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Fake Crystals a Growing Problem

Shopping for Crystals Online

I can't deny it I've become slightly obsessed with companies who sell fake and dyed crystals online.

On Instagram in particular the amount fake material being sold to unsuspecting buyers is growing at an alarming rate. 

As well as being purchased by crystal enthusiasts they're also being bought by small businesses.

As the practice of using of crystals for healing has grown, hundreds of new businesses have appeared.  The vast majority of people running them have little or no scientific knowledge about rocks and minerals.

Although that's not a prerequisite to running a business that sells crystals, their limited knowledge is contributing to the amount of fake and dyed material that's entering the supply chain.

Most of these crystals are being purchased from India, Pakistan, Brazil and China. 

The technology in China is so advanced that it can be extremely difficult to know for certain whether something is real, fake or dyed.  Although the colour of some material from India and Pakistan has been enhanced usually by heating, the vast majority and certainly the most convincing fake material comes from China. 

Labradorite, moldavite, quartz, larimar, lapis lazuli, sunstone, malachite and ocean jasper are just some of the most common materials being produced.

One of the most commmon practices is to enhance the colour of natural rocks and minerals.  In this industry anything that exhibits "rainbows" or exceptional colour sells.

Material being sold as moldavite is often glass.  The tiny bubbles in polished stones once used to differentiate real moldavite from fake can now be produced artificially.

Minerals are known to be dyed in order to replicate others or to make them look like a higher grade.  The schiller in labradorite can be enhanced using dyes or coatings.  Some highly iridescent labradorite is produced using clay.   

Coatings are used on clear quartz to make it look unnaturally iridescent.  Hemimorphite is often sold as Chinese larimar, malachite can be resin or plastic.
double terminated malachite pointsFluorite is heated which fades the colours so the crystal looks more colourful and translucent.  It's then sold as Candy or Watermelon Fluorite. 

I've seen many crystal balls like this one on Instagram.  Although the "iridescence" looks impressive it's not natural.

Having seen this video clip I messaged the seller. 

 

This wholesaler in China regularly advertises on Instagram.  Since speaking with them many more crystal balls just like this one have appeared in their posts.

Having seen a UK business selling a crystal ball like this one I sent them a message.  I asked where it was from and explained why I was asking.  They told me it was from Brazil.  

A few days later all crystal balls disappeared from their website and from their Instagram page.

I have seen some truly spectacular crystal balls being offered for sale by businesses in Brazil.  They're high grade and many exhibit iridescence.  None however exhibit the kind of iridescence seen in crystal balls from China.

It's believed they're being coated with titanium which produces iridescence on the face of the crystal.

Something else to be aware of when buying a crystal ball is that many are glass or lead crystal.  Lead crystal is not quartz.  It's glass infused with lead which makes it more sparkly.

Iridescence in rocks and minerals is not easy to capture in a video or photograph because of the way it's produced.  For colour to become visible light must reflect from a specific angle.

In labradorite the colours we see are the reflection of light. In many photos on social media you'll see exceptional iridescence in multiple stones photographed together.  Try taking a photo of labradorite and you'll see how difficult it is to capture iridescence in one stone let alone in several simultaneously.

In recent weeks I saw an impressive blue lace agate sphere on Instagram.  This stone can only be found in Namibia, Zambia and Malawi.  It may also have been discovered quite recently in Romania.

Blue lace agate from the Ysterputs mine in southern Namibia is the finest in the world.  The mine has been closed for many years so stone from this location is rare and highly sought after.

The colour of this sphere which is being sold by a Chinese business looks too good to be true.  It may be genuine because a significant amount of high grade material from Namibia is known to have been sold to China.  The problem however is the only way of knowing for certain would be to have it tested.

I have seen this identical sphere accompanied by the same text several times on Instagram.  Each time it appears the business name changes.  Giving in to temptation I replied to one seller to ask what type of agate it was and where the material was mined.     


""Having said in my reply that blue lace agate doesn't occur in Brazil my subsequent messages were ignored.

After seeing exactly the same sphere being sold by another company I asked them the same question.  They initially told me it was from Brazil or Africa.  When I said I needed to know for certain they said the raw material was purchased from Namibia but the spheres were cut and polished in their factory.

