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.

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

The POWER of Lemurian Quartz!

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Embrace the power of the Lemurian Quartz Crystals, from the frosty hills of Mount Shasta.

Learn the true secrets of crystal power in this video!

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.

Fakes issue of The-Vug.com Quarterly now available in HARDCOVER!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Click Here to Purchase the Book

The 2008 edition of The-Vug.com Quarterly Volume 1 #4 is a special issue devoted to fake mineral information!

The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine was published from 2008-2012, with 16 issues devoted to several topics of mineralogical interest.
You can purchase the HARDCOVER 324 page complete reprint for the LOW price of $34.95 plus shipping. It is a perfect coffee table sized book and the “Fakes” issue can sell for as high as $70.00 on the secondary market.
Click on the link above to purchase the book directly from the publisher or check them out at

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.

I don’t think I like Best Places to Find Cash and Treasures

Friday, May 9th, 2008

A while ago I wrote about the program on the Travel Channel, “Best Places to Find Cash and Treasures”. The program has the following premise, The Host guides viewers to a region of America to search out minerals, gems, and other collectable items. The host then takes the items found and has them cut, polished and sometimes set into jewelry, then appraised to be sold. Sometimes even sold on the show.

I have no problems with the premise of this show. There is certainly nothing wrong with promoting mineral collecting. Selling your finds usually doesn’t accompany a mineral collecting trip, because sometimes a mineral collecting trip is a very non-productive event. Usually, if you find something really incredible, you keep it. It gets sold when you either die or need money for your kid’s heart transplant. Even the most bloodthristy field collectors who collect to sell keep the best stuff for their collections. They program doesn’t even touch on this kind of collecting/selling aspect…no, everything is done as GREED as the main factor.

The host of the second season of this program, Becky Whorley, was pretty focused on the financial aspect. However, as an hour long program, she did have a fun attitude and seemed to be really interested in why things were formed and found. The second host is ONLY concered about money and now that it is only a half hour long, the greed seems to fill the entire episode. Mineral collecting is a fun hobby, but what fun is it when GREED is the main motivating factor!?!

Watch the show, on the Travel Channel. Count how many dollar signs you see in the show. Watch out for the SALTED tailing piles, the SALTED finds, the horrible safety violations and the general poor job of representing our hobby. Cash and Treasures on DVD

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!

A trip to Collector’s Edge Anti-Fake Cleaning Lab!

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Hello everyone!

While we were visiting the Collector’s Edge in Golden Colorado we got the chance to see their many flats of FAKE MINERALS that they had pulled out of collections over the years.

Here are some pictures of fake minerals from their collection…can you spot the fakeness?

Three Normal Looking Mineral Fakes
Here are all three of the minerals…

Quartz with Garnets
Quartz with Garnets…

Cerussite with Malachite
Cerussite with Malachite

Calcite on Basalt
Calcite on Basalt from India

Well, the Garnets are glued on and surrounded by some glued on mica, used to hide the glue marks!

The Cerussite is glued on as well, surrounded by a dusting of Malachite around the glued edges!

The Calcite was cut off and glued onto the matrix.

But all three of them look normal, don’t they?