On this page you’ll find all sorts of information about Baltic amber necklaces: how they work (theoretically), how to care for your amber, common forms of imitation amber, how to identify them, and how to test your amber to confirm its authenticity (see our updated test section below). If you get through this whole page and still have unanswered questions, please contact us!
Please note that all products & claims regarding properties & effects have not been evaluated by the FDA or Health Canada. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information supplied is for general reference & educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional medical advice.
There is a much longer answer to this question a little further down this page, but in-short, all amber is fossilized tree resin:
Baltic amber in particular is amber mined from near the Baltic Sea:
What makes Baltic amber significantly different than amber from other parts of the world is that it contains high levels of a substance called succinic acid.
Succinic acid already naturally exists in the body in small amounts. It's an alkalinizing acid (like lemon juice) so it doesn't add to your body's acidity and may actually slightly lower it. As a food additive and dietary supplement, succinic acid is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Here is a more technical description from Wikipedia:
In living organisms, succinic acid takes the form of an anion, succinate, which has multiple biological roles as a metabolic intermediate being converted into fumarate by the enzyme succinate dehydrogenase in complex 2 of the electron transport chain which is involved in making ATP, and as a signaling molecule reflecting the cellular metabolic state. Succinate is generated in mitochondria via the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA), an energy-yielding process shared by all organisms.
Historically it is believed that when worn on the skin, body heat causes Baltic amber to release an oil containing trace amounts of succinic acid.
Theoretically if a small amount of succinic acid is absorbed into the skin, it would trigger the body to react like you've taken a natural Ibuprofen, reducing pain and reducing inflammation.
Many of our customer have found Baltic amber to be helpful with pain and inflammation issues, often used for teething pain but also such issues as headaches, arthritis, tendonitis, and generalized pain throughout the body.
All of our necklaces have been specially designed with your child’s safety in mind.
Each piece is handcrafted by Lithuanian artisans, known locally as 'Masters', who carefully polish and round the shape of each Baltic amber bead so it rests gently against the skin. This ensures maximum skin contact and comfort.
The string in each of our amber necklaces and bracelets is knotted by hand in between each and every bead, so should the necklace break the rest of the beads will not scatter. In the unlikely event that a bead should be ingested, amber is a non-toxic substance and is not harmful.
The necklaces fasten with a plastic amber-colored clasp that opens and closes easily, which doubles as the safety-release mechanism. If a necklace were to get caught on something, the clasps are designed to either pop or break open when a certain amount of force is applied depending on the type of clasp you choose, of which we have two options, Pop and Twist:
Pop Clasps - Will pop open if tugged on, so the safety mechanism is reusable, but they also come open much easier and this can sometimes lead to a lost necklace.
Twist Clasps - Won't open if tugged, so are less likely to be lost, but with enough force will break open where the string meets the clasp. Please note that if the safety release is triggered, the necklace is no longer useable and is not repairable. However, we do offer an ‘at-cost’ replacement option should this occur, please contact us for details.
*Please note that while the Hazelwood jewelry is considered safe for all ages, due to changing regulations in Canada, we are phasing in a ‘Small Parts’ warning on the Baltic amber jewelry. It indicates that it should not be used for a child under the age of 3. You’ll see this now on our listings and eventually on our packaging. Both Hazelwood and Baltic amber are effective in treating teething pain. If you are considering a necklace for a child under the age of 3, we’d highly recommend using hazelwood. In addition to fighting teething pain, the hazelwood will also guard against diaper rash and baby reflux (bonus protection that Baltic amber doesn’t provide). You can find some of our most popular hazelwood necklaces for children here (include hazelwood & baltic amber together!):
Every natural Baltic Amber necklace is unique because each of the amber beads are unique. The size, color, shape, and weight of each stone, as well as the length of the piece, will vary slightly. We work with our supplier to develop consistent styles of color and shape, however as Baltic amber is a natural raw material that must be mined, the end product will fluctuate along with the natural flux in the Baltic Amber market.
