Copal – A substitute for amber

Copal is frequently mistaken for amber, and it actually is amber – immature amber that is. Both amber and copal are derived from plant resin or sap that has hardened and fossilized in one form or the other. The age of amber usually ranges from 30-90 million years old, but copal is much, much younger; many specimens are only a few hundred years old. The oldest copal is only believed to be around 1 million years old, but there exists a lot of disagreement among gemologists on this.

I have a beautiful copal specimen that I’ve kept all these years. Copal often has many foreign inclusions in them, these can be plant debris or insects trapped within. Since amber is more expensive than copal and many fine specimens with preserved fossilized life forms have already been collected by avid collectors, copal can be a fine (cheaper) substitute for amber. The resin that constitutes copal is mainly derived from tropical/subtropical trees like araucaria and agathis species; it is probable that deposits may exist in the tropical/subtropical forests of Asia although most of the copal is currently sourced from Colombia.

My copal has quite a few insects trapped inside it and they are marvelously preserved, I must say. It originates from Colombia (as most copal sold commercially now comes from there) and is very soft, with a probable hardness of less than 3 on the Mohs scale. But the color is fantastic, and it exudes a warm glow. You can see it from the photo I took below.

copal piece

A large copal piece

In many cases, the color of copal is actually more vivid than amber, and being more common, it is often passed off fraudulently as amber. A simple test to differentiate between copal and amber is to drip a few drops of alcohol onto the surface; copal will turn sticky while amber remains inert.

Copal is not as hard as amber, and therefore tarnishes or scratches easily. If you intend to use or carry it frequently, you should use opaque specimens. It is soothing in quality, and stimulates the crown chakra and while cleansing the aura of energy blockages. It also helps to amplify the energy fields if worn around the body. If amber jewelry is too costly, copal can be worn as a substitute.

If burnt, copal emits a soothing fragrance like amber, and it is sought after as incense by some alternative healers. Like amber, copal is great for making an elixir. The elixir is believed to stimulate the body’s healing mechanisms and cellular renewal. It is also good for the kidneys, bladder, prostrate and adrenal glands. Copal also assists in digestion and assimilation. While not as old as amber, it is still valuable for sharing many of amber’s characteristics and is a worthy substitute.

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Categories: Amber.