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Fake Crystals What to Look Out For

Avoid Being Scammed when Buying Crystals

When buying crystals online, you really want to avoid being scammed.

Fake crystals, which include those that have been imitated using a different natural stone, have been around for thousands of years.

The reason for a manufacturer producing a fake product is usually to meet high demand, especially for something rare or in short supply.  

Imitations and fakes can be sold for a lower price, allowing the seller to make a profit while offering a cheaper alternative.

Generally speaking, imitation and fake are not the same.  People who buy something that's imitation do so in the knowledge of what it is.

These products don't tend to be produced to deceive someone into believing they're buying the real thing. 

With regard to rocks and minerals, imitation pearls and opals are a good example.

Many people buy products knowing they're fake which is fine if that's what they want to do. It only becomes a problem when something is sold with the intention of deceiving or defrauding someone into believing it's genuine. 

Although fake products are often sold at a lower price, they can also be sold at the same price and in some cases, are even more expensive than the genuine item.

Fake stones are often produced from synthetic materials such as glass, resin or plastic.  They can also be produced by dyeing cheaper, more readily available minerals. 

Mineral Manipulation: The Art of Deception

Howlite, which can be white or grey, is often used to produce fake turquoise.  Its dark-coloured veins make it a popular choice because they're difficult to reproduce in a synthetic material.

Another fake crystal to look out for is quartz.  Many crystal balls being sold are glass or lead crystal.

Lead crystal is glass infused with lead which enhances its optical properties. Lead is added during the manufacturing process to increase the refractive index which makes the glass more reflective and sparkly.

The more lead that's added, the greater the brilliance and clarity.   
The crystal balls in these photos are being sold in a well-known online marketplace.  The iridescence that can be seen in quartz is caused by the interference of light as it passes through the crystal.

Interference occurs when light waves interact with each other as they enter a crystal and bounce around inside.  Refraction and dispersion also contribute to the rainbows that can be seen.

The colour in these crystal balls is not being produced naturally.  They've been coated possibly with a metallic material or another substance.

When a thin layer of titanium dioxide is applied to a surface, it creates an iridescent effect because of its ability to interact with light.

Although these are being sold from China, I've seen these same crystal balls being sold by businesses in the UK and U.S.A.

On the website of one of those businesses, the owner states that all of their crystals are ethically and sustainably sourced.  Yet they've bought a crystal ball, probably unknowingly, that's coated with something to create an iridescent effect.

This wholesaler in China is likely to have told this business that all of their materials have been mined ethically. 

The history of fake crystals can be traced back to ancient civilisations. Turquoise is believed to have been the first stone to have been imitated.

The ancient Egyptians placed great importance on burying the deceased with items of value.  Tombs containing genuine and fake turquoise have been discovered.

The fake stones were produced from materials including glass and faience.  Faience is glazed ceramic.

Amethyst is also known to have been imitated by the ancient Egyptians whilst the ancient Greeks and Romans produced fake rubies and emeralds using coloured glass and enamel.

In recent years, the demand for imitation gemstones has been driven by the desire for affordable versions of expensive stones. Although it can be relatively easy to identify some fake crystals, it can be far more difficult with others.
fake lemon quartz gemstoneThis gemstone is being sold as 'natural' lemon quartz.  Lemon quartz doesn't occur naturally, it's produced by heating low-grade citrine, amethyst or smoky quartz.

Labelling it as 'natural' demonstrates the seller is either unaware it doesn't occur naturally or is not being honest.

With that said, mislabeling a stone that's been heated to alter its colour is not the same as selling a stone that's fake.

Heat treatments, which are a commonly accepted practice, are generally considered to be an enhancement.  Therefore, it's not deception to call this stone lemon quartz, but it is when you say it's 'natural' lemon quartz.

Most blue topaz is produced by heating white or colourless topaz. I've never seen it being sold as 'natural' blue topaz.

A buyer should always be advised of any significant treatment.  Not informing them is not quite the same as selling them something fake, but it is misleading and can lead to disappointment. 
large citrine geode
A company in London is selling this citrine geode.  On its website, the owner states they travel the world in search of the finest minerals and gemstones. 

Natural citrine is relatively rare.  It very rarely occurs as a geode.  One article I read on what appeared to be a trustworthy geology-related website spoke in great detail about citrine and its occurrence as a geode.  All of their photos were heated amethyst.

Burnt orange-coloured crystals in a 'citrine' geode is always a dead giveaway.

