Wondering if you've got a fake emerald on your hands?
You're in the right place.
In this Learning Guide, we'll go over different ways to tell if an emerald is real, as well as answer questions like:
- What is fake emerald made of?
- Are synthetic emeralds fake emeralds?
- Is a treated emerald fake?
What Are Emeralds?
An emerald is the most popular green gemstone in the jewelry industry. It has been used in ancient civilizations throughout history all the way to modern day society.
Emeralds are the green to greenish blue variety of the mineral beryl. Beryl comes in different color varieties as well as colorless stones. Morganite and aquamarine are different color varieties of beryl too.
Not every emerald is the same, nor is it valued the same. As colored gemstones, emeralds are most valued for their color. If the stone is has too light or dark tones, it can bring down the value.
Colombian emeralds and Zambian emeralds are more valuable and desired than other emerald localities.
Like most precious gemstones, there are many fake emeralds on the market. Some are other gems, some are glass, and others may be a combination of real emerald and another material. It can get confusing, especially if you don't have an accurate description of the stone.
Read also: Best Place to Buy Colored Gemstones
The good news is, there are some ways to spot a fake emeralds from natural ones. You don't necessarily need any fancy lab equipment or specialized tools. All you need is your eye. A jeweler's loupe would help too, but no big deal.
Let's get into it.
What is a Fake Emerald?
A fake emerald is any stone or material claiming to be emerald when its not. It won't have the same chemical composition, physical properties, and optical properties as a real emerald.
The most common fake emerald stones people come into contact with is glass. Natural glass can be faceted by gem cutters to simulate other gemstones. Green glass isn't hard to find, nor is it valuable.
Other green gemstones may be labeled as simulated emeralds or imitation emeralds. They can be other gemstones with similar hues but different compositions and values. Common simulants for emeralds are green cubic zirconia, synthetic green spinel, and green garnet.
You shouldn't worry about running into fake emeralds online at bigger websites with lots of reviews. You're more likely to run into fake emeralds or emerald simulants on sites like Etsy, Amazon, and Facebook Marketplace.
If you travel to a foreign gem market to buy emeralds from another country, you'll want to be aware of potential scams. That's not to say all gem markets are disingenuous, but they have been known to dupe the tourists.
Some listings online may use gem terminology someone might not be familiar with when shopping for emeralds. That's why it's important to read the description carefully. Some may use "real emerald" in the title, but say its an emerald simulant in the description.
While deceptive, it's not illegal. They use real emerald in the title in order to get it to rank. Most people aren't searching for imitation emeralds, so the sellers have to find a way to make their fake stones rank better and be seen.
The Difference Between Fake Emeralds and Authentic Emeralds
You already know that fake emeralds are materials that aren't emerald. Still, there are other forms of emerald that are valued higher than others. While still real emeralds, there's confusion among customers as to what's considered fake.
Natural and Synthetic Emeralds
The biggest confusion to most first time emerald buyers is the difference between natural emeralds and synthetic emeralds. Synthetic emeralds are another name for lab created emeralds. A lab created emerald is real emerald. It has the same gem compositions as natural emeralds.
The isolated lab environment also makes it easier for synthetics ones to grow without as many inclusions as natural stones. Still, they can also develop emeralds with more inclusions in them to look closer to their natural counterparts. They can also intensify the stone's color.
Emeralds get their green shades from the presence of chromium and vanadium. The amount of these impurities will determine the intensity of the bluish green color. It's what makes the stone more green or blue. A synthetic emerald can have stronger color because of its controlled environment too.
However, the synthetic gems are typically green gems rather than bluish hues. Synthetic gemstones can't always replicate the exact hues of other gemstones.
Read also: Emerald vs Jade
All in all, synthetic and lab created emeralds are real emeralds. They are more affordable than a natural emerald. However, they're also more expensive than most other synthetic gems.
They're actually one of the most difficult gemstones to synthesize. They require more attention and more expensive equipment to produce.
