How to spot Irradiated Tourmaline

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

While discussing some other fraudulent items coming out of Pakistan, Aisha from Rocks-A-Holics told me about the color change in some tourmaline crystals when irradiated. You can take crystals that have little to no color, very pale crystals and zap them, creating a marked increase in the color of the crystals, turning bright pink. The color fades over time and very quickly when exposed to sunlight.

While scanning eBay we came across this item you can find the original auction HERE AT THIS LINK

Take a look at these photos below. If you saw a selection of tourmaline crystals with great color, you could let imagination take hold and convince yourself they are legit. However, like these photos show, the quartz associated with the tourmaline is pitch black, a clear indication that the crystals have been irradiated. In fact, the color is so strong, we would guess that this lot is still giving off radiation, or “hot”. Much like irradiated blue topaz, we don’t say these crystals are now worthless, they are simply poor quality material enhanced by man and not worth as much as a natural crystal with similar color.


When shopping for tourmaline and other gem crystals, remember, super rich hues from crystals that are for sale from dealers who are not well known, chances are, they might have some sort of treatment.

Gem Gymnastics – Bending Over Backwards for the Good Stuff

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

When considering a gem or mineral, it is very rare that someone wants an imitation. There was a time when getting anything other than what you bargained for was pretty rare but it is becoming more and more common to get fakes. We are at a point in time where more and more people can afford precious gems but resources are becoming depleted and everyone wants something extraordinarily scarce. Well the way some are making a profit off of this high demand isn’t by taking the high road out.
Fakes are a nasty issue that we, unfortunately, have to face and the best way to handle this issue, as an individual, is to educate yourself. What is fake? What makes them fake? What are some ways I can identify them?

A Basic Breakdown

These are the real deal. These gems are found in nature. They developed naturally over a long period of time without any intervention. They can be found deep in the earth, in rivers, in cliffs and elsewhere. Specific types of gems are found in particular locations. For example, turquoise is made when water interacts with a rock containing copper, aluminum and phosphorus and is found in desert areas like Arizona. Since Newfoundland is not a desert-like dry place, chances are you aren’t going to find any turquoise there.

Gems tend to be cut and polished when sold since they are typically used for jewelry but they can be sold in their rough stage, which really looks a lot neater because then you can see the way the crystals are formed and what they look like when they are found or broken open. Amethyst, for example, looks like a regular rock from the outside but once it has been cracked open, you can see that it is hollow and crystals have formed and covered the inside.

Natural Amethyst Geode with Calcite crystal from South America

Synthetic gems are appearing more and more. A synthetic gem has the same visual, chemical and physical properties of the natural gem but they are created in labs by humans. They are made with the same materials but in a condensed amount of time.

You can actually choose what goes into some of your synthetic gems. There’s actually a synthetic diamond called a memorial diamond. After someone has passed, you can cremate them, have their ashes compressed and turned into teeny tiny little diamonds that you can carry around and wear.
This technique (and the other synthetic diamond techniques that don’t involve the remains of loved ones) can make them look identical to actually made-by-mother-earth gems. Often times they cannot be told apart and much of the time, people prefer synthetic gems to the real thing because they are a fraction of the cost and are free of flaws.

As with all things in nature, gems are made with flaws. They may not have pure color all the way through or have flakes of minerals that didn’t convert, but this is what makes them one of a kind. Unfortunately, perfection is something often desired in a gem even if it isn’t really real.

Despite the fact that they are made in laboratories, it isn’t entirely fair to say that they are fake…sort of like Champagne wine. Technically it isn’t Champagne unless it was produced in Champagne France even though it was made with all of the correct ingredients and in the correct manner. Just not in the right place.

Imitation/ Simulated/ Fake, Fake, Fake!
These gems do not have the same chemical makeup! They are often made of plastic, ceramic, glass, or resin but are designed to look similar. Sometimes they are simply painted rocks or rocks glued to other rocks to look cool. Sometimes it can be very difficult to tell the difference but don’t be fooled. There are smart ways to help prevent being bamboozled by charlatans.

  • 1. Ask. Cubic zirconia and moissanite are very common used for imitation diamonds. If you are buying from a retailer, just ask. If you don’t simply ask “is this real?” they might not say anything at all.
  • 2. Look under the gem. Check the base for mounting for glue, or paint. Sometimes the base or tip of a gem will be painted to make the color stand out.
  • 3. Check for uneven coloring. It could be dyed.
  • 4. Have it evaluated. It’s not free but it sure is better than paying an arm and a leg for a phony bologna gem.

