating it up. The easiest way is to heat a straightened paper clip with a lighter. When the end of the paper clip is red hot put it on the rock. If it gives off a pleasant odor or burning pitch then it is amber otherwise it will smell like burning plastic. Only try this on an inconspicuous area because it will slightly damage the rock.

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Hi Guys:

If you rub a piece of amber hard with a cloth, it will generate a static charge allowing you to pick up small bits of paper. You also might be able to detect a faint pine smell.

Just by looking at the pictures- I'd say it's not amber as I have never seen any in that color before.


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G'Day Greg

Very unusual find and very strange. I have a piece of amber with me presently that contains plant matter, but it's not true amber, it's copal. There's alot of tests you can do from UV light, rubbing for static, heating, as well as tasting. Here's a couple of links that might help.






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Hi All:

Thanks for all your input

I did a lot of test on the pieces and I think it most likely is some kind of weird plastic. I still may try and polish one.

8 Tests to Identify COPAL VERSUS AMBER

There are a number of simple tests that can be carried out on amber to check its authenticity. More sophisticated and complex tests are possible but they require access to laboratory equipment. These more complex tests include Refraction Index, Precise Specific Gravity and Melting Point. The latest and most decisive contribution to the chemistry of succinite and other fossil resins has been made by pyrolysis gas chromatography in combination with mass spectrometry. This technique has been used create the first exclusive chemical classification of fossil resins.

For the layperson with no special equipment, the following eight tests are adequate. When examining a specimen you should try at least 3 of the following methods detailed here. If the item in question fails any one of the tests, it could well mean the piece is not true amber.

(Test 1) HARDNESS. - passed

Amber has a hardness on the Moh’s scale in the region of 2 - 3. Using appropriate scratch sticks it should be reasonably straightforward to test the sample under question.

It’s hardness is in the range of 2 – 3 and very brittle

(Test 2) HOT NEEDLE. - failed

Heat a needlepoint in a flame until glowing red and then push the point into the sample for testing. With copal, the needle melts the material quicker than amber and omits a light fragrant odor. Amber when tested, does not melt as quickly as the copal and omits sooty fumes.

What are sooty fumes?

Melted quickly and the smoke was sooty – but smelled like burnt rubber – a bad smell.

(Test 3) SOLUBILITY. – failed for amber

Copal will dissolve in acetone. This test can be done by dispensing the acetone from an eyedropper onto a clean surface of the test specimen. Place one drop on the surface of the test piece and allow to evaporate, then place a second drop on the same area. Copal will become tacky while amber will remain unaffected by contact with acetone.

Used some fingernail polish and the surface became tacky

(Test 4) UV – failed for amber

Copal under a short-wave UV light shows hardly any color change. Amber fluoresces a pale shade of blue.

When to our local rock club meeting and they just happed to have a presentation on fluorescent rocks. No fluorescent properties.

(Test 5) FRICTION - passed

Rub the specimen vigorously on a soft cloth. True amber may omit a faint resinous fragrance but copal may actual begin to soften and the surface become sticky. Amber will also become heavily charged with static electricity and will easily pick up small pieces of loose paper.

Passed this one – after rubbing it, tissue paper jumps to the area rubbed.

(TEST 6) FLOTATION (Specific Gravity) – kinda passed

Mix 23gms of standard table salt with 200ml of lukewarm water. Stir until completely dissolved. Amber should float in such a mixture and some copals together with various plastics will sink. Regular amber often has a specific gravity of 1.05 to 1.10 (where 1 is the same as water). Copal looks similar, but has a lower specific gravity of 1.03 to 1.08. A specific gravity of above 1.0 will cause the object to sink in fresh water.

This one semi-passed; the pieces floated in salt solution, but just barely. If I tapped it, then it would slowly sink some, but not to the bottom of the glass


Infrequently amber contains Flora or Fauna inclusions. Correctly identifying the trapped Insect or plant should be an excellent indicator of a piece’s authenticity. Most inclusions from ancient amber are of species that are now extinct or significantly changed. Frequently present in Baltic amber are tiny stellate hairs which are release by oak buds during their early growth and some time after,

(TEST 8) KNIFE CUT - passed

With a sharp knife try to shave off a tiny piece of the amber from an unobtrusive section. Real amber fractures and splinters. plastic and polymers actual cut and tiny shaved pieces can be removed without any splintering of the material.

Very brittle – breaks with a conchoidal fracture


I'll be out at Franconia on Monday - see ya there if you are going

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