Have you ever wondered which teething remedies work and which ones don’t? Baltic amber necklaces may seem silly, but actually the way they work is pretty simple. Amber resin contains succinic acid, a natural analgesic that is released when warm skin touches the beads.
Unfortunately baltic amber is pretty easy to counterfeit, so if you’ve found your baby’s amber necklace doesn’t work it may not be authentic. If your necklace is cool to the touch like glass, it’s counterfeit. However, if it’s warm or neutral it could be plastic, a young tree resin called copal, or another material. If you’re not sure the necklace you bought is authentic, try one of these simple tests:
The Heat Test
This tip comes from Dana Seilhan, who shared it on this thread. (Thanks Dana!) Basically, you want to touch a bead to something very hot to release it’s fragrance. As Dana put it, “If you smell pine resin, it’s amber. If you smell burning plastic… well. ” Of course, if it’s glass it may not smell like anything at all . . . what you’re looking for is the pine smell.
After looking around on different jewelers websites and such, I found that most recommend this method:
Heat Test: Heat a needle point in a flame until it is very hot (after a long while with a long-handled kitchen lighter I finally got mine to glow a little), then touch the tip of the needle to a bead in a non-obvious area. If it smells like pine resin – aka a Christmas tree – it’s likely to be true baltic amber. Now, the smell is not necessarily particularly pleasant and could be confused with plastic for that reason. What you’re looking for is a pine odor within the overall fragrance – that’s the key. Please be aware that you will have a small hole and maybe a little discoloration where the pin was placed.
What if it doesn’t have much of a smell at all? If you’ve been using the necklace for awhile it’s possible that it is genuine amber that has lost potency. On the other hand if you do smell pine, there’s a possibility that it’s something other than amber. Copal is an immature tree resin that smells like amber but doesn’t have it’s properties. Fortunately, the next test can help you distinguish between amber and copal.
The Rubbing Test
“This is the simplest and safest test,” writes DragonFly amber. Wrap the necklace in a soft cloth and rub rub rub – if it’s true amber it will become electrostatically charged enough to pick up small pieces of paper. Copal will not take on an electrostatic charge and may become sticky. (source)
The Alcohol Test
Both copal and plastic will deteriorate when they come into contact with a solvent. (source) “Plastics are quickly attacked by alcohol (95% ethyl alcohol), acetone (100%), and ether. A few drops of acetone (fingernail polish remover) or alcohol dripped over the surface of the piece will reveal if it holds up to the solvent. If the surface becomes tacky, it’s not amber. Amber will not feel tacky or dissolve under these solvents.” (source) Because my “natural” nail polish remover is acetone-free, I did not do this test. Perhaps the vodka I keep on hand for making vanilla and mint extract – I’m not sure. Also, glass will not be affected by the alcohol test, but it will fail the saltwater test.
The Saltwater Test
Amber is so light that it will float in salt water. To test your necklace, mix together a solution of 1 part salt to 2 parts water. (For example, you could use 1/3 cup salt to 2/3 cup water.) Dissolve the salt completely and drop your necklace in the mixture. Plastic and glass will sink, true baltic amber and some types of copal will float. If you’re not sure whether your necklace is amber or copal, try the rubbing test.
Where Can I Find Authentic Baltic Amber Necklaces?
I’ve misplaced several necklaces over the course of raising three babies. I would order another one and then later find the lost one, so I have a bit of a “stash” from several companies.
When you’re shopping around keep in mind that some say amber which is light in color contains the most succinic acid. Also, necklaces are not “supposed” to be worn at night, but obviously that’s when babies are usually most uncomfortable when teething. Many moms leave them on all the time (except bath time) and just make sure that the necklace fits snugly so that it’s not likely to get caught on anything. Other moms wrap it around a wrist or ankle instead, though those areas tend not to generate quite as much warmth. Here’s what I personally look for in a necklace:
Safety knotted – The necklace is knotted between every bead to prevent beads from spilling everywhere should the string break
Tension release clasp – The necklace has a clasp that will break under pressure for safety reasons.
I’ve purchased from several companies on Amazon. I’ve also bought some locally that were good. My personal favorite is the raw 100% baltic amber teething necklace.
Have you ever used an amber teething necklace with your little one? How did it work for you?