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How Can I Tell if the Gemstone I Have is Real? – Expert Tips

Justin Zaroovabeli
December 22, 2023

Gemstones have long been cherished for their beauty, rarity, and symbolism across various cultures. It's not unusual for people to invest in these precious stones, whether for adornment, investment, or simply appreciating their natural allure. However, with the gemstone market filled with synthetic, lab-created, and imitations, it's crucial to know if the gemstone in your possession is genuine or not.

blue emerald cut stone heald with tweezers

Determining the authenticity of a gemstone can be a daunting task for most individuals, especially those with minimal knowledge in the field. Various tests and examinations exist to distinguish between genuine and synthetic gemstones, yet some require expertise or specialized equipment. Fear not, for there are several simple yet effective methods accessible to the average person that can help ascertain the reality of your gemstone.

In this article, we will discuss how to identify the legitimacy of your gemstone by its physical appearance, including color, transparency, inclusions, and more. Additionally, we will provide insights into practical, at-home testing techniques that can further verify the origins of your precious stone. Armed with this knowledge, you will be better equipped to ensure your investment is authentic and safeguard against potential forgeries.

Understanding Gemstones

Gemstones are natural minerals or stones that have been cut and polished to enhance their natural beauty. The type and quality of a gemstone play a significant role in determining its value in the market. In order to determine if a gemstone is real or not, one must have a comprehensive understanding of its physical and optical properties.

The physical properties of gemstones include their density, weight, and specific gravity. These measurements can help identify the type of mineral that makes up the stone. For instance, a gemstone with a higher specific gravity will feel heavier than another stone of similar size but lower specific gravity.

When observing a gemstone, its hue, saturation, and transparency play a crucial role in determining its visual appeal. Hue refers to the dominant color of the stone, while saturation is the intensity of the color. Transparency refers to the level of light that can pass through the stone. A gemstone with higher transparency will appear more vibrant and naturally striking.

The luster and fire of a gemstone are vital optical properties to consider. Luster is the manner in which the stone reflects light, while fire refers to the dispersion of light when it enters the stone. The optical properties of a gemstone greatly impact its overall appearance and value.

To better understand gemstones, one can utilize various tools and techniques such as examining tables and consulting bullet points of gemstone properties. In summary, recognizing the physical and optical properties of gemstones is key to determining their authenticity and value in the market. By considering factors like density, weight, specific gravity, hue, saturation, transparency, luster, and fire, one can confidently and knowledgeably assess the quality of a gemstone.

Recognizing Real vs Synthetic Gems

diamond and blue pear shaped ring under magnifying glass

Key Differences

It is essential to understand the key differences between real and synthetic gemstones to make an informed purchase or appraisal. Natural gemstones are formed in the earth over thousands or even millions of years, while synthetic gemstones are created in a laboratory. Although synthetic gemstones often resemble their natural counterparts, there are certain distinctions that can help distinguish the two.

Real gemstones, such as diamonds and rubies, have unique inclusions and compositions that are difficult to replicate artificially. Synthetic gemstones, like cubic zirconia, may appear flawless but often lack the depth and luster of natural gems. Additionally, synthetic gemstones can be produced at a lower cost, making them more affordable.

Some common differences between real and synthetic gemstones include:

  • Inclusions: Natural gemstones typically have inclusions, while synthetic gems often exhibit fewer or no inclusions at all.
  • Color: Synthetic gems may have a more uniform color, while natural stones exhibit slight color variations.
  • Weight: Synthetic gems like cubic zirconia are typically denser and heavier than their genuine counterparts.

Gemstone Authentication

To verify whether a gemstone is real or synthetic, several methods can be employed.

  1. Visual Inspection: Examine the gemstone for common natural inclusions, imperfections, and color variations. A jeweler's loupe—a small portable magnifying glass—can aid in this process.
  2. Refractive Index Testing: Gemstones have specific refractive indexes, which can be measured using specialized tools. Comparing the results to known values can help identify the type of gemstone.
  3. Specific Gravity & Density: Determining the gemstone's density and comparing it to known values for certain materials can assist in authentication.
  4. Professional Appraisal: Hiring a professional gemologist or gem lab to conduct an appraisal is recommended when dealing with valuable or complex gemstones.

It is also essential to recognize that there are other categories of gemstones, such as stimulants, assembled stones, and treated gemstones. Simulants are substances that imitate gemstones without possessing the same chemical and physical properties. Assembled stones are formed by combining multiple materials, like doublets or triplets. Treated gemstones are real gems that have undergone enhancements, like heat treatment, to improve appearance or durability.

In conclusion, identifying real versus synthetic gemstones can be a complex process. By understanding the key differences and utilizing various authentication methods, as well as seeking professional expertise when needed, it is possible to determine the true nature of these beautiful stones.

Professional Gem Identification

diamond and purple stone ring being viewed under magnifying glass

When it comes to gemstone identification, a professional gemologist or a trained gemstone expert can provide valuable insights into a gem's authenticity. Several methods and equipment are employed by these professionals for accurate identification.