How Fake?
Now there are different ways to be fake.
One method is partially real…this is called composite. It’s where you take a small portion of something desirable and use it to coat the exterior and then combined with an imitation or something inexpensive to make the mass larger and can be done in doublets or triplets (two or three pieces). This commonly happens with gems like opal.
Rubies, unfortunately, are commonly composite today as well but in a different manner than how opals are made composite. They are mixed or filed with glass. When a ruby is treated, it goes through a heating technique which intensifies the color of the gem. However when it’s mixed with glass, bubbles and cracks can appear and it can even shatter after seconds of being exposed to the heat.
There are naturally colored gems, like diamonds, that occur in nature but the color can be changed or manipulated under intense radiation. Diamonds that are found colored in nature are extremely rare and horribly expensive. Identifying if a diamond’s color has been affected by radiation is near impossible. If exposed to high heat there is a chance that the colors could change but it is not guaranteed, so beware.

Author’s Bio: Rachael Avery is a lover of shiny things from Boise, ID. She writes for Gem Quarry when she isn’t running in the hills or bouldering.

New Fake Minerals Guide on The-Vug.com

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

The-Vug.com has the best guide to mineral fakes and forgeries online and it just got better!!

The guide has been refreshed and now it is, hands down, the very best mineral fakes page online.
It seperates the fake minerals into different subjects;

  • Man Made Crystals
  • Coated Crystals
  • Chemical Reaction to Crystals
  • Mechanic Alteration of Crystals
  • Irradiation of Crystals
  • Heat Treatment of Crystals
  • Dyeing of Crystals
  • Misrepresentation
  • Hoax
  • Artisian products
  • YOU can HELP spread this information far and wide by posting this link on your facebook, in your club newsletter, on your website or blog, on a post at that social networking site you love so much or ANYWHERE! People should know the basics of these scams so they don’t get scammed while visiting a gem and mineral show in Tucson or Denver!


    Some of the new addition to the guide are a video showing how to form bismuth crystals, new “man modified” crystals, better examples of irradiated heliodor and smoky quartz. Photos of the roasted acanthite ore silver specimens are available to view, though the mineral community would like to silently sweep that one under the rug. The legendary scam lapidary item, Cal-Silica is featured, along with all your favorite range of dyed minerals!

    If you never checked out the old guide, here is your chance to get a fresh view! If you are familiar with the classic guide, you’ll love our new updated version! Thanks to everyone at The-Vug.com for providing the new content and thanks to you for sharing it with your friends!

    Insert this snippet of code into your website or blog to place our banner and link on your site! By doing so you are helping so many people avoid getting scammed!

    <a href="http://www.the-vug.com/vug/vugfakes.html" target="self"></a>

    <img src="http://www.the-vug.com/vug/fake-heliodor-banner.png" width="400"/>


    Ministry of Mining in Namibia encourages mineral sellers to not sell or create fake minerals

    Monday, June 18th, 2012

    In a perfect example of Namibian forward thinking, in 2010, the Minister of Mines told the artisan miner population to avoid the sale of faked and created mineral specimens. While fakes from Namibia have always been somewhat uncommon, a few mineral dealers have been temporarily disappointed when a flat of crafted specimens make their way onto the mineral marketplace. The clusters from Erongo are typically the most forged. The feldspar matrix can have aquamarine and fluorite crystals glued on with bits of mica over-top the glue. Yet, the natural clusters are so good, it keeps mineral collectors coming back.

    This was from Isak Katali’s announcement at the opening of the Uiba Oas Crystal Market, where the local dealers can set up shop in this government sponsored building, providing a centralized buying market as well as shade in the treeless Namibian desert.

    Namibia is a wonderful country to visit. The beautiful scenery, the exotic wildlife and the amazing people all make for an unforgettable experience. To add the fact that such a bounty of fine crystallized minerals for sale are there is another bonus to a desert paradise!

