Fake Crystals What to Look Out For
Top Tips for Identifying Fake Crystals
Fake crystals which includes those which have been imitated using a different natural stone have been around for thousands of years.
The reason for any manufacturer producing a fake product is usually to meet high demand especially for something that's rare or in short supply.
Imitations and fakes can be sold for a lower price which allows 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 regards 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 tend to be sold at a lower price they can also be sold at the same price. In some cases they can even be more expensive than the genuine item.
Some crystals are relatively easy to copy whilst others are more difficult.
Fake stones are often produced from synthetic materials such as glass, resin or plastic. They can also be produced by dyeing cheaper and more readily available minerals. A prime example is white howlite being dyed to replicate turquoise.
Howlite is a relatively soft mineral which makes it easy to work with. It's also porous so accepts and retains dye well.
This white or grey stone has dark coloured veins that resemble the matrix in turquoise.
They're extremely difficult to reproduce in a synthetic material. These patterns are the reason why howlite has become the stone of choice for replicating this sought after material.
Our article on the mineral turquoise explains how to tell the difference between dyed howlite and real turquoise.
Another fake crystal to watch out for is quartz. Many crystal balls being offered for sale are glass or lead crystal.
Lead crystal is not a natural mineral. It's glass infused with lead. This enhances the optical properties. Lead is added to the glass during the manufacturing process. It increases the refractive index which makes the glass more reflective and sparkly.
The higher the lead content the greater the brilliance and clarity.
These crystal balls are being sold in a well known online marketplace. The iridescence 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 its structure. Refraction and dispersion also contribute to the rainbows that can be seen in quartz crystals.
The colour in these crystal balls is not being produced naturally. They've been coated possibly with a metallic material or some other substance.
When titanium dioxide is applied in a thin layer to a surface it can create an iridescent effect because of its ability to interact with light. We've explained this in more detail in this post on our Facebook page.
Both are being sold by suppliers in China as natural crystal balls. I have also seen them being sold online by UK and US based businesses.
On one of those crystal websites the owner states all of their crystals are ethically and sustainably sourced. The problem I have with them making that statement is they're likely to be trusting the word of their supplier. The same supplier from whom they've purchased what they believe to be a natural crystal ball.
The history of fake crystals can be traced back to ancient civilisations. Turquoise is believed to have been the first mineral 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 stone was produced from materials including glass and faience. Faience is a glazed ceramic.
Amethyst is also known to have been imitated by the ancient Egyptians.
The ancient Greeks and Romans produced 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, with others it can be more difficult.
This yellow 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.
By labelling it as "natural" it demonstrates the seller is either unaware it doesn't occur naturally or is simply not being honest.
With that said, mislabeling a stone that has been heated to alter its appearance is not the same as selling something that's fake.
Heat treatments are a commonly accepted practice and are generally looked upon as being an enhancement. Therefore it's not deception to call this stone lemon quartz but it is when you say it's "natural" lemon quartz.
A similar example would be calling blue topaz "natural" blue topaz if the stone has been irradiated. The vast majority of blue topaz is produced by heating clear or colourless topaz.
A buyer should always be informed of any significant treatment a stone has undergone. Not informing them is not quite the same as selling something that's fake but is misleading and can lead to significant disappointment.
This citrine geode is being sold by a company in London. The owners state they travel the world in search of the finest minerals and gemstones.
Natural citrine is relatively rare. It doesn't occur as a geode. One article that I read on what appeared to be a trustworthy science/geology related website spoke in great detail about citrine and its occurrence as a geode.
After reading it I had to double check that I hadn't made a mistake.
Having had it confirmed that citrine doesn't occur as a geode I looked at the article once again. Only then did I realise that all of the photos being used were heated amethyst.
Burnt orange coloured crystals in a "citrine geode" is the most obvious clue that it's amethyst that has been heated.
When heated to around 450°C (842°F) amethyst crystals turn yellow. Increase the temperature and they turn orange and then orange-brown.
The vast majority of citrine geodes being sold around the world are heated amethyst. Calling this geode citrine is fine but selling it as "natural" citrine raises some serious questions.
