Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 399, Issue 3, pp 1347–1353 | Cite as

Identification of volatile degradation products from Baltic amber by headspace solid-phase microextraction coupled with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry

  • Gianluca PastorelliEmail author
Original Paper


The aim of this study was to test and develop techniques for the detection and identification of volatile compounds released as degradation products by Baltic amber. During a preliminary investigation, the off-gassing of acidic volatiles was detected through the corrosion of lead coupons. The corrosive compounds released by the material were then identified as formic acid and acetic acid by headspace solid-phase microextraction coupled with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. During an advanced investigation, based on the use of artificial ageing to initiate degradation of model amber samples in different microclimates, the detected formic acid and acetic acid off-gassing appeared to be more intense in a dry environment with normal oxygen concentration. The release of formic and acetic acids by the amber was likely the result of radical reactions which should be investigated in further studies.


Baltic amber Headspace Solid-phase microextraction Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry 



The author is grateful to Jane Richter (School of Conservation, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts), Yvonne Shashoua and Jens Glastrup (Research, Analysis and Consulting Laboratory of the Department of Conservation, National Museum of Denmark) for invaluable supervision.

The School of Conservation of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and the Research, Analysis and Consulting Laboratory of the Department of Conservation, National Museum of Denmark, are thanked for providing all the materials and experimental equipment used for this research.

The European Union’s Marie Curie Programme is thanked for the financial support which made this study possible.


  1. 1.
    Beck CW (1982) Authentication and conservation of amber: conflict of interests. Science and technology in the service of conservation, preprints of the contributions to the IIC Washington congress, 3-9 September, pp 104-107Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Williams RS, Waddington JB, Fenn J (1990) Collect Forum 2(6):65–75Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Zivancevic MP, Stojiljkovic D, Brzakovic M (2006) Archaeol Monogr 18:400–419Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gough LJ, Mills JS (1972) Nature 239:527–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mosini V, Forcellese ML, Nicoletti R (1980) Phytochemistry 19:679–680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Mills JS, White R, Gough L (1984) Chem Geol 47:14–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Anderson KB (1996) In: Anderson KB, Crelling JC (eds) Amber, resinite, and fossil resins. American Chemical Society, Washington, pp 105–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Villanueva-García M, Martínez-Richa A, Robles J (2005) Arkivoc 2005(vi):449-458.
  9. 9.
    Oddy WA (1973) An unsuspected danger in display. Mus J 73:27–28Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Oddy WA (1975) The corrosion of metals on display. Conservation in archaeology and the applied arts. International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, LondonGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Galletti GC, Mazzeo R (1993) Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 7(7):646–650CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Heck G (1999) Berl Beitr Archaeom 16:211–240Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Tonidandel L, Ragazzi E, Traldi P (2009) Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 3(23):403–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Arthur CL, Pawliszyn J (1990) Anal Chem 62(19):2145–2148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Zhang Z, Pawliszyn J (1993) Anal Chem 65(14):1843–1852CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ryhl-Svendsen M, Glastrup J (2002) Atmos Environ 36:3909–3916CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Urbanski T (1971) Proc R Soc Lond Ser A Math Phys Sci 1562(325):377–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Odegaard N, Carroll S, Zimmt WS (2000) Material characterization tests for objects of art. Archetype Publications, LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Grattan DW, Gilberg M (1994) Stud Conserv 39:210–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Shashoua Y, Degn Berthelsen ML, Nielsen OF (2005) J Raman Spectrosc 37:1221–1227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    De la Rie ER (1988) Stud Conserv 33:53–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Scalarone D, Van der Horst J, Boon JJ, Chiantore O (2003) J Mass Spectrom 38:607–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Dietemann P, Higgitt C, Kälin M, Edelmann MJ, Knochenmuss R, Zenobi R (2009) J Cult Herit 10:30–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Mills JS (1966) Stud Conserv 11:92–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Martínez-Richa A, Vera-Graziano R, Rivera A, Joseph-Nathan P (1999) Polymer 2(41):743–750Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ConservationRoyal Danish Academy of Fine ArtsCopenhagen KDenmark
  2. 2.Research, Analysis and Consulting Laboratory of the Department of ConservationNational Museum of DenmarkKongens LyngbyDenmark
  3. 3.The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies - Centre for Sustainable HeritageUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations