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

    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!

    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.

    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!

    Copper Treated Andesine Gemstones!

    Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

    One of my favorite websites for gemstone scams is gone, but it was…Colored-Stone.com! There are always people coming up with new ways to dye, irradiate, heat and otherwise screw with the color of a natural gem.

    Well, this material, “Andesine Labradorite” has been on the market for awhile, mimicing the most sought after colors and effects shown in top quality Oregon sunstone. Long story short…injected with dye. Whoot!

    Andesine Gem Rough EXPOSED!

    You should go to this website and read the whole story. It is quite amazing!

    To sum it up, this material that was claimed to be completely 100% natural was actually treated, as suspected.

    Fake Copper Specimens from China

    Friday, July 18th, 2008

    First off I want to thank each and everyone who has sent in alerts to FakeMinerals.com! We love getting your feedback and article ideas!

    During Tucson of 2008 a mineral dealer recieved these specimens from a Chinese dealer. Just as soon as they were unwrapped they were wrapped back up to be returned! Obviously these matrix Copper specimens are quite fake. These natural specimens have these copper splashes on them as an afterthought.
    I hate Fake Rocks!

    I have scanned eBay and the internet and I have not seen any more examples of these for sale, but as always, be aware that manufacturing specimens is a never ending endevor for some!

    I hate Fake Rocks!

    I was alerted to this fraud by a reader of FakeMinerals.com. Thanks John!

    Arkansas Diamond Fraud! Salted Diamonds SOLD as Natural Arkansas Diamonds for HUGE PROFIT!!

    Friday, May 9th, 2008

    Written By Justin Zzyzx and Brandy Naugle for FakeMinerals.com

    Investigative Reporting by Yinan Wang

    Arkansas is known for something very unique.

    The ONLY public access diamond mine in the entire world. For a small fee, anyone can go to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro Arkansas and search for diamonds in the giant open dirt field.

    While it is certainly no easy task to unearth a diamond here, amazing finds have been reported and tracked through time. The average diamond found at the “Crater” is far less than a carat, most weighing in at under 10 points (that’s 1/10th of a carat) (TINY!). Finding a nice big fat stone over a carat is something people work for years and don’t find!

    Diamonds at the Crater come in several shades, 70% of them being white, with brown coming in second and yellow is a close third.

    The state park registers all of the diamonds that people find at the park, if they are willing to register it. Some don’t because they want to keep it private, while many want the nifty card that you get when you register your diamond with the park. They even keep track of everyone’s finds on their website, www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com.

    Diamonds from Arkansas are also special because of a very important fact. They are worth a great deal more than similar diamonds from commercial mines around the world. They are so special and unique, plus they tend to be among the hardest diamonds known to man. They have a unique form and often look like sleek drops of glass, rather than crude cubes and rough diamonds of so many African locations. So, an Arkansas diamond is going to be one of the most expensive diamonds you can get, but rightfully so!

    Now that you know all about the important facts about diamonds from the “Crater of Diamonds State Park”, learn about how someone almost came up with a perfect scam.

    You could not take any diamond into the park and just plant it on the ground. Or at least no one thought you could because a diamond from Africa, Brazil, Russia, et al. would not produce diamonds that look like the ones from Arkansas. But someone found a source that could pass for Arkansas diamonds. A source in India that imports diamonds from the Panna Mines.

    Photos of diamond lots sent to Eric to examine prior to purchase.

    India produces hundreds of thousands more diamonds than the US, therefore, the diamonds from India are much cheaper than their American counterparts. A man named Eric Blake (www.arkansasdiamondjewelry.com) figured out he could make some money by purchasing diamonds from India then take them into the park and “find” them.

    A brown diamond from India costs around $100 per carat, while a similar diamond from Arkansas costs $1000 -$2000 per carat. A profit of more than 1000%.

    In late October of 2007, Eric Blake and his family took a trip to the “Crater” and found an amazing amount of LARGE BROWN DIAMONDS!

    It was no coincidence that he also placed a rush order for an assortment of Indian diamonds to be delivered no later than October 18th.

    On 10/6/07 Eric sent the following message from his girlfriend (and accomplice) Susan Gabrielson’s email account.

    Hello (Name Withheld),I may have deleted your last mail by accident. As I have not gotten a response from you. We are eagerly awaiting your mail. The stones must be received no later than October 18, 2007. Anything you can do to expedite this shipment would be greatly appreciated.

    Over the span of 5 days, Eric and his three assistants “found” over 16.5 carats of diamonds at the park, including a whopping 3.92 carat stone! What great luck, eh? Out of all of the recorded finds they had that week, 60% of them were brown! What an interesting thing, because usually only around 20% of the finds are brown in color.

    Screen captures of from the park diamond find archive for Eric Blake, Susan Gabrielson, Sarah Gabrielson, & Sayde Gabrielson

    Eric also owns a website called ArkansasDiamondJewelry.com which sells diamonds and jewelry, reported to come from the “Crater” complete with certificate of authenticity issued by the Arkansas State Park. However, some of the diamonds on the site are proven to be Indian in origin. FakeMinerals.com received paperwork which shows Eric Blake importing diamonds from India in early October.

    Kimberly Certificate

    UPS Tracking code, screen captured from UPS.com

    If that isn’t damning enough, photos taken by the salesperson in India which clearly match up with diamonds for sale on ArkansasDiamondJewelry.com

    In addition, Eric sells “Arkansas Diamonds” on eBay (sayde1garcia) and has successfully sold some of his Indian diamonds to mineral dealers here in America as originating from Arkansas.

    Private sources have indicated that they have been onto Mr. Blake for a few months now, but they have lacked the evidence to be sure that he was “salting” the diamond field.

    One regular digger at the “Crater” met Mr. Blake in 2006 when he first tried out his scam. At that time he only registered a few diamonds. Mr. Blake offered to let the regular digger search his hole when he was done. It wasn’t much surprise that the regular didn’t find anything else in that hole. In 2007 Mr. Blake and his family were digging in an area that is known to be the dumping ground for gravel that was trucked in 1924 to put in a road. This gravel is completely free from diamonds as it is not from the diamond field, however they found a remarkable 32 diamonds! Mr. Blake then offered the hole to another family when they were leaving and while the family moved quite a bit of material, no more diamonds were forthcoming.

    Mr. Blake. The diggers at the “Crater of Diamonds State Park” would like you to know that you are persona non grata.

    With this information MOST, IF NOT ALL of the Diamonds sold by Mr. Blake are not from Arkansas and should be labeled as coming from the Panna Mine in India.

    It is amazing that someone could think they would get away with trying to scam these finds, especially since there are dozens of people who stare, poke and prod at the numbers of the finds on the Crater’s website. 32 diamonds is an impossible number of diamonds to be found by two adults and two children during 5 days at the park.

    Additionaly, As recently as January 2008, Eric has sent emails trying to “match” certain stones. And while there is nothing wrong with that in itself, in this context, it is more than a little suspicious.

    I leave you with this parting thought… What is the Travel Channel’s most promoted collecting location on their “Best Places to find Cash and Treasures” series? Yep, you guessed it! Crater of Diamonds State Park! Could this be the beginning of the inevitable backlash associated with promoting this “get rich quick” mentality to mineral collecting? I guess only time will tell.

    Fake Minerals and Scams are all around us. If you catch wind of something fishy, send to us here at Justin@the-vug.com

    Thanks again to Hal Guyot (GeoSleuth@gmail.com) for all your hard work on this story!

    Special Extra Thanks goes out to the HONEST INDIAN DEALER, Malay Hirani of Soni Tools (www.sonitools.com) for being willing to help stop fraud!

    UPDATE!: Just google Eric Blake’s name on Google and you will find AP News report after AP News report about his 3.92 carat stone find in October of 2007. Not only did he scam the public, the state park, but he also scamed the media. What a guy!

    UPDATE!: As soon as Eric heard about this website, he removed the photos that match up above and got rid of his “Dealer Lot” section, well, those diamonds matched up perfectly!

    UPDATE!: There is a ton of additional extra evidence and it has all been turned into the authorities. We do not know if anyone will ever see that this out to justice, but you can be sure that far and wide, people know what to look out for and a scammer has been chased out!

    Arkansas Diamond Fraud, Eric Blake, Appleton Wisconsin

    And here is a picture found on Google of Eric Blake holding his “famous find”.

    FINAL UPDATE: This story is now ancient history, newspaper articles were written, TV and Radio interviews were given, National Geographic even wrote about the scam.

    Sunspar.com, telling people a COMMON mineral is A RARE GEM!

    Friday, May 9th, 2008

    A reader alerted me to something I had seen before in the past I thought was odd. (Thanks Tim!)

    So, when I went back and checked again, I was suprised to see this still in print.

    The website SunSpar.com sells faceted translucent Labradorite, otherwise known as Sunstone when it has a schiller effect to it.

    The faceted Gem grade yellow Labradorite is very real, however without sparkling inclusions, it should not be called Sunstone, which it is several times on their website.

    In addition, the supply of large chunks of facet grade Labradorite are not in any kind of short supply. Quite the contrary, I know one of the owners of a very large Mexican Labradorite mine and from first hand knowledge, the supply of top notch gem grade Labradorite is not running low and it has not for the last twenty years.

    While the website states that the information they are giving you in their sales pitch is “In the opinon of their manager”, blatent misinformation is a lie. I contacted the company via phone call to ask them if they stood by their story after I told them the information I had, I was abruptly hung up on. Apparently they have no comment on this.

    Here is a photo of their website from the WAYBACKMACHINE, circa Feb. 1998. Below that, a picture of their site from March 26th, 2008.

    70% off! I guess that site didn’t do a super great job convincing that yellow Labradorite was some crazy rare gem, never before known to mankind.

    SunSpar Website in 1998

    SunSpar Website in 2008

    Smoky Quartz from Romania, irradiated to add color!

    Friday, May 9th, 2008

    Smoky Quartz. One of the popular faked varieties of Quartz. But all the NATURAL Smoky Quartz has really made faking it kind of pointless.

    Well, in Romania, the regular Quartz isn’t good enough…see this natural colored one below.

    White Dolomite on White Quartz from Romania

    Take that quartz above and stick it in a hot radiation chamber and BLAMO, aluminum ions are activated, forming a bond reflecting light back out, making our eyes see a deep smoky color, as in the photo below.

    smoky quartz from romania after radiation

    Malachite Stalactites from Congo, sometimes, they are fake

    Friday, May 9th, 2008

    I have been looking for awhile for a really good fake Malachite Stalactite specimen on eBay to show you, however, I haven’t seen any on eBay in a long time. A good thing too!

    But Mike from Geological Desires showed me a fantastic fake specimen…

    What they do is take some powdered Malachite and spray it onto some plasterized Malachite Stalactite base. When you hit it with the UV light you can see all the glue glowing bright yellow/orange in the background.

    So, when you see a Malachite Stalactite specimen, check it out for the powdered Malachite surface and check it out with a UV light first to see if the glue stands out!