If you want sparkle, but prefer an understated look, then marcasite gemstone jewellery may be perfect for you. These semi-precious stones are a type of mineral, which range in colour from silver-yellow to bright white silver. When faceted and set into jewellery, they create a subtle sparkling effect, rather than a full on glitz – perfect for adding a hint of shimmer.
One of the most popular gemstones is malachite. With its beautiful green colour, wonderful patterns and heavy, quality feel, its no wonder!
Like all popular gemstones though, there are now increasing amounts of fake malachite flooding the market, especially over the internet. Here are some tips to help you avoid these imitations:
Genuine malachite is very cold, heavy and feels hard. It is heavier than solid glass or plastic, and feels ‘dense’ and ice cold when held and touched. The striped patterns are called ‘banding’. Genuine malachite is not uniform in its patterns and colours; you’ll find circles and thin to thick parts in the patterns, and dark to mid-green hues.
Fake malachite comes in many forms. Plastic fake malachite is lightweight and warm to the touch. Glass fake malachite tends is cold to the touch like genuine malachite, but because it’s glass it will warm up in your hand much quicker, where as real malachite won’t warm up much at all; it remains cold (this applies to a lot of gemstones btw).
*Check out the museums in your area – even the smallest ones can often throw up some big surprises!
Lapis lazuli has been sought after and used in jewellery for thousands of years. It’s rich blue colour, along with those sparkling flecks of fools gold iron pyrites make it truly irresistible! Unfortunately, lapis lazuli has also become one of the most faked gemstones in the world. It’s not easy to tell the difference between fake lazuli and the real gemstone. Many cheap minerals and gemstones (such as poor quality jasper, white howlite, spinel, sodalite or calcite) can be dyed to imitate it, while glass and plastic can been used to copy lapis lazuli too. Here are some quick tips to hopefully help you spot genuine good quality lapis Lazuli (and avoid the fakes) …….
Firstly, look at the price. The best lapis lazuli commands very high prices, and tends to be set in gold. So if you see a string of lapis lazuli beads for only a couple of pounds/dollers, they could be fakes or very poor quality dyed stones. In my own personal experience, a standard nice quality lapis lazuli undyed natural bead necklace tends to cost from around £30 upwards.
Poor quality Lapis lazuli can be dyed. Lapis lazuli is made up of a mix of minerals: lazurite (which gives it that distinctive blue colour), white calcite, dark grey-blue sodalite and golden ‘fools gold’ flecks of iron pyrites. Too much white in the gemstone means it classed as a cheaper calcite, too much dark blue-grey means it’s a cheaper sodalite. Poor quality lapis lazuli can be dyed to make it appear more desirable (see below photo).
To test if your lapis lazuli has been dyed, simply wipe your stone with acetone or alcohol. If it loses its colour it’s either a fake, or a poor quality lazuli dyed to imitate better quality lazuli.
Genuine lapis lazuli is around 5.5 on the MOHS gemstone hardness scale (diamonds are 10) which means it will just about scratch glass, though can itself be scratched with a knife.
Look for the ‘fool’s gold’ (a.k.a iron pyrites) in your lazuli. These are little random golden flecks and tiny lines of dark metallic gold in the gemstone. Genuine ‘fools gold’ is surprisingly difficult to imitate – it usually ends up looking far too uniform and ‘perfect’ for it to be real.
‘Reconstructed Lapis Lazuli means that bits of the leftover lazuli gemstone have been ground up and then binded together to make a new stone or bead. It’s not really a fake as it does contain lazuli… but then it’s not the true real thing either. Re-constituted lapis lazuli often has an unatural pebble dash feel and look to it.
If the Lapis Lazuli is simply too uniformly blue, and is cheap to buy, then it’s probably fake. Only the very best top quality Lazuli is a uniform blue colour, with virtually no fools gold. It is incredibly rare, deeply sought after and costs an absolute fortune; this is the type of lazuli you only see set into the finest 18k or 22k gold settings.
Plastic faux Lapis Lazuli can be identified by holding it and tapping it on your teeth. Plastics will feel almost ‘warm’ (ie not cold like glass or gemstone), and will make a dull quiet clink when gently tapped against your teeth (gemstones and glass make a cold hard higher pitched ‘clink’ on the teeth).
As with a lot of gemstones, lapis lazuli can be very cold to the touch. Although glass imitations are cold as well, they will quickly warm up when held – real gemstones often remain cool even after fairly prolonged holding.
Glass faux Lapis Lazuli often has no gold specks in it, although some top quality imitations do. However, the flecks are too smooth and uniformly patterned to be real, and the blue colour is too ‘blue’, shiny and even.
Real lapis lazuli will leave a blue-ish mark on a rough surface, such as an unglazed tile. When it’s cut in half, lazuli emits a foul odour; it contains sulfur, and this oxides (and smells foul) on reaction to the air. Both of these tests will of course completely ruin your stone, so I don’t recommend them! (Dyed inferior lapis lazuli will also stain a rough surface).
When you are purchasing gemstone jewellery you may sometimes come across the word doublet, or triplet. The seller should explain to you what this means, but I’ve noticed that this isn’t always happening, and only a lightning-quick run through of the term is given, if at all.
Doublets and triplet gemstones aren’t fake gemstones, but they aren’t solid gemstones either. They are a mixture of both genuine gemstone and man-made materials.
A doublet is a genuine gemstone which has been thinly sliced and glued on top of another material such as glass. It’s done mainly to make use of small flat pieces of gemstone (opals especially), and to save money.
A triplet is similar to a doublet, however the triplet also has a clear protective ‘cover’ glued over the gemstone (usually made from glass or clear cheaper gemstone, or even plastic). Some gemstones such as ammolite or black opal are so soft that triplets are the most effective way to set some specimens into jewellery. Though be a little wary with black opal doublets/ triplets – they are sometimes inexpensive white or clear opals set onto a black backing of glass.
The website www.opalsdownunder.com has a fantastic page on the subject, with some good photos to help you identify a doublet/ triplet gemstone.