Natural and Treated Emeralds
Natural and treated stones can be confusing gem terminology to someone just starting to learn about gemstones. A treated emerald is a real emerald. Most people assume natural emeralds are real and everything else is fake. Natural and treated emeralds are both authentic emeralds.
Many precious and semi precious gemstones receive treatment to intensify color usually. Some may use treatments to fill cracks or remove inclusions as well. Some gemstone treatments will impact the price and value greatly. Other treatments are common enough they don't bring down cost or value.
An untreated emerald with strong color and transparency is the most valuable emerald. Most emeralds receive treatments. Despite this, not every treatment is permanent. Some have to be maintained, and some can be altered by an ultraviolet light source.
Sometimes colorless beryl or green beryl will be treated to achieve an intense emerald color. These treatments are considered more deceptive considering the price difference between the color varieties.
Treatments are common in emeralds, but are priced lower than an untreated emerald. A treated emerald is still valuable and precious. Untreated emeralds are rare and will increase in price heavily depending on other value factors like carat or clarity.
If in the market for untreated natural emeralds, make sure you buy one with a reputable gem certificate to ensure it's untreated.
Natural and Constructed Emeralds
There are two kinds of constructed emeralds: doublet/triplet emeralds and assembled emeralds. Only one of them has real emerald in it.
Doublets and triplets are used in jewelry for gemstones that are harder to set. Not only that, but less real emerald material is used in the stone, bringing down both the value and cost. Doublets and triplets are also used for opals sometimes too.
Read also: Best Opal Engagement Rings
Doublets and triplets aren't the same thing as assembled emeralds, though they are technically "assembled".
I know. It's confusing. But try to stay with me.
Assembled emeralds are different. Two colorless stones are glued together with a green colored glue. Often times it'll be done in two or three layers to build up the gem. Sometimes they will use a small invaluable sliver of real emerald to try to fool experts. These are also referred to as emerald simulants.
Is Your Emerald Real Emerald?
The best way to see if an emerald is real is by observing it yourself. There are some tests you can perform at home. The best way to determine a genuine emerald is to take it to a gemstone dealer or send it in to a legitimate lab.
Test Your Emerald Jewelry at Home
You won't be able to tell if an emerald has treatments at home. There are some indicators you can observe by looking at the stone.
A genuine emerald will have medium to dark green tones. Yellow or brown tones can indicate its not a genuine stone. The best way to analyze this is by putting your stone over a light . Shining your phone's camera from the bottom of the stone should show you these hues.
The same light source can also tell you if you've got a cubic zirconia instead of an authentic emerald. Cubic zirconia is a cheap lab created stone that can simulate any colored gemstone. It has a high refractive index, or intense fire. Emeralds will have more of a dull fire under a light .
If your emerald has rainbow flashes emitting, it's more than likely a cubic zirconia stone. Emeralds are known for their brilliant luster, not rainbow flashes like diamonds, moissanite, or cz stones.
The girdle of your emerald can be another indicator you may have a fake stone. If the edges look worn and feathery, it's more likely to be glass instead of a real gemstone. A real emerald has well-defined edges, not frayed.
Inclusions can also indicate the legitimacy of your emerald. As stated before, inclusions are perfectly normal in natural emeralds. It's often referred to as the "jardin", which is French for "garden." That's because the inclusions in emeralds look like tiny threadlike tendrils of vines weaving in and out of the gemstone.
They may also have tiny deep lines, gas bubbles, or something called a three phase inclusion. This type of inclusion is only present in mined emeralds, not synthetic ones.
Best Test for Real Emerald Jewelry
You shouldn't rely on one indicator to tell if an emerald is real or not. You should observe all the different indications. However, the best test to tell if an emerald is real is a gem certificate.
You can acquire your own gem certificate by sending it to an authentic grading lab. We recommend the GIA, the world's leading resource in all things gemology. They can determine emerald's authenticity and if it has any detectable treatments.
Many online retailers already include gem certificates with their emeralds online. It should be assumed that most have treatments or if they're lab grown. Some of our favorite places to buy emeralds are James Allen and Brilliant Earth.
For natural and untreated emeralds, Leibish & Co. is an excellent choice.