Real or Fake Crystals? A Beginner's Guide to Crystals

Real or Fake Crystals? A Beginner's Guide to Crystals

Inside the World of Fake Crystals

This discussion of fake crystals also includes information about enhanced and dyed crystals and how to spot fake crystals. We’ll use the word fake when referring to crystals that are lab grown as opposed to crystals that are formed by and in the Earth. Examples of completely manmade crystals include translucent cherry quartz, goldstone, opalite, resin rhodochrosite, some opals, much of the colored obsidian on the market, some moldavite. Most of these fakes are made from glass or resin and many contain manufactured inclusions and dyes. Moldavite is a tricky one, because real moldavite is an authentic tektite. So, how do you spot fake moldavite and how do you identify the real deal? My advice is to buy moldavite from a trusted source with years of experience identifying this specific item. Don’t be afraid to approach an experienced moldavite dealer at a show and ask them to give you tips on how to spot fakes. They often keep a couple fakes on hand to show customers the difference. 

Real or Fake, How to Spot Fake Crystals Such as Moldavite:

  1. Very glassy and shiny without a matte finish
  2. The color is off. Moldavite is a very specific hue of green 
  3. Regular shapes like ovals, rounds or spherical
  4. The craters and patterns on the surface of the moldavite are too uniform 

Real Vs. Fake Crystals

Another category of fakes includes enhanced crystals. Green chromium quartz from China begins with a real quartz cluster that goes through a process of adding chromium during a high-powered water bath, turning the clusters green. Lucky for buyers, these are an unnatural shade of green making these easy to spot. Howlite is often dyed blue and called turquoise. The flip side is that natural howlite is sometimes called white turquoise or buffalo turquoise. There is no such thing as white turquoise, the color of authentic turquoise is influenced by copper, it is usually blue or green or a combination. Sometimes you will find conglomerates of turquoise, meaning very small bits of real turquoise bound together with resin, to create cabochons for jewelry. 

Crystal Identification of Enhanced Crystals

Aura quartzes are created by heating real quartz in a high heat vacuum chamber with metals such as gold, copper, or titanium. Each metal produces a different color or effect. In recent years I’ve seen this process applied to aragonite, spirit quartz and black kyanite. The business of creating aura crystals has become big and to supply the demand, manufacturers use low-quality specimens. The colors of aura crystals is unnatural and often has a rainbow effect on the surface, virtually iridescence on steroids. Speaking of low-quality crystals, let’s talk about citrine. Natural citrine is a subtle, yet truly lovely shade of champagne gold. Shades of sunny yellow or burnt brown are an easy way to identify heat treated citrine. Citrine cathedrals and clusters made from geodes are mass heated with a blow torch which is why they often are a burnt, somewhat brown color. One thing to keep in mind with these cathedrals and clusters of ‘citrines’ is that poor quality amethyst is used, pieces that are washed out and very pale to begin with. If your goal is to collect high quality, energized crystals that are 100% real and not poor quality amethyst disguised as citrine, I urge you to learn to identify and avoid these pieces.

Often the color of topaz and aquamarine are enhanced and are very bright, intense blue that is an unnatural hue. Dyed agates have been around for a very long time and are usually bright blue or hot pink, and occasionally bright, unnatural shades of purple. Many of the translucent colors of obsidian are manmade glass which leads us to andara crystals. I hope that everyone is aware by now that andara are not crystals, they do not have a crystalline matrix. They are slag glass, meaning the runoff from glass factories. I’ve seen examples of fake labradorite, this is usually done to small pieces such as cabochons for jewelry. In the case of fake labradorite, a background of colors on foil or paper are attached to the back of a piece of resin. I’ve also seen this done with green amber. Green amber is much more rare, so is in high demand. A small piece of green paper is placed under the cabochon of natural amber prior to placing it in the setting of a ring or pendant, making it appear green. 

How Do You Know If a Crystal Is Fake?

There are many other examples of fake, enhanced or treated crystals because to sell items dishonest vendors will misinform the public. Best advice? If you intend to collect, learn as much as you can, educate yourself. There are usually mineral clubs in every state with knowledgeable members. Attend shows and ask questions. An excellent online source for reliable mineral data is Mindat posts will often describe tests for determining what a crystal is, in some cases, this can be done without special equipment. 

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