Ambergris Identification

If you are new to ambergris, it is difficult to identify with certainty.
It doesn't help that ambergris can be black or white, hard or soft and virtually anything between. The following tests may help determine whether a substance is ambergris or not.

Heat a needle over a flame and insert into the ambergris. The needle should slide in easily and an oil will run down the needle and a pleasant smell will omit from this process. However, this is not a definitive test. Quite a few substances react to a hot needle in a similar manner. Substances often mistaken for ambergris include fat, tallow, sea sponge and wax.

Slice or break a small piece off and hold over a flame. The piece should burn and omit a pleasant fragrance and the area burnt will become oily / waxy and sticky.

Place a piece between your thumb and forefinger and roll around for 30 seconds. Join your thumb and forefinger and you should find it will stick together slightly.

The smell or fragrance is also a guide to identifying ambergris. Ambergris seldom smells offensive, especially if it is hard and dry. The outside of the softer and usually black ambergris can smell okay but the inside may be damp and somewhat faecal smelling. The smell of ambergris is the defining characteristic. Having said that, the smell does vary considerably.

Email us some digital photographs to info@ambergris.net.nz and we will verify it for you. It will be helpful if you describe whether it is hard, soft, spongy, pliable and whether it is easy or difficult to cut, scrape or break. Describe the smell as well.