How to test your ambergris
When you burn a small piece of 2gr in a spoon, it is not ambergris if you get a liquid, yellow like oil, but if it forms a black and sticky substance, which makes fibers when placed between the thumb and forefinger, it is possible that it is ambergris.
The best and fastest way to identify ambergris is to smell its peculiar smell, which also helps to determine its age, quality and predict its evolution over time. The smell of fresh grey amber is foul-smelling, dominated by fresh horse droppings and cow dung. As the months go by, it turns into the smell of manure and stable (perfumers will say barn or old pipe). Then, little by little, the smell improves, rounds, perfumes while retaining a pronounced animal note; finally the fragrant notes appear. They are gradually being refined and, to achieve this, it may take 10, 20 or more years.
Ambergris comes in a variety of aspects: whole blocks, kidneys, coatings (or broken), very hard sausages.
2.1 The whole blocks, ovoid in shape with irregular edges, are composed of kidneys embedded or inserted in the coating. The weight of a block can range from ten to 400 kg and more. The blocks are fragile; they explode on impact, which releases the kidneys.
2.2 The kidneys look like river pebbles, with a finer and denser structure than the coating. They are more weather resistant. As the blocks are made up of many kidneys, it is normal for kidney discoveries to be more frequent. A kidney can range in size from a ping pong ball to a river pebble.
3. Evolution of appearance with time
The appearance changes with time. The consistency of fresh ambergris is generally sticky, compressible and brittle (moist earth) while that of an old ambergris is dry, hard and brittle (dry clay). It takes several years for a block to dry. Fresh, it is said that the ambergris is moist. It then loses a lot of weight: 30 to 40% during the first months then, less significantly over the years. Very dry, it will have lost 60% and even up to 70% of its initial weight. The drying time and the weight losses vary enormously depending on the quality. Oxidized by the ambient air, the ambergris wears out over time and eventually disappears almost completely.
The appearance changes with time. The consistency of fresh ambergris is usually sticky.
The color of ambergris changes from silver black or beige brown to grey. It clears up over time. Sometimes, on the surface, a silvery “grey white” crystallization is formed.
The texture is grainy. That of kidneys is tighter and finer than the coating which has a coarser texture.
6. Effects of heat
The sun acts on all pieces of ambergris. The heat melts the ambergris on the surface forming a layer similar to coal tar (tar) or honey which covers the part exposed to the sun. When it's hot, this layer sticks to your fingers and the color darkens. Ambergris melts at a temperature of 65-70 ° C. Color and transparency are quality indicators.
7. Squid Beaks
If you detect squid beaks embedded in a block, this indicates that it is indeed ambergris. It is rare that it does not contain any. There are usually a few, but sometimes you can find hundreds. The presence of spouts is not a quality criterion. They are distributed irregularly, and, in general, more are found in the coating than in the kidneys. The wear of the block shows on the surface of the beaks easily identifiable by their smooth and shiny shape, and their black color.
8. Finding pieces in the sea
Whole blocks are often found in the open sea. Blocks, having a density close to that of seawater, are almost entirely submerged. They are only seen intermittently. On calm seas, it is also possible to detect them by the foul smell, characteristic of fresh ambergris, which they give off.
9. Collecting on the beach
Ambergris can be found everywhere by the sea, but especially on beaches exposed to the wind where everything floating on the sea is thrown back onto the shore by the currents. Ambergris can be delicately placed on the sand by the sea when it is not projected onto reefs or rocks, exploded, picked up by the ocean, tossed, rolled, according to waves and tides.
It can have all kinds of shapes and colors, worn by the sand, melted by the sun and eaten by crabs. The pieces found on the beaches range from a few tens of grams to several tens of kilos.
10. Conservation of Ambergris
Ambergris should not be stored in plastic or tightly closed containers, but stored in a canvas bag, as it will lose weight and become moldy, which will affect its properties. Similarly, do not subject it to high temperatures, it could melt and be irretrievably lost. Always keep it away from animals: dogs, pigs or rats ...
11. Olfactive characteristics of Amber Gris
Each block of ambergris is unique, it has its own smell. Amber gris is a fragrance diffuser that creates real fragrances as it evolves over time.
12. Infusion of Grey Amber
The ambergris infusion reflects its scent at the time of infusion.
• The infusion stops the natural evolution of ambergris.
• Two infusions made with the same piece of amber gris but at different times will not give the same result.
13. Choosing Grey Amber
The perfumer only buys ambergris from his broker, a trusted man who guarantees the goods sold. He is a chief perfumer who chooses ambergris because it takes a great deal of experience and a lot of intuition to anticipate the evolution of ambergris before deciding on its infusion.
14. Value of Ambergris
Perfumers buy ambergris when the smell of a block suits their needs. An ambergris that satisfies one may have no interest for others. The value of grey amber depends on what it is given, its nature and/or its abundance on the market.