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Stone Truth - Real Stone Jewelry, Don't forget the Details

Posted by Steven Barben on


 Jemel Stone Pendants

   A little more aboutGlass flowers familiarizing yourself with real and natural vs. imitation stones, from the last blog (Stone Truth - Real Stone Jewelry, Where to Find and How to Know), This probably relates more to brick and mortar stores than online stores because one advantage of shopping online is that sellers are usually honest and direct in their descriptions (reasons were given in the last blog), this is not always, or even often the case in street shops and department stores. This is not because such location stores are intentionally dishonest or misleading, they want their customers to have good experiences in their stores as much as any other. But of necessity, they must assume that manufacturers, jewelers, artists or whatever suppliers they use, provide accurate information for their products. Most of them probably do, but some may not. If a customer is unsure, they usually speak with a clerk or customer service rep. However, they are not always experts on everything in their stores either, especially if such stores carry a wide variety of products, as many stores do. So they may make assumptions themselves, or finally leave it to the customer to decide based on whatever information is available, which may not be very much. However, if you can pay close attention to some details, you’ll be able to better detect artificial materials and imitation stones.


#1 – Pick it Up and Look at it


      While it may sound like an obvious first step, it is often not taken. Many buyers see something beautiful and buy it on impulse before knowing what it really is. Take the time to pick up a jewelry piece and look at it for clear signs that tell whether it is real or not.  Foil or mirror backing on faceted material is a dead giveaway that it is glass, for example. Rounded facet edges also indicate plastic, glass, or synthetic material; since materials poured into molds generally have rounded rather than sharp edges, while the edges of cut and ground stones are sharp or fine. Other more obvious types of indications might include oversaturated color, exact repeated patterns (same on several pendants, or beads on necklaces), and color distortions or concentrations in certain areas of a material, especially those areas of a piece that concentrate stain like low line depressions, cracks, and crevices.


#2 – How Does it Feel?


       Is it light? Is it heavy? Is it warm to the touch? Or is it cool? Does it matter? Yes it does. Plastic is light in weight. Most stones are relatively heavy, and the distinction between plastic and stones should be easy to detect. Glass is also generally lighter than most stones, but the difference is difficult to detect. The touch temperature of plastics remains at about room temperature or may feel slightly warmer. Real stones are cool or even cold to the touch. Glass also feels cool and is again not so easily distinguished. There are some exceptions to these rules. Ancient organic gems like Amber and Jet are similar in composition to plastics, so they’re similar in weight and touch temperature as well.


#3 – Blurred and Swirled or Fine and Feathery


       Artistic pieces of glass, plastic, and other materials are not intended to imitate stone, so these are quite easily distinguished. For patterned stone (usually semi-precious stones) and potential imitations, some understanding might help in identification.


       Glass and plastic are cooled at a relatively rapid rate and colored by various stains of relatively the same density. This often means that color separation doesn’t form distinctive lines, but rather slightly blurred internal lines in patterns. While this isn’t always obvious to the naked eye, it can often be seen under magnification. In contrast, real stone sources often result from very slow cooling and/or crystallization, with natural colors resulting from minerals of different densities, giving time for minerals to clearly separate or crystallize. Therefore, although patterns are often random, usually more so than plastic or glass, natural stones tend to have a finer separation in color and pattern.


       A swirled pattern is common in plastic and glass, and this can sometimes be confused for real stone. However, created swirling tends to be simple and rather uniform. Natural swirling in stones such as Plume Agate tends to have a fine feathery appearance.


       Also of some interest, an internal sparkling or iridescent mud-cracked appearance is typical of glass. While sparkling or iridescent stones such as Sunstone, Aventurine, Fire Agate, and Opal may have an internal scaly appearance, the mud-cracked look is usually a glass giveaway.


       For solid, single colored gems; inspect backs for concentric flow lines from molten glass having been dropped onto a surface. It has also become apparent to me that most plastic and glass imitations for opaque stones are not truly opaque, but tend to have a cloudy appearance or are slightly translucent. It’s a subtle difference, but with experience this observation can be helpful.


#4– Perfect or Flawed


      Only the very best and most valuable precious stones are flawless or perfect, meaning that the color is rich and consistent throughout the stone (or clear and bright in diamonds and other clear/white transparent gems), light reflection and refraction is optimal, and there are no internal fractures or inclusions. Synthetic stones, glass, and other imitations, however, are almost always perfect, or nearly so. This is because nature creates stones however it will, which is most often with flaws. Synthetics and imitations are intentionally manufactured to appear better than the natural stones they are imitating. Therefore if you should find a flawless stone at a very reasonable price, you should wonder. However, you should also keep in mind that flaws in authentic precious stones, especially small ones, are usually not obvious. Magnification of 5x or more is usually necessary to see them.


       Unlike many semi-precious imitations, the cut surfaces of precious stone imitations are usually cut in the same way as real precious stones to appear like them, so do not have rounded edges and corners. However, because imitations don’t demand the higher value of real stones, the same time and care in the cutting process may not be taken. Edges and corners may not meet exactly where they should, resulting in a lack of precision. This may also require magnification to be clearly seen.


       If you’re searching for real nature made gemstones, remember to make time for the details and take the extra effort required to have real gems rather than look-a-likes.



* Find natural semi-precious stone pendants at


Copyright 2016 Steven A. Barben

General References:

Most of the information in this article is from personal experience and observation

Note: Minor sources may include, but are not limited to a variety of printed and online sources.


Steven A. Barben shares stories from his book - Wisdom's Way: Tales, Treasures, Truths in "Wisdom in Story;" provides stone information  and tales that typify emotions, moods, and personality or character symbols of various stones in "Wonder in Stone;" and clears confusion, raises awareness, and opens stone, gem and jewelry understanding in "Stone Truth."


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