How to tell if your gemstone is real
You probably have a stone in your hands and you want to know, how can I tell if my gemstone is real or fake? What’s a synthetic gemstone? Which gemstone is the most expensive? Or maybe you saw an absolutely gorgeous gemstone ring online, it says its real, but the price looks suspicious. This always happens in the jewelry industry.
Knowing you gemstone
First of all, a gemstone according to Wikipedia is a “piece of mineral crystal which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments”. Nothing too complicated here, right?
This is the kind of stone we all have in mind. It’s grown in nature without the influence of humans, it's a rock, and then jewelers would change its form to add them to our jewelry, but the rock itself hasn't been altered in other more artificial and sometimes misleading ways. The stone it’s totally natural.
Nowadays there are more than 200 kinds of natural gemstones (known by humankind). Some of them are called precious, and these are diamonds, rubies, sapphire, emeralds; and the others are called semi-precious. Precious stones are called like that because in ancient times were considered extremely rare and valuable, but nowadays that's now entirely true, there are semi-precious stones that are even more rare and valuable. But most of the semi-precious stones are not incredibly expensive, like Lapis Lazuli and Flourite.
These stones are grown naturally without the influence of humans. But, the big difference is, it’s treated with chemicals and processes to enhance its appearance. For example, sometimes Tanzanite or Sapphire are heated to deepen its color intensity. This allows manufacturers to use gemstones of low quality, to then enhance them, and increase their value because otherwise, costumers wouldn’t buy the stone in its original form.
Or lab-created. They are physically identical to natural stones, and share chemical composition with them BUT (yes, big but) they are grown and manufactured in laboratories under controlled environments, this means, they make the stone born. They use the right temperatures and levels to create an appropriate environment and add all the chemicals and minerals they need to make the stone grow. Nowadays, synthetic stones are just as beautiful (or even more) than natural or genuine ones. This is because they are grown without the chaotic and random natural world. According to the International Gem Society (IGS), synthetic gems have been amongst us since 1900s, but imitations exist since the beginning of gems, so don’t think that because a gem is old, it is natural. Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is the industry’s leading gem laboratory and research center. Another thing here is, not every synthetic gem has its counterparts in nature. Sometimes labs just create new gems, with no natural mineral counterparts. For example, Garnets. They are a lab-created gem which usually comes in red and it’s used to imitate Rubies, but can come in any color. It does not exist in its pure form in nature.
So, for sure you are now asking, which one is the most expensive?
Short answer: It will depend. Just because the stone is natural, doesn’t mean it will be more expensive. There are tons of natural stones worth, well ….$0. It will depend especially on its preservation state. So, double-check the stone before you pay a lot of money just because it’s natural.
Here’s where things get dark.
These kinds of gemstone are made from several materials, like plastic, resin, dyes, and glass. They try to imitate the color, shape and look of a natural/synthetic one, but, bottom line, they don’t share any of the chemical substance. Sadly, sometimes sellers try to trick customers with these stones, selling them as natural or synthetic ones. That said, there are imitation stones that are popular in the market. A popular example is a zirconia. Zirconia is sold all over the world imitating diamonds. Most of the time, people know is zirconia (probably for the price), and they still buy it.
Prices will depend, like any other market, on supply and demand laws. If the stone is really really rare, it will be really really expensive. Some things, as the transparency of the gems, tend to raise its prices. But again, if the gem looks too clear, it probably has been treated. When you are looking for synthetic gems, it’s hard to find them under the category of “synthetic”. The word has negative connotations of not being real, so you probably find them under the name of created stones. In the States, Christmas Holidays are traditionally the best time to buy jewelry, and Black Friday is a great opportunity to get deals on it, check this article about what is worth and what is not the effort on Black Friday.
Then, how do I know if the gemstone is real or not?
Take it to a specialist. I know, but it’s the best way to make sure. It is the only person who can tell for sure if the gemstone is natural, synthetic, and genuine or imitations. There are no magic forms here. These people dedicate their lives to study gems, and no one better than them to tell you the kind of stone you have and its value. But still, if you are not talking to a specialist, here’s what you can do:
- Ocular Inspection
- Check the seller
This will help especially to distinguish between real/genuine/synthetic and imitations. Help yourself with a magnifying glass (min 10X of magnification) to look for any inclusions, marks, chipping, cracks, scratches and black spots. If it has little or big bubbles, it’s probably resin, and try to see if the material is plastic or resin.
Put your rock between the sun and your eye. Gems' materials refract lights, so you shouldn’t be able to look through the gem, because glass reflects light.
Real gems are smooth to the touch, so try to feel if your gem is rough or has a sandy texture.
Real gems are heavier than fakes ones. They are, after all, rocks.
Check the seller
You will have to follow your instincts here, but in general, check the seller's reputation, sellers should be able to educate you about gems and have trustworthy credentials.
Too good to be true. If it’s too cheap, it's likely glass or plastic.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires that all treated gemstones carry a disclosure of the treatment. And real gems should come with a certificate. Make sure the certificate is made from a trustworthy institute. These tips can be helpful when you combine them, but one alone won’t indicate anything. And remember, they don’t certify if your gem is real or fake. There are so many kinds of gemstones out there, that even those safe test you’ll find online, do not work on all of them.
WHAT NOT TO DO
You will find all over the internet DIY tests to determine at home if your gem is real or fake. For example the water test, if your gem floats on water, its fakes, but if it sinks to the bottom, it is real (because of the weight); or the fog test, it tells you to breathe a puff on the gem and if the fog takes time to disappear is fake BE CAREFUL. Some tests like the heat one can damage your gem, even if it’s real. Emeralds and opals (and many others) are especially fragile and can be damaged with the heat. Have you had a bad experience buying gems? We would like to read about it! Share it in the comments.