    Check out this handy travel guide, it is just like the one I used when I visited Namibia
    Namibia, 4th: The Bradt Travel Guide

    Hollow galena crystals from Bulgaria

    Saturday, January 8th, 2011

    These first showed up at the Denver mineral show in 2009.
    Galena in question, supposed natural specimen
    Many people were suspicious about these being made by microabrasion, but nothing had been proven either way. I saw Ed Rosenzweig at the Houston mineral show and talked to him about the pieces. He was one of the main dealers selling them at the Springfield show, but as soon as controversy came up, he stopped selling them. He lent me five pieces of hollow galena that he had been told were natural. I also received two samples of hollow galena from an anonymous donor, which he had made by microabrasion, using a machine like the MicronBlaster MB10 Micro Sandblasting Unit.
    Man-Made Hollow Galena made for testing
    Lance Kearns at James Madison University offered to let me use the SEM there, so I chose two specimens from Ed and one fake to look at. The fake one still had remnants of abrasive material embedded in the surface – and so did the other two. Here is a picture of a glass ball in one of the specimens from Ed:
    sphere of glass bead, introduced from micro-abrasion on the specimen
    The other piece had crystals of aluminum silicate rather than glass spheres – but still abrasives!
    aluminum silicate, a common material used for micro-abrasion, stuck in the surface of a galena crystal

    This doesn’t prove that all of the hollow galenas are fakes, but there are definitely fake ones out there.

    Jessica Simonoff, author of this post, is the youngest summer program intern in the geology division of The Smithsonian. This link is for the CLASSIC Smithsonian Handbook of Rocks and Minerals inspiring thousands of children around North America.

    Fake Fluorite specimens out of China

    Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

    We originally heard about these at the Munich show, however, by the time we went to the booth they were gone. So, I’m both bothered they would bring them to Tucson, yet, happy that John Veevaert got a photograph of one to share with you at home.

    Let’s all thank John for showing us this photo!
    and check out Collector’s Guide to Fluorite, a great new book about Fluorite crystals, now available for sale

    Stay away from these specimens, fake fluorites from China

    Stay away from these specimens, fake fluorites from China

    Something tells me this meteorite isn’t legit…

    Monday, August 24th, 2009

    “Article” on meteorite find in the UK

    Is this a meteorite?

    Is this a meteorite?

    Check out this article…the meteorite is described as
    “black with a shiny crystal-like gleam”
    “thought it was a lump of coal”

    Are we sure it is not just a piece of slag or maybe a tektite. Hey, good for the kid for finding a rock in the back yard, but did they verify the specimen with ANYONE else besides the parents and eBay? It doesn’t say so in the article. Sloppy reporting for sure!

    Stuff tends to spread like wildfire on the internet, and anything that drags you away from Twitter or Facebook will usually be either something completely amazing or, as more commonly experienced, a complete and utter hoax. I genuinely worry about the people that fall for this stuff – if you’re buying meteories off the internet, then chances are you’re probably being scammed. I could go outside and buy some red sandstone, take a welder to it, and claim it was from Mars. Would I make a ton of money? MAYBE!

    I have a friend who is an avid meteorite hunter and he swears by the book Field Guide to Meteors and Meteorites. He has gone to Morocco and been on the trail of meteorite falls all over the United States. The amount of work that he puts into tracking, sourcing and looking for meteorites is much different than the standard, “hey, this black rock looks like a meteor” that you see in so many stories like this.

    Glued Calcite on Matrix from India!

    Friday, June 19th, 2009

    I was first told about these fakes last year, single Calcite crystals glued together in clusters on basalt matrix.

    FakeMinerals was given these pictures from Sami at Matrix India, exposing these fakes.

    Glued Calcite Cluster

    As you can see, the Calcites are grouped together in circular sprays. At the base of the crystals the glue is visible.

    Glued Calcite Cluster
    Glued Calcite Cluster
    Glued Calcite Cluster

    So, if you see any of these on EBAY or at a local rock show, beware, they are F-A-K-E!

    Acetone and your minerals dissolving the glue!

    Saturday, April 11th, 2009

    Certainly not something you want to find out about your beautiful gem crystal on matrix…but in fact, a whole subdivision of gem mineral sales at the point of origin are sometimes manufactured specimens involving a liberal slathering of glue to hold everyting in place.

    For instance, the new wonderful Scorodite xtls on matrix from China. Beautiful, yet glued.

    Dip your rocks in Acetone, see what falls apart

    So, if you have any specimens you wonder about, give them a soak in some Acetone. See what falls apart! Sometimes nothing, sometime something substantial. Bummer for us honest mineral collectors and dealers.

    Thanks to Dr. L for the photo!

    Stretch Young wrote a great article about this subject relating to Emeralds in Calcite from Bolivia for The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine Fakes Issue, which is available in the Hardcover collected reprint of the magazine, available on The-Vug.com

    People ask me all the time which glue is the best for repairing your specimens, as well as the most common used glue…
    Instant Krazy Glue, of course!

