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Are You Ready to Buy a Gemstone?

Learn How to Recognize Gemstone Impostors

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Shopping for Jewelry
Michael Krinke/E+/Getty Images

Misleading Gemstone Names

Read jewelry ads and you'll see descriptive terms tacked-on to the names of gemstones, like Oriental emerald (it's really a green sapphire), American ruby (a garnet) and Australian jade (treated quartz).

Sometimes extra terms do describe the source or type of gem that's being advertised, but many are deceptive, and some jewelry stores hope you won't notice that they replace what you think is a more expensive gem with either a look-alike gem that's less expensive or components made from glass and other materials.

You'll see hundreds and hundreds of examples of misleading gemstone names when you shop -- here are some of the most common.

Fake Diamonds

  • German diamond: quartz
  • Herkimer diamond: double-terminated quartz
  • Bohemian Diamond: quartz

Most of the stones advertised with diamond in the name, but with a qualifying term in front of the word, are quartz.

Learn About Diamonds

Fake Emeralds

  • African emerald: green fluorite
  • Bohemian emerald: green fluorspar
  • Broghton emerald: green glass
  • Chatham emerald: synthetic emerald
  • Cape emerald: prehnite
  • Gilson emerald: synthetic emerald
  • Emeraldine: chalcedony that's dyed green
  • Oriental emerald: sapphire
  • Evening emerald: peridot
  • Spanish emerald: glass

True synthetic emeralds do have the characteristics of a natural emerald, but were created in a laboratory -- their origins should be disclosed.

Learn About Emerald

Fake Rubies

  • Adelaide ruby: Australian garnet
  • Australian ruby: garnet
  • Bohemian ruby: garnet
  • California ruby: garnet
  • Cape ruby: garnet
  • Montana ruby: garnet
  • San Diego ruby: red tourmaline
  • Siberian ruby: tourmaline

Learn About Ruby

Fake Sapphire

  • Brazilian sapphire: blue tourmaline
  • Burma sapphire: synthetic sapphire
  • Hope sapphire: synthetic blue spinel or lab grown sapphire

True sapphire is sometimes called descriptive names, like Kashmir sapphire, which is a deep blue version of the gem, but most of today's sellers use the stone's color as a descriptive label.

Learn About Sapphire

Fake Jade

  • African jade: garnet
  • Colorado jade: feldspar
  • Honan jade: soapstone
  • Indian jade: aventurine
  • Manchurian jade: soapstone
  • Swiss jade: jasper

Learn About Jade

Fake Pearls

  • Atlas pearls: calcite beads
  • Delta pearls: imitation pearls
  • Roman pearls: glass beads
  • Swarovski pearls: glass beads

Learn About Pearls

Fake Opal

Learn About Opal

Fake Lapis

  • Swiss lapis: chalcedony or dyed jasper
  • German lapis: dyed jasper
  • Canadian lapis: sodalite

Fake Turquoise

  • African turquoise: jasper
  • Chinese turquoise: calcite, soapstone
  • Sacred turquoise: smithsonite
  • Utah turquoise: variscite
  • Vienna turquoise: simulated at one time but may contain reconstituted turquoise
  • Yellow turquoise: often jasper or serpentine

Amazonite and chrysocolla are two gemstones that resemble turquoise and are sometimes confused with turquoise.

Learn About Turquoise

The jewelry made from "impostor" gems might be just what you're looking for, so don't hesitate to buy it, but do your homework before you make a purchase so that you understand exactly what you are buying.

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