Is this a real gemstone? Part 1

I admit it. I am a person with more than a few dragon-like tendencies. I love shiny rocks and I collect them at an alarming rate. My life long interest in gemstones has led me to do a lot of research about them. I know my gemstones. I have a large collection of gemstones that I use in my jewelry and more than a few pieces of gem testing equipment that I use very frequently to verify that what I got was what I paid for. One of my biggest peeves when it comes to shopping for stones to use in my jewelry is the proliferation of synthetics and outright fakes being sold as real mined-from-the-earth gemstones. I have noticed that many sellers don’t even realize that what they are selling is fake. Which is something that really frosts my ass. If you’re going to sell something – you should know what it is.

For the purpose of keeping these posts to a reasonable length, I’m going to break this topic up into several parts. With this first part I’m going to cover 2 stones which have steadily been gaining in popularity and are being marketed as genuine made-by-Mother-Nature gemstones when, in fact, they are totally synthetic. These two stones are Rainbow Calsilica and Aqua Terra Jasper.

Rainbow Calsilica:

Rainbow Calsilica

Rainbow Calsilica

Rainbow Calsilica is an ornamental stone with vivid color banding that first began making appearances in the market around 2002. Vendors selling this stone vehemently insisted it was a natural gemstone being mined in Mexico, often producing a gemological test report and an external photo of the mine to back up their claim. Since that time a number of gemologists and researchers have made attempts to visit the mine only to be turned away. Now, 11 years later, this is still the ONLY existing photo documenting the existence of this mine.

Rainbow Calsilica Mine

Sole photo of Rainbow Calsilica mine

In 2003 the Swiss Gemological Institute purchased 2 specimens from a vendor at a gem show in France. These specimens were brought to their laboratories for testing. The tests proved that this supposedly naturally occurring stone was synthetic. It is composed of powdered calcium carbonate mixed with artificial pigments commonly found in art supplies and stabilized with resin. Gem cutters often comment that Rainbow Calsilica smells like burning plastic when it is being cut. Now, it has been announced that a large deposit of this stone has been found in China. No doubt, it is located right smack in the center of one of the manufacturing warehouses they use to produce all the fake gemstones they flood the market with.

There is no denying that Rainbow Calsilica is attractive. But, it should not be fraudulently marketed as something it isn’t.

Aqua Terra Jasper:

Aqua Terra Jasper is a stone that is flooding the market right now. It is also sold as ‘Impression Jasper’, ‘Sea Sediment Jasper’ and ‘Variscite’. There is no denying it is a very attractive stone. I freely admit that I bought some. But as soon as I got in my hands and got a good look at it, I knew it was synthetic. Once again we have a powdered stone, most likely marble, that has been dyed and mixed with resin. The webbed effect is the result of swirling the different colors together – like making a marble cake. I sacrificed one of these stones to figure out what it was. When I broke it, I ended up with 2 distinct textures, a resinous powder for the brown part and a harder glassy plastic type material for the translucent parts. Both will readily catch fire and release a strong odor of burning plastic. So, once again, I say if you are going to sell or use this lovely synthetic material – be honest about what you are selling. And don’t call it Variscite.

True Variscite is a lovely, rare Aluminum Phosphate mineral that is sometimes confused with Turquoise, although it is usually much greener than Turquoise. Due to its rarity, Variscite is an expensive stone. It is pretty easy to tell the difference between the synthetic material I discussed above and genuine Variscite.

None of these stones being sold as Variscite are the real deal -

fake variscite

Fake Variscite

These stones are genuine Variscite -

Genuine Variscite

Genuine Variscite

So, although both Rainbow Calsilica & Aqua Terra Jasper are attractive material in their own right, they shouldn’t be sold as genuine gemstones when clearly they are not. Synthetic gemstones have their place in the market. I have seen a lot of lovely jewelry made from them. My issue lies in the fact that these stones are being marketed as something they are not. If you are going to sell synthetic stones or use them in your jewelry to sell – embrace the fact that they are synthetic and BE HONEST with your customers about what they are buying from you. ‘Nuff said.

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About klvargas

I have had a lifelong passion for gemstones, jewelry & fashion. In 1990, I took a class in introductory jewelry casting at a local community arts center in Philadelphia and I was hooked. I've been designing & making jewelry ever since.
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