Almost all citrine geodes being sold, especially large pieces like this, are heated amethyst.  Calling this geode citrine is fine, but selling it as 'natural' citrine raises some serious questions.

Three factors impact the accuracy of information published about crystals, rocks, and minerals. The first is a lack of expertise or knowledge from the business. This can lead to a misunderstanding or miscommunication about the material being sold.

The second relates to those who deliberately choose to deceive by providing false or misleading information.

The third involves those who are blatantly fraudulent.  These people are actively seeking to deceive and scam you.

They want you to buy their moldavite which is probably glass or green quartz.  They'll tell you their shungite is the finest grade when it's actually rock that contains small amounts of shungite.  They'll sell you dyed sodalite calling it lapis lazuli, or fake turquoise produced from howlite.

In recent years, opalised fluorite has been sold as Tiffany Stone.  Tiffany Stone is a rare opalised fluorite found only in Utah.  The deposit has been closed for many years so material is hard to find and highly sought after.

It's difficult to say whether it's a genuine mistake or done knowingly. The same goes for heated amethyst being sold as citrine. Using the word 'natural' when advertising a material that's clearly not natural, makes me believe the retailer knows what they're doing.

Black onyx is mostly dyed agate or chalcedony.  Natural black onyx is rare.

Most stones being sold as onyx are banded calcite.  Calcite is more readily available, so it's cheaper and also softer which makes it easier to work with.  

I recently found a stone being sold as lapis howlite.  Lapis howlite does not exist, it's dyed howlite.

Even after being reduced, these stones are more expensive than our grade A lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.
lapis howlite tumbled stones which are white howlite that's been dyed navy blueSadly, the internet is full of examples like this.  The problem has exploded in recent years because of vast amounts of merchandise coming from China.  

The fact that it's now easy for anyone to start selling online has exacerbated the problem.  

Many small businesses buy directly from overseas suppliers which can make effective communication difficult due to language and cultural differences.  Furthermore, finding honest and trustworthy people to do business with is not easy. 

The stones in this next photo are not blue tigers eye.  They're probably brown tigers eye that's been dyed.

There's a big difference between heating a stone to enhance or change its colour, and dyeing it.
blue tigers eye stone bracelet that's not actually blue tigers eye

Navigating the Maze of Misinformation

An attractive and well-designed website will often attract considerable traffic, but establishing who the business is and whether the content is accurate may not be easy.

I recently discovered a website with hundreds of articles on various subjects. Although many were fairly accurate, some, particularly those regarding rocks and minerals, were not.

This paragraph talks about minerals that can be submerged in water. 

information regarding Mohs scale of mineral hardness that's not correct 

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness was created in 1812 by Viennese mineralogist Friedrich Mohs.  It had one purpose which was to measure the scratch resistance of one mineral against another.

While it's true that many soft minerals do not react well to water, the reason has nothing to do with their hardness.

Most inaccurate information published online comes about because of copying and republishing other people's work.  This is because of the following; 

Lack of verification:
Many people don't take the time to verify the accuracy of information before republishing it. Each time it's republished, more of the original content is likely to be lost.

Social Media: Information published on social media often aligns with someone's beliefs or biases. Posts often lack accuracy.

Clickbait: People looking to create content for the sole purpose of improving engagement may exaggerate or distort information to make it more appealing.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a serious problem that Google has been trying to eradicate for many years. Content that has been plagiarised is usually rewritten to make it appear as if it's an original piece of work.  It's common for information that's rewritten to be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

The following article, which discusses how to identify fake crystals, was published by a business in the U.S.  This long article ranks well on Google so receives a large amount of traffic.

So much of the content is inaccurate it's difficult to know where to start. 
The scale is called the "Mohs" scale because it was named after Friedrich Mohs.  Real crystals do not score higher.  Rocks and minerals are given a number according to their hardness.   

Diamond which is the hardest mineral grades 10. The softest is talc which grades 1.  Gypsum grades 2 and calcite grades 3. These three soft minerals are all natural.

What the author says about how to tell whether a crystal is fake is also incorrect.
""While crystals with exotic names may raise suspicions about a crystal being fake, it's not reliable.  

Spinels are found close to San Carlos, Gila County, Arizona.  Therefore, a spinel mined there may be called Arizona Spinel.

"Blue moonstone" is often used to describe moonstone with a blue hue.  Moonstone is a natural mineral.

Historically, many coloured translucent gemstones were believed to be topaz. Only in the last two hundred years was it discovered that's not correct.

