Amethysts are believed to bring clarity and prevent drunkenness. Some say citrine attracts wealth and dispels anger. Rose quartz and jade — perhaps in a gua sha or a roller — may improve your skin and help prevent wrinkles, like these.
Although a focus on crystals may seem like a hot new trend, most of the beliefs about them date back to ancient times — in nearly all lands. Their newfound popularity, though, has led to an explosion of synthetic and counterfeit products. That citrine may be a piece of clear quartz colored yellow. The precious amethyst point in that crystal infusion water bottle may be purple glass — or plastic. Even recognizing the difference between real and synthetic diamonds isn’t always easy. How do you tell if a crystal is real if you’re not an expert? These warning signs and questions can help you spot fakes.
Read the Description Carefully
While some sellers will out-and-out lie about the authenticity of their “crystal” products, others who sell imitation crystals describe them honestly with words like “faux,” “synthetic,” or “enhanced.” It’s not unusual to see headlines like “genuine faux turquoise stone” when you’re shopping for crystal jewelry online. A close reading of the product description can help you avoid buying fake crystals.
Also Read the Reviews
If you’re buying online, you also have the benefit of other people’s experiences to guide you when making a purchase. Go right to the one-star and two-star reviews and look for giveaways that mark the stones as fake or — at best — not what you want to buy. We’ve seen reviews that complained about supposedly genuine colored crystals that bled dye onto skin and countertops when the stone got damp. The seller’s reputation and reviews of their products can tell you all you need to know.
Educate Yourself About the Crystal You Want to Buy
There’s no substitute for knowing your stuff. Even a little research can help you avoid getting fooled by well-known crystal fakes. One of the best resources is Hibiscus Moon Crystal Academy, where Hibiscus Moon has been blogging about how to spot specific types of phony crystals for nearly a decade. If you spot a crystal that seems too good to be true, head on over to her blog and search for it.
Look for These Warning Signs
Origin and price can raise red flags about the authenticity of crystal. While these things don’t always mean that a gemstone is fake, they are a clue to ask questions and look closer.
If you spot crystals that are priced far below the typical market for the type, take it as a big, flashing warning sign. Generally, you get what you pay for. A low price doesn’t always mean that the stones are fake, but they’re very likely to be poor quality.
Bright, highly pigmented crystals have often been dyed, irradiated, or chemically treated to make them look like something else. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing — especially if the seller discloses the fact. Aura quartz, for example, is generally a clear quartz that has been irradiated or chemically treated to bond it with a coating — often titanium, which gives the stone an iridescent effect. Aura quartz and titanium-coated stones can be very pretty — but they’re not naturally occurring.
On the other hand, some stones are dyed specifically to fool customers into thinking they’re something else. This is especially common with gems marketed as citrine and turquoise. If that citrine you’re considering is bright, marigold yellow, or almost orange with a pale “root,” chances are it’s a heat-treated amethyst quartz. Fake turquoise is even easier to spot because the color is too uniform. Most natural turquoise will have color inconsistencies. Fake turquoise — which is often dyed howlite — is usually a consistent robin’s egg blue with black or brown veining.
Finally, crystals — especially agate and agate slices — that are vividly colored have probably been dyed. Those intense blues, rich purples, and vibrant pink interiors are aren’t found in nature.
Are the Crystals Too Perfect?
It’s extremely rare to find natural crystals with no flaws or inclusions. Synthetic crystals, on the other hand, are often flawless. If the gemstone you’re looking at seems perfect, there’s a good chance that it’s artificially created. It might even be glass masquerading as a semiprecious gem.
There’s one exception to the “no inclusions” rule: Real crystals — especially quartz — include no air bubbles. Glass pieces often do.
Natural vs. Synthetic vs. Imitation
Let’s talk quickly about the difference between natural, synthetic, and imitation crystals. Natural crystals form in the earth over time — often thousands or even millions of years. They have a specific chemical makeup.
Synthetic stones are created in a lab by a chemical and/or mechanical process. They have the same chemical makeup as a natural stone of the same time, but they take far less time to create — sometimes as little as a few days or hours. Because every element of creation can be controlled, synthetic crystals are often more attractive than natural stones, and they cost far less. While it’s difficult to tell the difference between natural and synthetic stones, one possible hint is the shape and roughness of the crystal. The smoother and more regular the shape, the more likely it is to be synthetic.
Imitation crystals are exactly that — imitations. They may be made of glass, plastic, resin or another material. They don’t have the same chemical makeup and they won’t react to heat or light in the same way that a synthetic or natural crystal does.
Whether you love crystals for their appearance or their energy, you deserve to know exactly what you’re buying. These tips can help you determine whether the crystals that have caught your eye are the real thing or a clever fake.
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer who specializes in home, education, and lifestyle topics. She draws on her experiences as a teacher, mother, grandmother, and all-around creative spirit to help others achieve their own goals.