Unfortunately, the growing demand for crystals has created supply issues for some of the most popular or more rare stones. Many stones are found only in a specific place in the world, or may only have a few operating mines. When these mines aren't able to keep up with demand or stop operation, faked or man-made versions of crystals begin to appear on the market, advertised as the real thing.
Some stones commonly found on the market have always been man-made or meddled with, and do not occur naturally, but this isn't usually advertised. In other cases, the seller may use carefully selected wording to pass stones off as the real thing without being clear about the man-made origins.
Some man-made or altered crystals still carry the crystalline structure and inclusions found in their natural counterparts, and not everyone believes they lose their metaphysical properties. As long as they are accurately advertised, the metaphysical value of man-made crystals are up to the buyer.
In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most common man-made and faked crystals and how to spot them so you can shop with certainty.
Malachite is one of the crystals in shorter supply, as deposits in Israel, Egypt, and the Ural Mountains of Russia have been depleted. These days, almost all malachite on the market comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. Unfortunately, fighting and political upheaval have ravaged the DRC for decades, and this often affects many products mined there, including malachite.
This shortage significantly drives up the price of malachite, leading some crystal retailers to look for cheaper options to offer to their customers. One of these is "reconstituted malachite," which is malachite powder that has been mixed with resin and pressed back into shape. To create the iconic light and dark green bands, the outside of reconstituted malachite is often painted to mimic the natural pattern.
Real malachite will be quite heavy, cold to the touch, and difficult to scratch, while reconstituted malachite is lighter in weight, warms easily, and easily scratches showing a white interior.
When buying in person, hold malachite to be sure it's real. If the pattern looks painted on without any depth, or if it feels lighter than expected or quickly becomes warm, it's probably fake. The price may also be "too good to be true," though I often find reconstituted malachite marked up to the same price as real malachite.
Citrine is likely the most commonly mis-marketed stone. Real citrine is quite rare, and thus, expensive, so most of the stones marketed as citrine are actually heat-treated amethyst or smoky quartz. When these stones are exposed to very high heat, the color changes.
The easiest way to spot natural citrine is the color, which is usually a pale, unsaturated, sometimes greenish yellow. Heat-treated amethyst is usually much more of a vibrant, orange-yellow, or even brown. The base color is another clue. Heat-treated citrine is often sold as clusters or tips with a white base, whereas natural citrine will be the same color throughout.
The chemical composition, hardness, and crystalline structure of both stones are the same, so this "fake" isn't a total scam. Many believe the heat treatment does change the metaphysical properties, so it's better to purchase from a seller who is honest about the origins of the stone.
Because less than five percent of mined turquoise is jewelry quality, and many mines in the Southwest U.S. have run dry or been closed, the cost of turquoise continues to rise. With demand just as high, some less reputable sellers have resorted to out-right turquoise fakes.
Typically, dyed howlite is used to fake turquoise because of its branching grey lines that somewhat mimic the real thing, but fakes can also be made from magnesite, epoxy, resin, and plastic.
If the stone is made from dyed howlite, it will have few or no grooves or brown spots. Most natural turquoise is sure to have divots, grooves, and furrows that are often brown or tan. Also consider the weight of the stone. Real turquoise is somewhat heavy, while howlite and plastic are fairly lightweight.
The next clue will be the color. Most fake turquoise will have a very bright blue color due to the dye, while natural turquoise will be more of a blue-green with brown patches.
Lastly, if the price seems too good to be true, it likely is. While some sellers do price their fake turquoise as if it were real, cheap turquoise will almost always be fake.
There has been a recent explosion in the demand for moldavite, and being a rather rare mineral, suppliers have had trouble acquiring it. Due to this, many, many of the items on the market are not real.
What makes this even more complicated is how easy moldavite is to fake. It's a natural glass, created when a meteor impacted over southern Germany over 14.7 million years ago. The organic material and earth in the forest below was melted and mixed with the minerals from the meteor, creating a dark green, natural glass, also known as a tektite. While humans may struggle to fake some stones, glass is something we are very good at making.
Fake moldavite can be very realistic, even imitating the natural dark green color, bumps, internal bubbles, and typical irregular shape of real specimens. One of the key differences will be the finish. If the stone is shiny, like polished glass, or not translucent at all, it's definitely a fake, as real moldavite is a bit dull in finish and allows light to pass through. Also look for proper color. Fake moldavite is usually a brilliant green, while the real thing is more of a dark, olive green.
Location is another good indication. Real moldavite is only found in the Czech Republic. There is no such thing as "African moldavite," as is sometimes advertised.
Sellers may even provide a "Certificate of Authenticity" with fake moldavite stones. While these can be easily forged or created, certificates are often provided for real stones, so keep this in mind when vetting your purchase.
One of the best ways to spot real moldavite is to inspect the stone with a jeweler's handheld microscope. If you spot bubbles or any inclusions, it could be the real thing, but some fakes go so far as to imitate bubbles as well.
Overall, ensuring moldavite is real isn't an easy task. The best way to be sure is to purchase from a very reputable seller, and expect to pay a hefty price.
