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African Amber? Trade beads
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Posted by: Robert B Post Reply
02/03/2018, 04:08:02

Hello,

I need to identify these beads.
I did the following tests on them:
static.. rubbing it makes it static
hot needle.. goes inside but only a little (guesss it needs to stay hot)
Tried to burn it, doesn't burn. just becomes a bit rougher to touch.
Acetone test.. no change or color rub-off
shining a light behind it gives it a warm cherry color

It was sold to me as African amber and I did extensive research on it, such as it was mixed with soil (hence the darker color) and probably heated to make it darker. Also went into the history of trade beads..

This study period got me really interested in beads and I actually bought others and sold them already. A new business for me. The others were easier to identify and therefore I could sell them with the feeling that I sold quality.

Yet, I still have these ones.
I don't know how to definitely establish what they are.

Can someone help me.. maybe tell me how to do definite tests. Then I can find out what the value is as well.

I appreciate any help


Robert

PSX_20171225_152827_(2).jpg (170.1 KB)  PSX_20171225_154105_(3).jpg (202.9 KB)  


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Some more things to try
Re: African Amber? Trade beads -- Robert B Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Post Reply
02/03/2018, 09:38:22

If a hot needle made a small dent, and you can see tiny crumbs (use high magnification) where you jammed the needle in - then these are fairly new (since 1980s) polyester beads, faceted and beat up to look like old "cherry amber" Bakelite (phenolic resin) beads. Try this again and make sure the needle is red-hot. If the beads are phenolic resin, the needle will do nothing but make a small dark burn spot.

Note that "cherry amber" is a term most often applied to the color that many phenolic resins turn, either from air exposure, or heat treatment.

To rule out the possibility that they are actual old cherry amber Bakelite beads - do the following:

1) get some 10% household ammonia and lightly wet a q-tip. Then rub on a bead in an inconspicuous spot (assumes surface dirt is already removed). If the q-tip turns mustard yellow, you probably have phenolic resin.

2) since not all phenolic resins will test positive with ammonia, also take one bead and run under very hot water until the bead is heated up - or soak in a glass of hot water. Then smell the bead. If it is phenolic, you will detect the medicinal odor of phenol. If it is as I suspect, a newer polyester resin, it will smell like styrene - the smell you get when burning a plastic foam cup or container. Get one to use for comparison.

3) If you need more help, please send me a private message with your email and I'll send you a one page test summary with my reamer method.

4) If all else fails, you can send me one and I'll be happy to ID it.

PS "African amber" is a term currently used in the bead trade to describe all sorts of imitation amber - I've seen phenolic resin, polyester resin, polystyrene, acrylic, dyed vegetable ivory and dyed horn all called "African amber". The other marketing term used is "copal amber" - although most of these are various plastics, there are some beads made of copal that may be also referred to as "copal amber". I'm not an expert on the various copals and ambers (processed or pressed or natural) - this is another whole area of study...but all of the copals and amber I've tested emit a pleasant pine odor when hot needled or reamed so they are really easy to tell from the plastics.



Modified by Rosanna at Sat, Feb 03, 2018, 15:52:38

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Amber Forever
Re: African Amber? Trade beads -- Robert B Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Beadman Post Reply
02/07/2018, 09:48:09

Join my Yahoo Group, and read the two PDFs that give reliable advice on identifying and testing amber and "amber."

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/amberisforever/info



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