Call them what you like: faux, fake, imitations or simulated gems -- they all have one thing in common, they can look just like the real thing, but do not have any of the physical characteristics of the natural or synthetic gemstone they are meant to represent.
Materials Used to Make Faux Gemstones
Today's imitation stones are sometimes 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.
Two diamond simulants are popular, cubic zirconia and synthetic moissanite.
Both are affordable and durable materials that are created in a laboratory.
What's a Composite Gemstone?
Composite gemstones are made from a small piece of a desirable, genuine stone that's combined with an inexpensive or imitation gemstone to make the real thing appear larger or to enhance its appearance. Opal jewelry is often with composites.
Doublets are composite stones made with a large, inexpensive chunk of material, sometimes an inexpensive mineral, that's topped by a thin slice of the gemstone it's meant to represent. 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.
Triplets are composites that are assembled in three parts instead of two.
Creative Gemstone Names Can be a Warning Sign
Descriptive terms are sometimes used before the name of a gemstone, like Oriental emerald, which is actually a green sapphire.
An American ruby is a garnet. Australian jade is quartz that's been treated. Question the authenticity of any gemstone that's advertised with an extra, descriptive name. Review some of the most common terms in our index of misleading gemstone names
Stabilized and Reconstituted Gems
Turquoise is one gemstone that comes to mind when we think of gems that have been stabilized or reconstituted:
- Stabilization is accomplished by using pressure to force a bonding-type of product into turquoise that would otherwise be too soft and chalky to use.
- Reconstituted stones are made by mixing powders of the real thing with a binding agent. Stones are formed from the mix, which is often made from other ingredients -- not just the gem.
- Coloring agents are often added to enhance the colors of stabilized and reconstituted turquoise.
Because turquoise can be fairly fragile, it isn't uncommon to see thin slices of the gem backed with a material that will make jewelry more durable.
Faux gems can be a very good option for buyers, 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 jewelry.
Enhancing the Appearance of a Genuine Gem
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. Keep in mind that backings are often used when mounting fake gems.
Savvy Jewelry Shopping
Read as many resources as possible and start looking more closely at jewelry -- you might even consider learning how to use a jewelry loupe. Ask questions when you shop. It won't make you an overnight pro, but in time it will help you become a more savvy shopper.