Since it’s so old, amber can be brittle, so you want to avoid dropping it on hard surfaces. Also it should not be stored with other jewelry where it can rub up against other pieces, especially metal ones.
It's also easily coated by oils and soaps, which will reduce its effectiveness. Keep perfume, hairspray, and soaps like shampoo and conditioner away from your amber, and never place your jewelry in commercial cleaning solutions. Remove your amber jewelry when bathing. Also remove when applying sunscreen or any other kind of lotion.
To clean your amber, use a soft flannel cloth or an unused toothbrush dampened with clean lukewarm water. Dry in the sun or with a clean tissue or towel.
Baltic Amber is fossilized resin. Although not a mineral, it is generally classified as a gemstone. A common misconception is that Amber is made of tree sap. Sap is the fluid that circulates through a plant's vascular system, while resin is the semi-solid amorphous organic substance secreted in pockets and canals through epithelial cells of the tree.
Because it used to be soft and sticky, tree resin amber can sometimes contain insects and even small vertebrates, known in the jewelry world as ‘Inclusions’. Semi-fossilized resin or ‘sub-fossil’ amber is known as Copal (see more on Copal below).
Amber occurs in a range of different colors. As well as the usual yellowy-orange that is associated with the color "amber", amber itself can range from cloudy white, yellowish clear, to almost black.
There is also red amber (sometimes known as "cherry amber"), green amber, pink amber and even blue amber, which is rare and highly sought after.
No we don't have any blue amber, thanks for asking. :)
Baltic amber is distinguished from other amber from all around the world by the presence within it of high levels of succinic acid, hence Baltic amber is otherwise known as succinite.
There is an enormous amount of fear out there around the idea of accidentally purchasing fake amber. We regularly get questions about this. So first, a few facts about our own Baltic amber jewelry:
1. We get all of our Baltic amber direct from Lithuania.
2. We have a long and trusted relationship with our supplier there. In fact, we recently made a visit to Lithuania to check out their operations in person and you can see pictures from our visit! (tap here)
3. We test every shipment using using UV and spot-test using the saltwater method.
4. We have become very accustomed to the appearance, weight, texture, and smell of the real thing, and would know immediately if something was wrong with our shipment.
Secondly, we suspect that much of the fears around this issue are unfounded. There IS a giant fake amber market out there, but it's dealing primarily with large pieces of amber, much, much larger than what you would typically find in a teething necklace.
Fake amber products are more often going to be priced in the $100-$100,000 range, and have things like rare inclusions, bugs trapped in the amber, etc., like this one:
Which led to this:
(If you don't recognize the image above, go watch the movie Jurassic Park.)
So overall we suspect that the fear that sweeps through the amber teething necklace community every few years is largely unnecessary. However, for educational purposes, here’s a rundown of the usual list of materials used for amber imitations, and how you can spot them. Also below that you'll find a list of tests you can perform at home, how to do them, and which we recommend (or don't).
Copal - Copal, which was mentioned above, is often sold as Baltic amber. With enough time Copal would become amber, but Copal isn’t truly fossilized. Copal is ‘young tree resin’ (1 thousand to 1 million years old) whereas true amber would be closer to 40 million years old. Natural inclusions are possible in Copal, but usually they are falsified. Insects are inserted in them that are too big and too good-looking. Copal melts at a rather low temperature (lower than 150 C ), and tends to melt rather than burn. However it still will diffuses the "sweet" smell of burning resins, just like real amber, making it difficult to spot.
Glass - Glass is pretty easy to distinguish, it’s more solid, cold to the touch, etc. It can’t be scratched by metal and fireproof, whereas real amber can be scratched and will burn if exposed to flame.