Rainbow calsilica is possibly the most infamous geological fake of all time. This stone was introduced some years ago at a world famous mineral fair. It was claimed to be a new stone from Mexico. The people behind its production went to extraordinary lengths to convince the world it was natural.
There are several challenges that can impact the accuracy of information that's published regarding crystals rocks and minerals. The first is lack of expertise or knowledge from the business. That can lead to a misunderstanding or miscommunication about a stone that's being sold.
The second comes from those who deliberately choose to deceive by providing false or misleading information.
Lastly there are those who are blatantly fraudulent. These unscrupulous 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 started being sold as Tiffany Stone. Tiffany Stone is a rare opalised fluorite that can only be found in Utah. The deposit has been closed for many years so material is hard to find and highly sought after.
Whether this is a genuine mistake or being done knowingly is difficult to say.
The same applies when heated amethyst is sold as citrine. Labelling the geode or the lemon quartz gemstone as "natural" citrine/lemon quartz makes me believe the retailer is fully aware of what they're doing.
Black onyx is another popular stone that's mostly agate or chalcedony that's been dyed. Natural black onyx is rare.
Most stones being sold as onyx are banded calcite. Calcite is more readily available so is cheaper and also much softer which makes it easier to work with.
I recently found a stone being sold as lapis howlite. It's howlite that's been dyed.
Sadly the internet is full of examples like this. The problem has exploded in recent years because of the vast amount of merchandise coming in from China.
The fact that it's now so easy for anyone to set up shop and start selling online has exacerbated the problem.
Finding honest and trustworthy people to do business with can be a challenge. Bear in mind when dealing with some foreign sellers effective communication due to language and cultural differences is likely to be difficult.
Here's another example of a fake crystal. These stones are not blue tigers eye. They could be brown tigers eye or almost any other stone that's been dyed.
There's a big difference between heating a stone to enhance or change its colour and dyeing it.
Most commercial grade agate in shades of green, blue and purple will almost certainly have been dyed.
Before buying crystals rocks minerals or gemstones it's important to do research. Be sure to use a trustworthy and reliable source because there's a vast amount of inaccurate and misleading information online.
A well designed website can look impressive but establishing whether the content is accurate is not easy.
We recently found a fairly new website with a huge amount of information on a vast variety of subjects. Although many of the short articles we read were fairly accurate, some particularly in relation to rocks and minerals were not.
This paragraph comes from an article that talks about minerals that can be submerged in water.
Mohs scale of mineral hardness was created in 1812 by Viennese mineralogist Friedrich Mohs. It was designed solely for the purpose of measuring the scratch resistance of one mineral against another.
Whilst it's true that many softer minerals do not react well to water, the reason has nothing to do with their hardness.
Turquoise grades between 5 and 6 on the scale and pyrite between 6 and 6.5. Neither should be allowed to come into contact with water.
The problem with this kind of information really begins when others start copying and republishing it.
What starts as an inaccurate interpretation of Mohs scale ends up being turned into something completely false.
The following article which talks about how to identify fake crystals was published by a business in the U.S. It's fairly long and ranks well on Google so receives a considerable amount of traffic.
So much of what has been said is not accurate it's difficult to know where to start.
The scale is called "Mohs" scale because it was named after Friedrich Mohs who created it. Real crystals do not score higher.
The hardest mineral on the scale is diamond which grades 10. The softest is talc which grades 1, gypsum grades 2 and calcite 3. All three of these relatively soft materials are natural minerals.
What the author says regarding how to tell whether a crystal is fake also lacks accuracy.
Whilst it's true that a trade name or as this author puts it, an overly exotic name could be a clue when trying to establish whether a material is genuine, the examples they give are very poor.
I can find no reference to Arizona spinel fake or otherwise. The name blue moonstone is often used to describe moonstone with a distinctive blue hue. Moonstone is a natural mineral.
Historically many coloured translucent gemstones were believed to be topaz. Only in the last two hundred years or so was it discovered that's not correct.
Today it's not uncommon for smoky quartz to be mislabelled as smoky topaz. This is mostly because of lack of knowledge.
