When shopping for a famous gemstone like a sapphire in the market, it is not uncommon to encounter imitations. To make sure you don't get scammed, we'll discuss the different methods you can use to differentiate between genuine and fake gemstones.
But first, what is sapphire?
Sapphire is known as the September birthstone and is part of the "Big Four" of precious and colored gemstones. While blue is its most common color, this stone also comes in a variety of other shades such as orange, pink, teal, green and yellow. With its amazing brilliance and outstanding durability, sapphire has managed to capture the eyes and hearts of royalty and commoners throughout history and today. Unfortunately, the demand for this jewelry has also led to the creation and distribution of imitations.
What is imitation sapphire?
As their name suggests, they are gems that look identical to real sapphires but are not. For the most part, they don't have much value and aren't as durable as sapphire.
Cubic zircon, dark blue glass, and blue spinel are commonly used to create these imitation gemstones. On rare occasions, tanzanite has also been counterfeited as sapphire. That said, unlike other imitations, this particular gem is extremely rare and relatively more valuable.
Are imitation sapphires the same as rough sapphire?
Absolutely not! Fake sapphire is fake, while rough sapphire is real sapphire without processing.
How to Identify Rough Sapphire
Identifying rough sapphire is not easy and requires considerable skill. Therefore, we always recommend having it checked by a professional jeweler.
That said, if you don't have access, an easy way to do this is to put the stone under a lamp and see its color. In most cases, sapphires, especially blue sapphires, have a steel-grey undertone that distinguishes them from other rough gemstones. In some cases, these jewels may even have a slightly creamy look.
So if you find the same on a gem, it could be a real rough sapphire.
How to Identify Sapphire
Identifying real sapphire from fake can be tricky if you don't have specific training. However, the steps mentioned below are easy to follow and can help you identify if your gemstone is genuine.
•Look for defects
An interesting fact about natural sapphires is that they tend to contain foreign bodies. They usually appear as elongated needles, light or dark crystals, and feathery inclusions. So, hold the gemstone in the light and look through a jeweler's loupe or any 10x magnifying glass. If you can spot any blemishes or imperfections in the gemstone, it's probably a real sapphire.
• View colors
Believe it or not, many of the fake sapphires that appear today have lead glass fillers. This often results in uneven color distribution, which affects the overall beauty of the gemstone. An easy way to discover this is to view your work in bright light (natural or artificial). Needless to say, if you notice an uneven color, it probably means your stone is fake.
• Fog test
Sapphire is a very good conductor of heat and therefore accelerates the evaporation of water. Glass, on the other hand, is not that good, so it takes a long time to help the evaporation process.
So a good way to tell the difference between a real and a fake sapphire is to breathe on the gemstone and track how long it takes for the mist to dissipate. If it's less than three seconds, the gem is most likely real.
• Consider how the stone reflects light
Fun fact: The easiest way to tell a fake from a real sapphire is to think about how it reflects light. As mentioned, most imitations on the market today are made of glass. When interacting with light, the material refracts and disperses it into several colors across the rainbow spectrum. So if you notice that your stone reflects different shades of light in addition to its color, it's almost certainly fake.
• Search bubbles
Generally, imitation gemstones are marked by the presence of tiny air bubbles inside the gemstone. To find this, place the jewelry in bright light and look at it from different angles through the jeweler's magnifying glass. If you see a single or cluster of bubbles, it means the gem is probably fake.
• Try to find intersecting lines
In some cases, jewelers may fill sapphire with lead glass to improve its appearance. You can easily spot these fillers by placing the stone in bright light and looking for criss-crossing lines.
It is worth noting here that these stones are not fake. However, they are of very poor quality and we do not recommend investing.
• Ask the jeweler
Even with the above steps, the authenticity of a gemstone cannot be completely determined. Therefore, we recommend that you take your gemstone to a trusted and reputable jeweler for inspection. These professionals are highly trained to distinguish between genuine and fake jewelry, so they can guarantee the authenticity of your gemstones.
Also read: How to Tell If A Ruby is Real