How To Identify An Amber Stem?

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nevadablue

Preferred Member
Jun 5, 2017
1,191
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So, how can I tell if a stem is amber or not, or plastic of some sort? I have a stem that is chipped and it looks like a conchoidal fracture, like glass would break.

I touched it with a jewelers file and it cuts. Of course, so would plastic.
?

 

64alex

Preferred Member
May 10, 2016
504
225
Make a search on the internet and there is a lot of info you can retrieve but basically if you put an incandescent needle on the amber (in an area which is not visible) you should smell something like resin.

It is also my understanding that real amber stem are not anyway made from a single block (the price would be astronomical) but rather from a compound containing amber dust.

Below link is instructional.

http://www.paronellipipe.it/en/mondo-pipa/la-questione-dellambra/

 

nevadablue

Preferred Member
Jun 5, 2017
1,191
1
Thanks for that! I suppose it really doesn't matter. The repair will take the same route no matter what. I was just curious since I have heard about amber stems.

 

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metalheadycigarguy

Preferred Member
Apr 26, 2012
2,577
8
Washington State
It's my understanding that amber stems feel like glass. So if you know what biting on glass is like you'll know. At least that's what I've been told. Unfortunately none of my meerschaum pipes have real amber, so I can't verify that statement. It's also my understanding that if you drop it, it will also break similar to that of glass.

 

jensen

Senior Member
Apr 10, 2016
433
121
BBB with amber stem. Up in the morning made the coffee, light on a match, pipe in the mouth

and then ......... I should sneeze............ good nye amber stem.

 

chasingembers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
27,244
35,626
I've got this KB&B from the early 1900s, and won't clench it for fear of the same thing.


 

jonasclark

Preferred Member
Aug 4, 2013
580
170
Seattle
Amber stems don't really feel like glass, they're not quite so hard on the teeth. If you lightly bite down, there'll be a teensy bit of give-- you might not notice it until you try biting glass! The color of what you show doesn't look like amber to me, maybe bakelite. There was a clouded yellow amber, though, and ambroid was often clouded yellow. That KB&B is definitely block amber.

 

craiginthecorn

Preferred Member
May 8, 2017
1,342
691
Sugar Grove, IL, USA
The page that embers linked is now deceased, but the Wayback Machine had it.
For posterity, here’s the text:
There are a few tests that will help you find out whether your amber jewelry is real or fake:

Put a few drops of alcohol on the surface of the stone and wait till it evaporates. If the surface gets tacky and you see your fingerprints left on it, then this amber is fake. Alcohol evaporates on genuine amber. Copal (immature tree resin, often mixed up with real amber) and plastic fake amber do not hold up to solvents.

Take a pin or a needle and carefully scratch the stone. This is recommended to be done on the back of amber bead or on its invisible part. If the amber is real, it will be scratched (amber is quite a gentle stone); if not, it will remain undamaged.

The following test is rather difficult and needs the right sense of smell. Heat, then slightly cool down a tip of a needle and press it against the stone. It will produce a puff of smoke, the smell of which will help to estimate the validity of the amber. The real amber has piney smell or smells like smudge. The fake one, on the contrary, has a sweet and pleasant smell.

Fill a medium size pot with water, add seven teaspoons of salt, let it dissolve in the water and stir every 30 minutes for some time. As the salt solution has a high gravity, the real amber will come out and start floating on the surface, while the fake one will go down and will begin sinking. If your amber is set in solid sterling silver, it will sink as silver is heavier than water.

Amber does not melt but burns away like incense. Copal will melt, as will plastic. However, the plastic will release a horrible chemical smell upon burning, while copal may release a smell similar to that of amber. Amber smells sweet, piney and pleasant when burnt, the very reason it has been used for centuries as incense in churches (in some churches in Poland they’ve been still burning amber chips).

Finally, the simplest test. Amber is an electrostatic material (“amber” means “elektron” in ancient Greek). You can rub a piece of amber against fur or pure wool for 10-20 seconds. The electrified piece will attract small pieces of napkin or other light weighted paper. In rare cases this test won’t work: if amber was purified for an ideal transparency (very light yellow or greenish varieties) which often happens with faceted amber.

 
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