Smell tests are the most effective because natural amber has a specific smell, which is difficult to obtain when producing falsifications. After heating real Baltic amber, it diffuses the specific delicate fragrance of pine-tree resins. Falsifications using Copal diffuse the smell of “sweet” resins when heated and those using other materials diffuse the smell of burnt plastic.
The best way is to rub amber into the palm of your hands! It is possible to heat real amber by rubbing until it releases the smell of pine- tree resins. This needs a very strong hand, as it is rather difficult to heat amber (especially when polished) to the necessary temperature, and it could be difficult to make an experiment with amber set in jewellery, as trying to rub it into other materials the amber could get scratched.
“Hot needle” tests- the most effective
The most effective method is to stick a heated needle into an imperceptible place in the amber (a hole of a drilled bead, etc.). If you smell definite pine-tree resins, it means it is real amber. Amber is fragile – sticking it with a hot needle, you will notice some cracks, while a needle will pierce plastic without cracking it. On that note, amber becomes brittle when heated and only melts at extremely high temperatures.
Amber gemstones do not float in freshwater, but float in saltwater.