The colour of this sphere is way bluer than a top grade piece of blue lace agate from Namibia that I have in my own collection.  Of course that could be down to lighting or their camera but I have learnt from experience how things work in China.  

Here's another message I sent after seeing a video clip on Instagram of several "celestite spheres".  Celestite is a different mineral to calcite and it's also more expensive. 
""
After seeing this post by yet another business I messaged to ask if they had these towers in smoky quartz.  I was told they were currently out of stock.  I'm almost certain these are smoky quartz. 
smoky quartz crystal towersMinerals being labelled incorrectly is another problem that's getting out of control.  

In this clip the seller who's based in the UK is talking about the healing properties of jasper.  The stone in his hand is bumblebee jasper.  Bumblebee jasper is a trade name for a material from Indonesia that's actually calcite.  It contains no jasper at all. 
someone holding a piece of bumblebee jasper.  His face has been obscured to protect his identity

The sphere in this next photo is labelled as ruby "fuschite" with green mica.  Ruby and fuchsite are different minerals that often occur together.  Ruby is the mineral corundum, fuchsite (pronounced fooksite) is a chromium rich mica.  Not all green mica is fuchsite.
ruby fuchsite sphere being held in someone's handMade-up names are also being widely used.  Rainbow amethyst, titanium quartz, aura quartz (both are treated with titanium and other metal oxides to add colour) sugar chalcedony (probably because of the layer of minute crystals), lavender fluorite and aqua rose are just a few examples.

Cherry quartz is a man-made material that's apparently constructed from cinnabar and quartz.  Cinnabar is an ore of mercury so is highly toxic.  Most cherry quartz is actually coloured glass.

The "sunstone" in this next photo is being sold by a business in India.  Most people would know immediately that it's goldstone
Advert from Amazon for a fine grade sunstone cabochon. The stone in the photo is goldstone which is glass
One of the most important things to do when buying online is to look for a trading address.  Very few small businesses publish this on their website.  Being able to see an address offers some reassurance that a company is genuine.  It doesn't have to be in a prominent position.

The first place I look is on the T&C's page. That's where our address can be found.  I then look on the "Returns" or "Contact" page.  Once you start looking you'll be surprised how few businesses give any indication where they are.  In many cases you won't even find a telephone number.

It can be very difficult to establish what country a business is trading from just by looking at their website.  I've looked at many sites that I initially thought were in the UK or North America only to then find they were in Asia.

Most UK based businesses have a .co.uk address but some have .com or .org.  Reading the Shipping page will often enable you to find out where goods are dispatched from.

Businesses in India and China who trade on Etsy and eBay often claim to be in the UK.  Some publish an address but it's not where their based or where goods are dispatched from.

A business I followed for a while on Instagram publishes really interesting videos of fine minerals and subjects related to geology.  Many of their followers are serious rock and mineral collectors.  Nothing about their page indicates they mass produce crystals in China.  

A link to their Etsy shop is in their profile.   

When I visited their page it states they're in "England" which surprised me.  It didn't take long to find out where they're really located. 

Their merchandise could not be any more different to those featured in their social media posts.  The sole aim of companies like this is to deceive you.

Although they have over a thousand positive reviews on Etsy, as you read through them you soon realise very few of their customers can write well in English.  

You may be surprised to learn a significant amount of reviews published online are not genuine. Selling fake reviews and buying followers on social media is big business. 

The hearts in this next photo are not citrine.  I think they're probably glass.
yellow hearts being advertised as citrine in an Instagram postFor paid adverts that pop up on social media always look at the seller's website. 

I have recently been inundated with adverts for dog products on Instagram.  One for an indestructible frisbee that turns into a ball keeps appearing.  Each time it shows the company name is different.

When you go to their website it's well designed, informative and guarantees their products have been tested and are safe for dogs.  There's no trading address or information about where in the world they are.

Through an online search I discovered they're in Kuala Lumpur.  Having then found them on eBay their feedback rating from 400 sales is 91.5%.  That's pretty awful.

Many of the comments make reference to a metal spike in the toy and/or the item falling apart within hours of it being used.

I hope this article helps you to make the right decisions when shopping for crystals online.  Doing some research about a product and the business who's selling it really is the best way to avoid disappointment.     

In my next blog I'll talk about why companies buy fake reviews and how to identify them.
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