Methods and Equipment

Gemologists utilize a range of gem identification methods to determine a gemstone's authenticity, including visual inspections, microscope inspections, and advanced gemology equipment.

  1. Visual Inspections: Gemologists use their trained eyes to examine the gemstone's color, clarity, and overall appearance to identify specific characteristics unique to the gem.

  2. Microscope Inspections: A microscope can help reveal a gemstone's internal characteristics, such as inclusions and flaws that are invisible to the naked eye.

  3. Advanced Equipment: Gemologists have access to specialized equipment, such as refractometers, polariscopes, and spectrometers, that can provide detailed information about a gemstone's physical and optical properties.

Certification and Appraisal

After a gem has been examined, the gemologist may issue a certification or appraisal report. Certification from a reputable gemological laboratory, such as the International Gem Society, confirms that the gemstone is genuine and provides essential details about the gem's properties and quality. Appraisal reports, on the other hand, give an estimated monetary value for the gemstone, which can be important for insurance purposes.

In conclusion, seeking the assistance of a professional gemologist is the best approach for accurately identifying gemstones. It is crucial to rely on their expertise and the proper usage of specialized equipment to ensure the authenticity of the gemstone and gain a comprehensive understanding of its characteristics and value.

Gemstone Examination Techniques

a variety of different stones with tweezers and magnifying glasses

Visual Examination

A primary method in gemstone identification is visual examination. Observe the gemstone's color, clarity, and inclusions. Use a loupe or microscope to inspect the gemstone for any flaws or unique characteristics that can help differentiate between genuine and fake gemstones. Many gemstones possess characteristic inclusions that serve as identifying features.

Transparent, translucent, and opaque appearances play a crucial role in determining the type of gemstone. For instance, topaz and certain red gems exhibit specific visual properties. Keep in mind that some gemstones may display birefringence, where a single image appears as two images due to light refraction.

Physical Measurements

Another essential step in gemstone identification is conducting physical measurements, including hardness, refractive index, dispersion, and specific gravity. Use a refractometer with RI fluid to measure the gem's refractive index, which helps determine its type. Gemstone identification charts provide valuable information on different properties of various gemstones, making it easier to narrow down the options.

  • Hardness: Scratch the gemstone with a known hardness item to assess its relative hardness.
  • Refractive Index: A refractometer provides the gemstone's light-bending properties.
  • Dispersion: Examine the gemstone under different lighting to witness its dispersion or fire.
  • Weight, Specific Gravity, and Density: These measurements help differentiate gemstones with similar visual appearances, such as cubic zirconia and diamonds.

Gemstone Treatments

It's crucial to consider whether a gemstone has been treated or enhanced, as these treatments can affect its value. Treated gemstones may undergo heat treatment, irradiation, radiation, and various enhancements. Although treated gems may appear visually appealing, their worth is generally lower than untreated counterparts. Detecting treatments requires careful observation and, in some cases, specialized equipment.

Some common gemstone treatments include:

  • Heat Treatment: Enhances the color and clarity of gemstones.
  • Irradiation: Utilizes radiation to alter gemstone colors.
  • Enhancements: Techniques used to fill fractures or improve a gem's appearance.

Remember to conduct thorough research, employ detective work, and remain vigilant to discover whether your gemstone is real or a convincing fake. While no single method is foolproof, combining various examination techniques increases the likelihood of accurately identifying genuine gemstones.

Understanding Gemstone Value

When it comes to distinguishing between a real and a fake gemstone, understanding its value in the market is crucial. The value of a gemstone is determined by several factors, such as its quality, rarity, and the metal it is set in. By assessing these aspects, one can be more confident in determining whether the gemstone they have is genuine.

The price of a gemstone can be a strong indicator of its authenticity. A genuine gemstone will generally carry a higher price point than a fake one, due to the higher quality materials and craftsmanship involved in its creation. However, it is essential to be cautious, as some fake gemstones can also be priced high to deceive buyers.

To assess the quality of a gemstone, one has to look for specific characteristics such as color, clarity, cut, and carat weight, also known as the 4 Cs. A real gemstone will typically have a vivid color, fewer inclusions (small imperfections), a precise cut, and a consistent weight. Comparing the gemstone to authentic samples or consulting with a professional can aid in determining the quality.

The market's demand for a particular gemstone can also be informative. Genuine gemstones generally have a stable market value, while the value of fake ones may fluctuate often. Researching the market trends for the particular gemstone is advised to gain insight into its authenticity.

The metal used to set a gemstone can also provide clues about its authenticity. Genuine gemstones are typically set in high-quality metals like gold, platinum, or sterling silver, while fake ones are often set in lower quality metals or metal alloys. Examining the metal for any markings will also help in determining the gemstone's authenticity.

In summary, evaluating the value of a gemstone is a crucial aspect when determining its authenticity. By considering factors like price, quality, market trends, and the metal used for setting, one can be more confident in discerning between a real and a fake gemstone.