Onyx is a type of chalcedony that includes parallel bands of color vs being a single solid color. Something I was surprised to learn as a crystal and gem collector and retailer was that the black onyx we are all so familiar with is almost always dyed grey chalcedony.
While real black onyx does exist, it will almost never be perfectly uniform in color.
Natural onyx will include bands of varying colors within the same stone, and the color range is limitless. It comes in reds, oranges, whites, greys, pinks, blues, greens, browns,
I personally find natural onyx to be more beautiful than the dyed variety, and choose to only offer natural onyx in my shop. If you're looking for the real thing, look for specimens with bands of color.
Another type of chalcedony, carnelian, is sometimes actually banded agate or onyx that has been dyed or mis-marked as carnelian, glass, or plastic.
Real carnelian will not be uniform in color, with clouds of saturated reds and oranges mixed with lighter orange or white. If your stone has bands of color, it's likely agate or onyx instead. If it's completely uniform in color, or includes any air bubbles, it's definitely glass.
Natural carnelian is heavy and slow to warm up in your hand, so keep an eye out for fakes that may be lightweight or quickly warm to your touch.
Unfortunately, fake agate slices are very, very common in the market, and sellers do not usually disclose that these are actually dyed agate or dyed chalcedony. The good news is, these are very easy to spot.
Natural agate slices will be muted colors, such as grey, brown, white, or soft oranges. Real agate does not come in neon blue, orange, green, etc. If the outsides of the stone are still visible, these should be the color of natural rock. If the outsides are an unnatural color, such as blue, the stone has been dyed.
When dyed, some bands within the stone may also pick up more dye than others, leading to bands of bright purple next to grey or white bands.
Not everyone minds dyed stones, as the chemical composition and crystalline structure have not been altered, so if you like the look of dyed agate and know what you're purchasing, there's no harm done.
Aura Crystals and Peacock Ore
Angel aura, aqua aura, and rainbow quartz, and peacock ore all have one thing in common, they are a product of a man-made process that deposits a colorful layer on the outside of the stone.
The colorful quartz varieties are often real quartz underneath the shimmering layer, but the popular rainbow appearance is created by heating metals to a very high temperature and applying them to the crystals. .
Peacock ore, on the other hand, does exist as a natural stone, but almost all of these on the market are chalcopyrite, treated with acid, which produces a strongly-colored iridescent tarnish. Real peacock ore is bornite, which naturally tarnishes in a similar manner, though not as bright.
Opalite is not a real gemstone and never occurs in nature. It is actually a type of opalescent glass, sometimes also named argenon, sea opal, and opal moonstone, or even advertised as real, also known as, common opal.
The good news is that this fake is incredibly easy to spot. Real opal or moonstone will include splashes or fractures of color, vs being universally flashy. Opalite will appear to be consistently milky-white and flash from all angles.
Some people love opalite even though it's not a natural stone, and it is still in demand. The real scam is when sellers do not advertise its origins, or even market it under the name of a real stone.
Selenite vs. Satin Spar Selenite
This list wouldn't be complete without the distinction between selenite and satin spar, but this one is far from a scam. The mineral most people know and love as "selenite" is actually satin spar, which, like actual selenite, is a variety of gypsum.
Real selenite is a fairly clear, brittle, layered mineral, that's often found in sheets. It's somewhat difficult to cut or drill, so it is not often used to create display pieces or jewelry.
Satin spar, on the other hand, is fibrous and has bands that stretch the length of the stone. It's not fully clear, and reflects light much more than actual selenite. Most of what is found on the market, used for towers, wands, plates, bowls, and jewelry, is actually satin spar.
Though it would be nice if sellers would correctly label their satin spar, most shoppers are much more familiar with the name "selenite" for this variety of gypsum. As many of the metaphysical properties we associate with selenite are actually related to satin spar, this mislabeling may just get a pass.
Dyed Quartz and Glass Crystals
Especially at the lower price points, many stones marketed as varieties of quartz are actually dyed quartz or sometimes even colored glass. These are often found at retailers who don't specialize in jewelry, such as hobby supply stores, tween jewelry chains, and a popular goth clothing and gift shop, though they may also be encountered online.
Check the fine print, if available, as most large retail chains will cover their assets by admitting the fake nature of the stone. If you're able to, try rubbing the corners of the stone with a fingernail or knife. Real quartz will not scratch easily, where dyed or coated glass will give way.
Another great way to check before making any purchase is to search the name of the stone online. For example, a quick Google on "cherry quartz" reveals that it is actually a dyed variety of quartz or man-made dyed glass, and does not exist in nature.
Being an educated buyer is the best way to avoid scams. Unless you're shopping wholesale or a clearance sale, great deals are almost always too good to be true, as no crystal retailer could afford to sell real crystals and stones at unbelievable prices.
I always recommend some quick internet research before a purchase, but also consider asking the seller directly. While some may lie, many will disclose the true nature of the stone when approached, especially if its in writing, such as chat or email.
If you're ever in doubt that a stone you purchased is real, seek out the help of a professional, who will use tools to make a solid determination.
Guy Courtois https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fake_turquoise_from_China.jpg
James St. John