    Fake Malachite after Aragonite Video with Alfredo Petrov

    Friday, February 20th, 2009

    In the video above, Alfredo Petrov shows Justin Zzyzx an Aragonite with Gypsum from Spain that has been dipped into Copper Sulfate, turning the Aragonite EMERALD COLORED!, as if it were pseudomorphed into Malachite. Very pretty, but very fake!

    You can buy a bucket of Applied Bio Chemists Aquarium COPPER SULFATE 5 lb and experiment with calcite and other minerals turning different colors and grow some of your own crystals. It is a lot of fun, but don’t sell the end product as a legit mineral!

    Polished Red Quartz, Colored Glass from China!

    Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

    We have been over the red glass sold as red quartz issue before, the first time I saw it was in 2002 and it seems it will never stop, though the popularity it dwindling.

    Red Quartz polished items from China are Red Glass. Very simple. In fact, some also say it is from Madagascar or somewhere in the asian pacific. Of course it is really just polished red glass.

    We came across an eBay auction a few years ago, two seller accounts, the same photos!

    One is a buy it now with FREE shipping! Only $88.00

    Next is an auction for .99 with $70.00 shipping!

    Either way, getting his price! Advertises it as “POLISHED BLOOD-RED QUARTZ CRYSTAL”, but in reality needs to be labeled “Bright Red Glass Sphere”

    Don’t we all WISH there was a RED QUARTZ location in nature that actually produces stuff like this? Who knows, maybe one day we will find one just like that in a huge quanity, but until then, GLASS. It is glass.

    Fake Chinese Charoite – a sample from the Fakes issue of The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine

    Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

    The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine Book Sample

    The image above is a page out of The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine, which you can buy directly from the publisher, FortySevenPress.com. You can see, this stuff is now being marketed as a material for cheap beads, like the auction below.
    Fake Charoite

    Take a look at these samples of “Chinese Charoite” on ebay!

    Versus the real deal Charoite, like the examples below.

    How to dye Okenite; it’s not rocket science

    Friday, October 10th, 2008

    Colorful Okenite is DYED OKENITE!

    Click on this link above and visit The-Vug.com to watch us dye Okenite with food coloring!
    You can get the Fakes and Forgeries issue of The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine in the complete reprint book, available HERE on The-Vug.com

    It is exciting to watch the okenite absorb the food coloring so rapidly. Like a cotton ball, simply touching the okenite to the liquid draws the food coloring deep inside the cluster in an instant.

    Check out these yellow okenite clusters on eBay.

    They even make them in verde!

    Fake Citrine abounds on eBay…

    Sunday, September 21st, 2008

    Citrine is one of those minerals that causes the most confusion when people start collecting minerals.

    Naturally occuring Citrine is a variety of Quartz that is found at only in superb examples few places in the world. The color of natural Citrine is a lemon shade, in stark contrast to the predominatly red influence to the majority of “Citrine” available to begining collectors.

    Since there are so few locations for great quality natural Citrine, the demand for this brightly colored mineral lead to people figuring out that if you stuck certain types of Amethyst into a kiln you could turn the purple into a deep reddish orange.

    I’ve sent numerous messages to some dealers about the misleading descriptions and they respond by making the descriptions that much more misleading!

    Take this quote for example…

    Citrine is very difficult to acquire, and the cost is more expensive than Amethyst of the same quality. This Citrine is a higher standard of quality which of course commands a higher price as with all of my Citrine speciments they have very little matrix which means more crystals for your money.

    The problem with this statement is that there is no difficulty to acquire heat treated Citrine from Brazil. Do you need a 5000 pound contaner load? I can have one delivered to you with a couple of phone calls. The Amethyst deposits of South America are nearly limitless and while amazingly beautiful, not lacking in abundance. The problem with heat treated Amethyst is that it becomes brittle and subject to cracking. Is this a “bad” thing? Not really, there is always room for treated decorator minerals. But honesty should be key, informing the customer of what they are buying, rather than leading them to belive that bright orange citrine crystals come out of the basalts of southern Brazil. This stuff is sold by the kilo. Don’t be a sucker, shop around for the best price and form, you’ll get much more enjoyment that way.

    Now, a language barrier is leading many dealers from Asia to sell Quartz that has been found with a layer of Iron Oxide over the surface as Citrine. In reality, a dip in some Oxalic acid will return these Quartz crystals to their proper form, white Quartz. Western Vs. Eastern ideals on names and the nature of fakes varies and while we might demand proper identification, the asian market will just label minerals whatever suits them that day. So, iron stained Quartz becomes Citrine! But in reality, most people remove the Iron staining from their specimens.

    I hate Fake Rocks!

    I hate Fake Rocks!