Copal

Copal is essentially 'young Amber', varying from 50 to 1.6 million years old.

Amber is a polymerised resin – Copal is only partially polymerised. It appeals to collectors as Copal often has insect inclusions – often multiple inclusions.

Some less scrupulous sellers may attempt to sell Copal as Amber – see the bottom of this page for a quick test you can do!

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Appearance, Uses and History

Copal is often described as ‘young Amber’ – it is in a state somewhere between being a ‘gummier’ resin and full hardness. This process is known as polymerisation.

Copal has been used for hundreds of years as a form of incense, although in more recent years it was used as a wood varnish.

One of the most popular forms of Copal is known as Kauri gum, from New Zealand. Collectors tend to be in two minds on Copal – on the one hand, a large piece with multiple inclusions is far cheaper than true Amber; but it is often missold as Amber!


Locales

Copal can occur in a wide range of locales, but some of the most popular collectors specimens are from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Madagascar, or New Zealand.


Mineralogy

Chemistry
Copal is a partially polymerised organic resin with the formula C10H16O + H 2S.
Colours and Variations
Often yellow, golden, orange with inclusions of various colours.
Streak
Luster
Resinous
Fracture
Transparency
Transparent, translucent, or opaque.
Crystal habit
N/A – partially polymerised organic resin.
Mohs hardness
2 – 3
Specific Gravity
1.05 – 1.10
Easiest testing method
Sometimes shows a white or off white Fluorescence.
Can be tested with a drop of acetone, which will make the surface tacky – whereas it will not affect Amber.
Common Treatments

Photos of Copal

Copal Madagascar
Copal 170308 3
Copal 170308 1

Copal 170308 5
Copal Madagascar - Isoptera
Copal-madagascar

Kauri gum polished side
Kauri Gum - amber (copal) in The Kauri Museum, New Zealand by Tatters

Hazards and Warnings

Almost all rocks, minerals (and, frankly, almost all other substances on earth) can produce toxic dust when cutting, which can cause serious respiratory conditions including silicosis.

When cutting or polishing rocks, minerals, shells, etc, all work should be done wet to minimise the dust, and a suitable respirator or extraction system should be used.


Translations

Arabic:

Hindi:

Portuguese:

Bengali:

Indonesian:

  • Kopal

Punjabi:

English:

Italian:

  • Copale

Russian:

  • копал

French:

Japanese:

Spanish:

German:

  • Baumharz
  • Copalin

Korean:

  • 코펄

Thai:

  • โคปอล

Gujurati:

Mandarin and Traditional Chinese:

  • 柯巴脂

Urdu:


Further Reading / External Links