Today, it's not uncommon for smoky quartz to be mislabelled as smoky topaz but this is mostly due to a lack of knowledge.
pear shaped strawberry quartz pendant hanging on a silver snake chainThis natural Strawberry Quartz gemstone is from Kazakhstan, the pendant is from our collection.  Because Strawberry Quartz is relatively rare, a huge amount of fake material is produced. 

The website where I found this information has a vast reference section.  In another article, they write that opalite is also known as opalised fluorite, ice cream opal and Tiffany Stone.

Opalite and Tiffany Stone have nothing in common.  Opalised fluorite and ice cream opal are used, albeit incorrectly, as alternative names for Tiffany Stone.  Tiffany Stone is a rock, opalite is glass.

On their product page for opalite they say, "This man-made version of opal is 100% natural. A one-of-a-kind stone with a letter of authenticity.  Opalite is opalescent glass made from dolomite and metal in order to replicate the volcanic ash that creates natural opal."

None of that statement makes sense.  Opalite, which is opalescent glass, is produced primarily in China.  The reference to metal refers to metal oxides that give it colour and improve opalescence.

Dolomite is used because it's relatively cheap compared to other minerals that can be used in the glass-making process.

How can a man-made material be 100% natural?  More worryingly, what does the letter of authenticity for this material confirm?
blue lace agate polished stones This post from another crystal website says blue lace agate is unique to Ysterputs.  Although the Ysterputs mine in Southern Namibia is where blue lace agate was discovered, it's not unique to that location because it can also be found in several other African countries.
rubber stamp with the words fake in bold red lettersSome traders use misleading descriptions or make false claims about the origin, composition and purpose of certain rocks and minerals.  Think about the one-of-a-kind opalite crystal that comes with a letter of authenticity. 

Stock photos are widely used to mislead buyers into thinking the crystals in the photo are from their collection.

Always try to research a company before making a purchase.  Buying from a reputable business should make things easier if there's a problem.

People who sell crystals on social media but do not have a website, may not have business Terms and Conditions. Their trading address, which will often be a home address, may also not be published.

Many companies in India and China who trade through online marketplaces use a UK business address.

Technology has really influenced the production of fake crystals. It's now cheaper and easier than ever to create high-quality imitation stones.

In China, technology has enabled manufacturers to produce fake jade, turquoise, quartz and many other stones.  Although some fakes are obvious, others are incredibly convincing. 


How to Tell if a Crystal is Genuine?

Several tests can be conducted to establish whether a crystal is genuine, but most will cause some level of destruction.

A scratch test can be used to evaluate hardness by comparing the scratch resistance of one stone with another.  This is helpful when a natural stone has been dyed to replicate another.

A specific gravity test measures a mineral's density which is its weight compared to an equal volume of water. This test is often used to distinguish similar-looking minerals.

Minerals such as calcite, aragonite and pyrite react to acid by fizzing and can even dissolve.  Others including fluorite may fluoresce under UV light.  Magnetite is magnetic.

A streak test can be used to identify minerals based on the colour of the streak. Streak is the powdery residue produced when a mineral is rubbed against a hard surface.  It's not always the same colour as the stone.

Examining optical properties or lustre may also help with identification.  The way light reflects or passes through a crystal can often be helpful.  Think of the crystal ball that had been coated to produce iridescence.

Check for unnaturally vivid colours or patterns that seem too symmetrical. This is a good way to identify fake malachite.  

A natural crystal, rock or mineral will always feel cold to touch.  Fake stones made from plastic or resin are likely to be lightweight. 

Heat a pin with a flame and make contact with the stone.  If it's synthetic, it will melt or you may smell burning. 

Nail polish remover removes dye.  Use a cotton bud to test a small area.

Verifying Authenticity: Use Trustworthy Resources

A trustworthy reference or resource can help you learn about a crystal, rock or mineral you're considering buying.

Alternatively, you could post a question on a platform like Reddit or Quora. Someone with geological experience will likely respond, and the answers you receive will, in most cases, be more accurate than if you posted the same question on Facebook or Instagram. 

Mindat is the world's largest open database of rocks and minerals.  The website also has a comprehensive discussion area.

Another website I use often is Friends of Minerals Forum.  I have to be honest though, the interface is not great, and it's not very user-friendly, but try not to let that put you off. is another site that's definitely worth exploring.

The Articles & Photos section on the Stone Mania website and our blog contain a huge amount of carefully researched information. Our articles also include photos that can be used for comparison.

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