This natural strawberry quartz gemstone comes from Kazakhstan. The pendant is from our collection. With this type of quartz being relatively rare there's a huge amount of fake strawberry quartz being produced.
The website where this information was found not only sells crystals but also has a vast reference section. In another article they write opalite is also known as opalised fluorite, ice cream opal and tiffany stone.
Opalised fluorite and ice cream opal are used albeit incorrectly as alternative names for Tiffany Stone. Tiffany Stone is a natural material made up of different minerals.
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."
Opalite is a type of glass that's mass-produced primarily in China. The reference to metal refers to metal oxides that give the glass 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 material that's man-made be 100% natural? And more worryingly, what does the letter of authenticity for this man-made stone confirm?
This post from an online marketplace talks about blue lace agate being unique to Ysterputz. The Ysterputz mine in Southern Namibia is the location where blue lace agate was initially discovered.
The mine has been closed for several years so stone from this deposit is now rare and highly sought after.
Blue lace agate can be found in several African countries but the the finest grade comes from Ysterputz.
The internet has made shopping for crystals easier than ever. An endless selection of products can be found at the click of a button. This convenience does however come with its challenges.
Inaccurate information posted online spreads fast and can lead to confusion and ultimately a bad purchase. Read the wrong article and there's a good chance you'll end up paying a premium price for a low quality stone or worse still, one that's fake.
Some traders use misleading descriptions or false claims about the origin, composition and purpose of certain rocks and minerals. Think about the one-of-a-kind opalite stone that comes with a letter of authenticity.
Stock photos are widely used to mislead buyers into thinking the crystals in the photo are what they'll receive. I have often been impressed by photos on social media only to later find out they were stock images.
Inaccurate information can lead to disputes between buyers and sellers with the buyer often feeling misled or scammed.
To mitigate the impact of inaccurate information it's important to carry out adequate research prior to making your purchase. Buying from a reputable website will make things easier should a problem arise.
Traders selling on social media platforms don't tend to have business Terms and Conditions. Their trading address which will often be a home address may also not be published.
Many companies who are based in India and China trade on eBay and Etsy using a UK business address.
Nobody wants to buy what they believe to be a natural crystal only to then discover it's fake.
Technology has played a significant role in the production of fake crystals. It's now cheaper and easier to create high quality imitation stones than ever before.
In China technology has been used extensively to produce fake jade, turquoise, quartz and many other stones. It's now more difficult than ever to distinguish some fake crystals from genuine rocks and minerals.
How to Tell if a Crystal is Fake?
Whilst there are several tests that can be conducted to establish whether a crystal is authentic, most will cause some level of destruction.
A scratch test can be used to evaluate hardness by comparing one stone's ability to scratch another. This can be helpful if one stone is being used to replicate another.
A specific gravity test measures the density of a mineral which is its weight compared to an equal volume of water. This test is often used to distinguish similar looking minerals.
Some such as calcite, aragonite and pyrite react to acid by fizzing and can even dissolve. Others such as 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 they leave behind. The streak is the powdery residue produced when a mineral is rubbed against a hard surface. It's not always the same colour as the exterior of the stone.
Examining optical properties and lustre may also help with identification. The way light reflects or passes through a crystal can often be helpful. Think of the crystal balls in the photos earlier in this article.
Check for unnaturally vivid colours or patterns that seem too symmetrical. The latter is a telltale sign of fake malachite.
Natural stones 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 hold it to the stone. If it's synthetic it could melt or you may smell burning.
Nail polish remover will remove artificial colour. Use a cotton bud to test a small area. Any presence of dye should come off.
The best way to avoid being scammed into buying a fake crystal is to do research before making your purchase.
Use a trustworthy reference or consider using a platform like Reddit or Quora to post a question. Someone with a good working knowledge of rocks and minerals will likely respond. 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 an extensive discussion area. It's a great site to learn more about a specific rock or mineral.
Geology.com is another website that's definitely worth exploring.
The Articles & Photos section, Knowledge Bank and Blog sections of our website also contain a huge amount of carefully researched information. Our articles always feature photographs of genuine crystals, rocks and minerals. They can be used for comparison purposes.