Phenolic Resins - This material is commonly used to produce artificial amber beads. These amber beads tend to have very exact shapes (i.e. oval, faceted), the color is very similar to real amber (dark red, cloudy yellow). However after heating it doesn’t diffuse the smell of pine-tree resins, which is the key characteristic of Baltic amber.
Celluloid - Celluloid (cellulose nitrate) is usually yellow and cloudy. Optically it is difficult to distinguish it from amber. Celluloid is more solid and not so combustible. After heating, it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.
Casein - This is a plastic made from milk. The beads have a cloudy, turbid yellow color. It is a little bit heavier than amber. After heating, it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.
Modern Plastic - Modern plastic (polyester, polystyrene) are used to produce artificial amber and inclusions that look very real. However like in Copal, falsified inclusions are too big (more than 10 mm) and clearly seen, inserted in the very center of the plastic. After heating, it diffuses the smell of burnt plastic.
Pressed Amber - When small remnants of amber are fused together using high pressure or major heat source, the result is called “pressed” amber. While pressed amber is cheap and relatively available, it will not perform the same way original, natural amber does. Because the original pieces of amber have been compressed, the singular power of each piece is compromised. It is inexpensive to buy but if you’re interested in the the healing aspects of Baltic amber, you will not experience them with the pressed product. Pressed Amber will look more like plastic, perfectly round, no air bubbles or imperfections. However it will burn and smell like real amber, so you have to rely largely on a visual inspection to tell pressed amber from the naturally formed beads.
One thing that we have learned over the years is that it is actually very hard to do these tests well. As you look through the Internet you’ll find some version of the following list of tests copied over and over again without any more real information. The culprit of most of our false alarms are with the ‘Hot Needle’ test which is terribly difficult to do.
Below is our version of the traditional list, modified by what we have learned. Again we recommend the Saltwater and UV tests as the easiest and most non-invasive ways to test your amber.
Visual Inspection (Not Rocket Science...) - The first thing you’ll want to look out for is plastic, pressed, and glass amber that is obviously ‘too perfect’. Amber beads can be polished to near-perfect rounds, but if all of the beads on your string are totally picture-perfect, something is probably wrong. Real amber has air bubbles, and if clear enough to let light pass, you’ll see imperfections within the bead, cracks, etc. Real amber is warm to the touch and has a slight ‘tacky’ feel (verses slick like glass). It also feels lighter in your hands than you would expect it to.
The Saltwater Test (Easy!) - Aside from looking at your amber, the next least damaging test you can perform is to mix up some salt water (dissolve one part salt in two parts water) and throw the necklace in. Real Baltic amber floats, fakes don’t. (You can try tossing in some plastic or glass beaded jewelry as a control item and you’ll see what we mean.)
The Ultraviolet Light Test (Our Favorite!) - Real Baltic amber will fluoresce under UV light while copal won’t. This is a super easy test to do, particularly if your amber is the on lighter side. You’ll need a real UV light (think LED UV flashlight or florescent tube, traditionally called a black light.) In addition to testing amber, these are also useful in doing your own Crime Scene Investigation, finding scorpions, and traumatizing your children after they’ve wet the bed.
There’s almost no information on how to interpret the results of this test online but we’ve experimented extensively and here’s what we’ve found:
1. Milk & Butter and Super Butter show up like yellow highlighter at the Friday night Glow-Bowl. Almost painful to look at, extremely easy to identify the real thing. Obviously you can mimic this with fluorescent plastic, but then under natural lighting the plastic is going to look nothing like real amber, more like a neon ear stud a gothic kid would buy at the mall.
2. Lemon and the Lemon bits within Dark Green will fluoresce a bluish color. Most amber UV test information will say that ALL real amber fluoresces blue, but that’s a radical oversimplification and just not true. Amber that is nearly clear (very light lemon) gives off the most bluish color.
3. As you shift hues into darker yellows and oranges with shades of Honey, the non-fluorescing colors within the bead mix with the blue color and generate greens and whatnot, with much less brightness. You’ll also note how semi-polish (polished with air instead of water) glow less, the rough surface is not as mirrored as a full-polish bead and naturally absorbs more light.
