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Monday, July 13, 2009

Real vs. Faux Gemstones: A lesson learned

Call them what you like: faux or fake gemstones, imitations, or simulated gems -- they all have one thing in common, they can look just like the real thing, but they do not have any of the physical characteristics of the natural or synthetic gemstone they are meant to represent.

Faux gems can be a very good option, because they give us an inexpensive way to wear colorful, lush-looking jewelry without the hefty price tag that comes with the real thing. There's no reason to avoid faux gems -- what you do want to avoid is paying too much for misrepresented merchandise.

Materials Used to Make Faux Gemstones

  • Today's imitation stones are often made of glass or plastic. A jeweler can easily detect those materials, so have the jewelry inspected if you think you might have purchased a fake.

  • A real gemstone can be mounted in a solid-back setting, with foil placed underneath the gem to make it look more brilliant or change its color.

Composite Gemstones

Composite gemstones are made from a small piece of a desirable, genuine stone that's combined with an inexpensive or imitation gemstone. Most opal jewelry is often with composites.

Doublets are composite stones made with a large, inexpensive chunk of some kind that's topped by a thin slice of a desirable gemstone. The division usually isn't obvious until you look at the piece under magnification.

One type of doublet is assembled by sandwiching a colored bonding agent between two clear, inexpensive stones -- the added hue makes it look like a colored gemstone. Again opals are usually fabricated this way.

Triplets are composites that are assembled in three parts instead of two.

Creative Gemstone Names Can be a Signal

Descriptive terms are sometimes used before the name of a gemstone, like Oriental emerald (a green sapphire). An American ruby is a garnet. Australian jade is treated quartz. Question the authenticity of any gemstone that's advertised with an extra, descriptive name.

So, just some basic tips for when you're out on the search for something unique and creative, or whether you're just beginning your own line of gemstone work.

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