5 Proven Ways to Determine if an Emerald is Real
For anyone thinking about investing in a piece of emerald jewelry, it's important you go with a trusted dealer that sells natural emeralds. Unfortunately, many fall into the trap of buying imitation or synthetic emeralds these days and still may not even realize it!
Therefore, it's crucial to distinguish between synthetic, imitation, and natural emeralds - because the genuine ones are much more valuable than the others. Yet, without the right knowledge, all three classifications can look very much the same.
In this guide, we'll run through 5 proven ways so that you'll know how to tell if an emerald is real. But before that, it's a good idea to know a little more about emeralds and their types.
What is an Emerald?
Emeralds are part of the prestigious beryl mineral group. It is the most common and valuable type of beryl, as well as the easiest to identify. Other less esteemed gemstones that are classified as beryl include aquamarine, heliodor, Goshenite, and morganite - to name a few.
There are emerald mines in various parts of the world, with prominent supplies coming from Columbia, Brazil, and Zambia. Also, other countries China, India, and Zimbabwe.
How Are They Formed?
Beryllium, along with aluminum, silicon, and oxygen, form emeralds when exposed to the correct temperatures and pressures. There also needs to be enough space for this process to occur.
Naturally formed emeralds are formed deep in the earth between small gaps in mineral-rich rocks - like granite. The rocks heat up and create pressure to enable the perfect environment for the production of emeralds and various other gemstones.
Interestingly, pure beryl is colorless - it's trace elements that enter the mineral that gives emeralds their unique shades of green. The key trace elements that are needed to make this precious stone are chromium and vanadium.
A relatively low-temperature environment creates the unique Columbian emerald variety, which has hydrothermal veins. Zambian emeralds are formed with higher temperatures and form magmatic pegmatites.
Different Emerald Types
Most people don't realize that there are actually three types of emeralds on the market today. One of the types can be classed as fake, but many jewelers won't mention this - for obvious reasons. Instead, they'll use terminology that better sells their product.
1. Imitation Emeralds are the least valuable emerald type, with most having little or no value at all - depending on what they're made from. In reality, these are fake jewels, but jewelers prefer the "imitation" terminology for sales purposes.
Typically, they are made from other substances that can be conditioned to look like emeralds. Other less sought-after gemstones or even glass are used to make them. More specifically, garnet, peridot, some forms of beryl, and chrome diopside make imitation emeralds.
2. Synthetic Emeralds are constructed in the lab and are identical in their mineral makeup to naturally formed gemstones. So you can't really call synthetic emeralds fake. However, market forces have deemed that these emerald types are not as valuable as natural emeralds.
Yet, synthetic emeralds are one of the most expensive types of synthetic gems you can buy! They're so pricey because the lab equipment needed isn't cheap. Also, making synthetic emeralds is energy-intensive and time-consuming - all to produce a relatively small yield in manufacturing terms.
3. Natural Emeralds are what most people know as the green gemstones, which have been mined for millennia. A natural emerald will have to have taken hundreds of years to form in the earth for you to then finally wear it on a beautiful piece of jewelry.
With such a fantastic natural production process, there's something extraordinary and unique about every natural emerald - this is why they are the most expensive and sought after.
How to Tell If An Emerald Is Real
There are five good ways of determining if an emerald is real. And it's handy that there are at least five because it might not always be clear to know the truth by using just one way.
Some of these methods can reveal whether the emerald is naturally formed, synthetically made, or an imitation. Others might not be useful for you to separate synthetic versions from natural emeralds, as they are almost identical.
Anyhow, if you learn all of these techniques, you'll be much more confident when asking a jeweler about the authenticity of the emerald they are selling. Plus, there are some extra tips we'll run through as well to give you the utmost confidence when looking to purchase emerald jewelry.
1. Check The Emerald's Color
The first and most obvious way to check an emerald's authenticity is by knowing its unique color. In actuality, they come in various shades of green - from dark notes through to paler offerings. Yet, whatever the tone is, the type of green in emeralds is unmistakable.
However, if you haven't had the chance to train your eyes to know an emerald's distinctive green, don't worry.
Instead, look out for stones with a brown tint to them - these are not natural emeralds. On the other hand, if an emerald exhibits a blue hue to its green, that's perfectly normal.
2. Search For Inclusions
Inclusions are basically flaws in the emerald - if there are many, they will affect the stone's value. But looking for inclusions is an excellent way to distinguish a natural emerald from a synthetic one. What you're looking for is tiny vine-like tendrils within the stone - that might only be visible under magnification.
Synthetics can have inclusions, but they're formed very differently in a lab. If the inclusions are bubbles or discs, then it will be an imitation made from glass. If the imitation is another gemstone, the inclusions will also have different characteristics to that of an emerald.
