Monday, February 27, 2017

Natural Amber Resin or Imitation Resin?

It happened again. Another show where customers told me my Lithuanian Amber pieces were too expensive because the guy a few booths down sold them a beautiful piece of amber for just $ xx.xx. When I lightly mention it to the other seller they always say, "Hey, it is a 'buyer beware' market and I expect that all my customers are educated individuals. Anyway, the color is amber (turquoise, jade, etc.) so I am not lying about the piece." 

Now let me take a minute here to tell you that a number of jewelers use a play on words when selling their goods because the US does not have a standard assaying process for jewelers. So, you really do have to trust your jeweler if you don't do your own research. Baltic Amber is a natural resin : However, the imitation resin that is sold as amber is a chemical mixture which is poured and fixed. So you see how they can use the word resin and not be lying to the customer. There are natural resins that form in nature, and there are chemical man made resins. Also, just as with any stone or metal jewelry, a piece of jewelry can be sold by its color and not its material. (Amber, Turquoise, Gold, Ruby, Silver...)  Do you understand this?

It does bother me that customers think they can get Baltic Amber, old Jade, and solid American Turquoise pieces for a low pricetag. And it also bothers me that customers think I am gouging them when I ask over $100.00 for pieces of true Natural Amber or Solid Natural Stone. So I am doing a little educational post today just to make myself feel better. 

Today's post will be on Natural Amber Resin vs. Imitation Resin. After this, if a customer wants to pay for imitation amber from a store or festival vendor, perhaps I will feel a little less upset. I am doing my part to aide the customer who chooses to be an educated buyer.

I am starting with Amber because of all the baby necklaces I see on children. I can usually spot an imitation resin or plastic necklace a mile away. And the parent will always announce how proud they are that they got such a good price on the necklace. Inside, I cry for the baby who would benefit if it were true Amber. 

What follows are photos I took this morning. I made a mixture of saltwater using a lot of table salt and warm tap water. 

The first photos are from a piece that a "reputable" dealer sold me which had already been set. I didn't have the privacy or the ability to clean the item so I could "taste test" it for a bitter imitation resin taste. And I have purchased stones from this person before that were true - so I trusted him. But when I got home and had the opportunity to look closer at the piece, I realized it was not natural amber resin. I took a hammer to it and broke it out of its setting for this example.

You will notice in all of these photos that the imitation resin sinks to the bottom of the container when placed in salt water. Fake resins and plastics are heavy and will always sink to the bottom of a saltwater mixture. 

Next, I strained the same water into an identical container, removing most of the imitation resin particles.

Here you can see the strained resin and the original salt water in a new container.

Next I added my true Natural Baltic Amber beads to the saltwater.

And this is the proof. AMBER FLOATS. This is usually how Amber is found on the Baltic seashore. It floats to the top of the ocean when it breaks off from its host. And then it is washed ashore. Amber is a light naturally formed resin and it floats on saltwater. It will not sink to the bottom of a saltwater mixture like heavier commercial resins or plastics. 

So, without taking your baby's necklace apart, simply break off one of the stones and see if it floats in saltwater. This will not work if the amber is attached to anything. The weight of string, etc. will pull the amber down. It has to be a free piece of amber. 

You are welcome.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Charleston City Market will start to focus on Being Green!

As a participating business in the Charleston Green Business Challenge, and a temporary vendor in the Charleston City Market, I was thrilled to hear that the Charleston City Market would be taking steps to become a more "green aware" entity. Last year they added recycling bins at the side entrances of the market sheds. That was a huge step for this "old man" institution. Last night, at our Night Market meeting, manager Karen Williams announced that the Market was going to take steps to bring more awareness to the Market in this area. It's true folks, even in Charleston, "With God, all things are possible."