4. Darker amber won’t fluoresce hardly at all. You’ll see almost no reaction in colors such as Cognac and Dark Cherry and their semi-polish variants, Nutmeg and Coffee. Some times you’ll get flecks of bright fluorescence from pocket of lighter color within the beads that you’d never notice with the naked eye.
So there you go, we’re pretty sure that we’re the first to publish this kind of information on how to interpret the UV test. Expect to see the above list copied all over the Internet on other amber sites within the next few years. :)
Below are other traditionally listed tests that are a bit harder to pull off and often involve damaging your amber... :(
The Smell Test (Tricky) - Natural Baltic amber has that specific pine resin smell which apparently is difficult to obtain when producing falsifications.
Unfortunately most of the tests in this area involve heat and fire and, we’ve found, are horribly difficult to do well, particularly if you are trying to not totally destroy your necklace in the process!
To perform the smell test you have to either burn a bead (hold with tweezers into a candle flame) or, if you don’t want to destroy your jewelry, stick a hot needle into a spot that’s less noticeable. Carefully smell the smoke, if it smells a bit like Christmas (strong pine scent), you’re good. If it smells like burnt plastic, that’s bad. Please note that the pine scent can be quite strong and sometimes isn't necessarily pleasant. That is why this test is unreliable; some people confuse the strong scent emitted by the amber with what they suppose a fake would smell like since they expect the pine scent to be pleasant...it's not!
We found the needle test really hard to do (try holding a hot needle with tweezers!) so if you have a loose bead available and need a definitive answer, burning a bead is the best way to go. You’ll note that that real amber will ‘flake’ and burn in stages, whereas plastic will melt. If you keep it in the flame long enough the bead may even shatter, so be careful that little eyes are not too close to your ‘science experiment’ (yes, testing your amber with your children counts as homeschooling).
In theory it is also possible to heat the amber by rubbing it between your palms (to produce the pine resin smell) but difficult if the amber is polished, which usually it is.
Again, this is the number one test that we have people have issues with, they’ve tried to do the hot needle test and/or even burned a bead or two and have mistaken the strong pine and smoke scent as a more plasticy smell. The pine scent is very strong, and doesn’t necessarily smell great to everyone. Let’s just say we wouldn’t burn it as incense in our home. :)
The Acetone Test - This test checks of the solubility of the amber in acetone, you can use alcohol (isopropanol or ethanol) or even nail polish remover. Note that this test is a bit tricky, we’ve not not found it to be terribly easy to discern the results. Put a drop on the amber and let it evaporate some. Copal will dissolve so it’ll be sticky and fingerprints can be made in the surface, amber will be unchanged. Another way is to dip the string of beads into some nail polish remover and in some cases you’ll see the color run right off of imitations. This test won’t hurt your amber if it’s real.
The Scratch Test - Real Baltic amber has a hardness of 5 - 6 on the Moh’s scale so it should be easily scratched by metal. As mentioned above, glass won’t scratch. This WILL hurt your amber (if it’s real) so attempt to scratch in a unnoticeable area (kind of hard to do on an already small bead). Not a great test because it damages your amber and it’s easier to tell amber from glass by temperature and weight (glass is colder and heavier, see the Saltwater Test).
The Polarized Light Test - Place the amber between two sheets of polarized glass, then rotate one of the pieces. You should be able to see a display of rainbow colors in either amber or copal. Plastic will appear unchanged.
The Static Test - Rub your amber vigorously with a soft cloth. Real amber will develop a static charge allowing it to pick up small bits of paper, whereas copal won’t.