Gemstones from The Rare Gem

round green stone held with tweezers


Alexandrites are a rare variety of the mineral chrysoberyl. They display an incredible color-changing property, shifting from green in daylight to red or purple under incandescent light. Their hardness ranks 8.5 on the Mohs scale, making them an ideal choice for jewelry. Due to their rarity and unique properties, alexandrites are highly valued and sought after, often being compared to diamonds and rubies.

Padparadscha Sapphires

Padparadscha sapphires are another exceptionally rare gemstone. They belong to the corundum family, with a unique blend of warm and cool colors: pink and orange hues reminiscent of a sunset. With a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, they are highly durable and perfect for jewelry. Their stunning coloration, combined with their rarity, make them highly desirable gems for collectors and enthusiasts alike.


Taaffeites are a rare gemstone that exhibits a range of colors, including red, purple, and bluish gray. The mineral they belong to is magnesium aluminum garnet, which has a hardness of 8 to 8.5 on the Mohs scale. These gemstones are often mistaken for spinel or even ruby, but their true identity can be confirmed through tests such as magnification or spectroscopy. Due to their rarity and unique colors, Taaffeites are highly prized by collectors.


Grandidierites are an extremely rare gemstone, with an unusual bluish-green color. They belong to the borosilicate mineral group and have a hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. Grandidierites are typically found in small sizes, with larger transparent specimens being exceedingly rare. Their unique color and rarity make them highly sought after by collectors.

Among the rare gemstones mentioned, some share similarities with more common gems such as aquamarine, topaz, and tourmaline. For example, grandidierite's bluish-green hue can resemble aquamarine, while padparadscha sapphires share the color range of certain tourmalines. Nevertheless, each of these rare gemstones has distinct properties and characteristics that set them apart from their more common counterparts. Knowing their specific mineral composition, hardness, and other distinguishing factors can help in identifying and appreciating these spectacular and unique gems.

Practice Makes Perfect in Gem Identification

purple stone with tweezers and magnifying glass

Identifying gemstones is a skill that develops over time through practice and dedication. For someone new to gemology, learning about various gemstones' characteristics is the first step. Observing and studying various specimens will help make it easier to distinguish between real and fake gems.

Research is an essential part of learning gemstone identification. It requires gathering information from trusted sources, such as books, online articles, and experienced gemologists. This allows an individual to become familiar with the properties of different gems and to better understand how gemstones are evaluated and classified.

Putting theory into practice, one should leverage their knowledge by observing gemstones in person. Visiting local gem and mineral shows, gemstone dealers, and auction houses can provide opportunities to examine gemstones up close and from different angles. Observing their color, luster, and internal features will help to solidify one's understanding of a gemstone's identity.

In addition to observation, mastering gemstone identification techniques is crucial. Utilizing tools such as loupes, microscopes, and polariscopes allows individuals to examine gemstones on a more detailed level. This will enable them to make more accurate and confident assessments of a gemstone's authenticity.

As one gains more experience with gemstone identification, it becomes crucial to maintain a neutral and objective perspective when evaluating specimens. Keeping an open mind and being willing to reevaluate previous conclusions can lead to more accurate identifications and minimize potential errors.

In summary, achieving proficiency in gemstone identification comes from a combination of research, observation, and practice. As individuals dedicate time and effort to improving their expertise, they'll grow more confident in their ability to discern real gemstones from imitations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common gemstone identification tests?

There are several gemstone identification tests that can help determine if a gemstone is real or not. These tests may involve the use of various instruments such as a loupe, refractometer, microscope, or polariscope. Some common tests include:

  • Examining the gemstone's color, clarity, and cut
  • Analyzing the gemstone's refractive index and specific gravity
  • Inspecting the stone under ultraviolet light
  • Performing a scratch test or hardness test

It is important to note that these tests should be performed by experienced professionals to ensure accurate results.

What are signs of fake gemstones?

There are several indicators that a gemstone might be fake, including:

  • Unusually low prices compared to the market value of the gemstone
  • Stones that appear too perfect, without any inclusions or blemishes
  • Gemstones that are overly saturated or exhibit uneven color distribution
  • Glassy, plastic, or unnatural looking luster

Keep in mind that identifying fake gemstones can be challenging, and it is always best to consult an experienced gemologist for accurate identification.

What is the role of gemstone certificates?

Gemstone certificates play a significant role in determining the authenticity and value of a gemstone. These certificates are issued by independent laboratories and provide details about the gemstone's origin, treatments, carat weight, and various other characteristics. A certificate from a reputable lab can increase the trustworthiness of a gemstone and help ensure that it is genuine.

How do inclusions affect gemstone authenticity?

Inclusions are small imperfections or characteristics found within a gemstone. These inclusions can be helpful indicators of authenticity, as natural gemstones often have unique inclusions, while synthetic or imitation gemstones may have more uniform or unnatural looking inclusions. However, inclusions alone cannot definitively determine the authenticity of a gemstone, and other tests must be performed as well.

Can gemstones be tested for authenticity at home?

While some basic gemstone tests can be performed at home, such as inspecting the color, clarity, and luster of the stone, it's important to consult a professional gemologist for accurate identification. Home tests can provide some initial information but should not be relied upon for determining the true authenticity or value of a gemstone.

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