If you have never seen, touched or smelt ambergris, it is highly unlikely you will be able to identify what you have; you will likely require help from those with experience, who deal regularly within this market. There are a few tests you can do at home, but none of their results can be considered conclusive in confirming whether you have ambergris or not.
The following information serves to help eliminate materials which are NOT ambergris and identify those with potential.
If you would like help identifying a find, please do not hesitate to send us some pictures via our sell ambergris formClick Here
One of the most commonly asked questions relating to ambergris is - as one would imagine - “what does it look like?” When it comes to the colour of ambergris, there are many shades that can reveal its quality.
Ambergris retains water-weight. This is lost mainly within the first couple of months, as the piece dries out. Keep in mind that the sale price is subject to the weight.
As each piece is individual and unique according to it’s age, location/journey and exposure to the elements, it is impossible to advise on how much or how fast weight-loss may occur. It is however logical to advise that the sooner the piece is sold into the market, the more it will retain/reflect its initial agreed value. At Ambergris Connect, we always consider this when facilitating a transaction, as it can affect both the buyer’s and seller’s benefits.
Commonly mistaken for ambergris.
Ambergris identification is a tricky field. If you search it on the internet, the common ‘go-to’ traits advised to watch out for are:
Numerous NEWS ARTICLES available on the internet report on various ambergris findings from over the years, but DO NOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ!! We are all familiar with the concept of “FAKE NEWS..”
If you study these articles closely, you will notice that publications never commit to stating in black and white that the piece in question actually sold for as much as the headline claims it was worth, or whether it was in fact ever confirmed as ambergris, or whether it even sold at all!
The media coverage you see on the internet mostly features finds that weren’t ambergris (most it seems are palm oil – see what palm oil can look like on our identification page).
Keep in mind that the media are legally permitted to print any claim they wish (for example “the piece has been ESTIMATED at $500,000”) however they can only publish conclusive facts if they are true and have backing evidence (for example “the piece SOLD for $500,000”).
It is important not to get overly excited about, or base expectations on the selling prices alluded to on these sites; consider the possibility that the facts may be exaggerated and/or misquoted to make the story seem more impressive and ‘newsworthy’!
The methods of laboratory testing recommended to identify ambergris, should be based on those published by Rowland and Sutton (2017) and Rowland et al., (2018) and include use of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (FTIR, GC-MS and NMR) techniques. The latter allow the identification and measurement of ambrein, which is the major constituent of genuine ambergris and also measurement and identification of any co-occurring compounds, such as faecal steroids.
Rowland, S.J. and Sutton, P.A. (2017) Chromatographic and spectral studies of jetsam and archived ambergris. Natural Product Research 31, 1752-1757 [doi: 10.1080/14786419.2017.1290618].
Rowland, S.J., Sutton, P.A., Belt, S.T., Fitzsimmons-Thoss, V. and Scarlet, A.G. (2018) Further spectral and chromatographic studies of ambergris. Natural Product Research [doi: 10.1080/14786419.2018.1428599].
Cameron Beccario has created a visualization of global weather conditions.
Opens in new window
This live visualisation collect real-time data and processes it to show as a globe of the earth. The map shows global weather conditions. Ocean surface currents and temperatures.
Visit our ambergris facebook group where you will find posts that can assist with identification.