IR-spectroscopy - R-spectroscopy is the most effective scientific method for identifying fossil resins. Baltic amber can be characterized by IR-spectrum segment called "Baltic amber shoulder". If you have a spectroscopy machine at home, you’re all set. :) Seriously though, here's a couple of examples, reports on Baltic amber that our supplier provided us:
A: Unlike hazelwood (which seems to work about the same no matter where you wear it) Baltic amber seems to be the most helpful if you can get it as close to the source of the pain as possible. So the choice of amber comes down to the symptom that you’re looking to treat. Headaches, teething or jaw/neck/upper back pain? Try a necklace. Wrist pain, arthritis, carpal tunnel? Try a bracelet. Have abdominal cramps or lower back pain? String two necklaces together to wear around your waist. And if you’ve got pain in other places, get creative in bringing the amber to where your pain is!
A: In theory Baltic amber, if cared for, could last forever. However it is also EXTREMELY old and brittle, and eventually beads will break. Also over time the surface of the beads tend to get coated with soap scum and other substances that inhibit their ability to release succinic acid into your skin. So if you clean your amber and are careful with it, it should last for years. If you suspect it’s no longer working and you’ve already tried cleaning it, it may be time for a new one.
A: Yes. The process of drilling the beads can leave cracks that are invisible and only come apart after a few days of regular use. If this has happened to you, our apologies! Please visit our returns & exchange page for more information on how to exchange it.
A: The necklace must be a comfortable length for your child. You should be able to slip your two fingers between the necklace and your child’s neck. The necklace should not be long enough for your child to bring it to his/her mouth since it is not meant to be chewed on!
A: No. Baltic amber is very susceptible to soaps and other products that might leave behind a residue. Avoid wearing it when using shampoo, hair spray, lotions, sunscreen, etc.
NOTE - We've had a customer report a skin reaction issue with leaving Baltic amber on during an extended hot bath. Normally amber is removed due to the soaps involved, but if you are giving your child a bath (or taking one yourself) without soaps or chemicals, we'd recommend removing the amber just the same. We're not sure but the hot water may have caused the amber to become tacky or soft, to which a skin reaction occurred. Please exercise caution with exposing your amber to high heat or with wearing amber after it has been exposed to high heat (left in a hot car, etc.).
A: Yes our own experience and that of our customers seems to support this. Additionally the semi-polished colors seem to be stronger than their full-polish counterparts. While the following scale is entirely made up, it gives you some idea of the range we’re talking about. Note that all Baltic amber colors work well for things like teething pain, just that some are that much more powerful and if you are dealing with chronic levels of pain, you’re going to want to get one of the stronger colors. Here are some arbitrary numbers to give you an idea of the range of effectiveness (scale of 1-10):
11 Super Butter <- Goes up to 11!
10 Milk & Butter
9 Nutmeg & Lemondrop
9 Milk & Honey
8 Multicolored (semi-polish)
8 Milk & Cognac
7 Lemon & Cherry
7 Multicolored (bean & round)
7 Rainbow (bean & round)
6 Dark Cherry
6 Dark Green
5 Lemon & Rose Quartz
5 Honey, Butter, & Amethyst
4 Turquoise, Green Peridot, Honey, Butter & Amethyst
4 Nutmeg & Lava Stone
3 Dark Cherry & Turquoise
3 Honey, Aqua Stone, & White Agate
3 Cognac, Tiger Eye, & Lapis Lazuli
2 Dark Cherry, Rose Quartz, & Amethyst
A: It’s possible that a step got skipped with your necklace. We order everything a hint short and then stretch them to length to get the kinks out and so it rests evenly on the skin. Here's what you should do: Carefully pull on the necklace with a few inches secured in each palm (don’t pull on the clasps!). It should feel like pulling taffy and the knots should tighten as you pull. If it does not stretch easily but instead already feels really taut, discontinue pulling as you risk breaking the jewelry. Note that this is a permanent adjustment to the length of your necklace so be careful not to stretch it to be longer than you would like!
Ready to Order? Visit one of our Baltic amber collections:
STILL have unanswered questions? Please write us!