So when observed under magnification, it will be clear whether the stone you're looking at is a real emerald or not.
3. Does it Sparkle?
The fire in a precious stone's sparkle is the intensity of rainbow colors produced by white light when it projects through the stone.
With real emeralds, you don't get a sparkle with much fire. So if you come across a super-sparkly emerald, it's likely to be a fake. There shouldn't be any rainbow-type sparkle emitted from a natural emerald or synthetic one when held under white light.
4.Check for Wear and Tear
Real emeralds are pretty tough, so they don't wear down so quickly and show so much damage - especially if they are newly cut. Even older emeralds shouldn't show many signs of scuffs or scratches.
The key areas to look at when inspecting the emerald are its edges. If the stone's edges are worn down in any way straight away, you should be dubious of whether it's an imitation. Both authentic and synthetic emeralds shouldn't wear down so quickly, so if it has worn edges, it's most likely going to be a softer stone.
5. Doublets and Triplets
This is where jewelry makers get really crafty, and it can get quite confusing when dealing with doublet and triplet emeralds.
Doublets are when an emerald is sliced and then backed onto another material such as glass or plastic. This crafty process creates the illusion of a large emerald when all you're getting is a slice of one!
Triplets are similar, but the emerald slice is wedged in between two other materials, again, usually glass or plastic. Triplets, when made well, also rick the eye into thinking you're looking at a sizable solid emerald.
The key to identifying doublets or triplets is to carefully check the stone's edges and see if there are any lines.
Other Tips For Checking if An Emerald is Real
We've looked at five very useful proven methods that can genuinely help you find out if the emerald that's possibly staring you in the face is real or not.
However, it could be that you're still not sure. No matter, as there are some other useful tips that you can turn to if all else fails.
The Price is Too Good to Be True
This mainly applies to natural emeralds and synthetic ones - although some sellers could be bold enough to try to sell you an imitation as a real emerald!
Real emeralds are highly sought-after gemstones, and that's why they are expensive. You should be wary of any seller that claims they are selling you a genuine emerald at an uncharacteristically low price.
Whatever their reasoning may be, it's likely to be a fake and not reasonable price for an imitation emerald.
If the price is fractionally lower than standard prices, the seller could be trying to push you a synthetic emerald but claiming it's the real deal.
Therefore, it's best to ask for a certificate of authenticity, or if you can, check it yourself by using the previous five testing methods.
Get a Professional Appraisal
When all else fails, and you're still unsure about a particular piece of emerald jewelry, the best thing to do is get it authenticated by a professional.
Certified jewelers will have all the necessary equipment to confirm the origin of the emerald in question. It might seem a little costly to get this sort of appraisal, but indeed it's best to know if the emerald you're about to splash out on is authentic rather than fake.
The Preventative Method
An obvious way of not getting stung is to go with an established and trusted dealer. This way, you can avoid uncertainty and worry when looking to buy an emerald piece. Once you know and feel comfortable with a dealer, then you can pretty much rule out having to go through all of the steps we've mentioned in this article.
Although, it would be wise to always check an emerald for its inclusions. If there are many larger inclusions in an emerald, it might not be worth the asking price that the dealer has given you.
Choosing Your Emerald Color
Lastly, we'd like to explore a little into the color of emeralds and how you can evaluate this by looking at the saturation, hue, and tone of the green in emeralds.
Once you've established that the emerald is real, these three factors can help you estimate an emerald's value.
Saturation is the strength or depth of the green in the emerald.
Emeralds with deep saturation will have a gorgeous vivid green, making for a highly sought-after and expensive emerald.
An emerald's hue refers to the mixture of primary and secondary colors within the emerald. Obviously, an emerald's primary color is green, but the most common secondary color is blue.
The blue color will be a slight tint in the emerald and will be commonly seen in emeralds from Columbia, which make up most natural emeralds on the market. With other rarer types of emerald, you may see a yellowish tint to them.
The tone is how light or dark the emerald is - the most prized emeralds tend to have a medium tone.
Lighter-toned emeralds can be seen as weak and may look inexpensive. Darker emeralds can appear quite dull with little spark or vibrance to them.
What a Gem!
We've now looked at five very reliable ways of how to tell if an emerald is real or not. These five methods should be used in combination to give you a better all-round-judgment on the matter, and the extra tips are there if you need them.
There's nothing quite like a naturally formed emerald, and it's incredible to think that it was forming for hundreds of years underground. Good luck in finding your perfect emerald piece!
Emeralds pair very nicely with sterling silver - why not check out all the benefits of this precious metal in our blog?