Crystals: Spotting a real from a fake
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Crystals: Spotting a real from a fake

Crystals are a popular self-care tool, but how can you make sure you’re getting what you pay for?

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Published by Tracy McBeth, Journalist

4 mins read

Key Benefits

  • How to tell if your crystal is the real deal
  • What to look out for when choosing crystals
  • Find out which crystals are easiest to fake

Ancient civilisations believed the power of crystals could help with all things healing! And in today’s modern world, many use crystals in their self-care toolkit. It’s claimed they can heal your body, align your chakras, shift stagnant energy and bring you peace and prosperity.

Whether you’re a true believer or a skeptic , if you’re open to adding some crystals to your collection – you want to make sure you’re getting what you paid for.

With so many beautiful stones of various colours and price tags on the market – how do you spot the real from a fake?

One way is to look for imperfections. Crystals are naturally formed stones. Part of their charm is in that no two are the same with unique colours, sizes and patterns. You can usually spot a fake crystal by its unnatural colour, perfectly symmetrical pattern, glassy appearance, and the presence of air bubbles.

One of the best ways to ensure your crystals are authentic is buy from a trusted retailer and get to know the market value for your crystal of choice. Beware of low-cost crystals, they might be real, but they’re often mined using exploitative and dangerous practices in some of the world’s poorest countries. So, ask questions about the origins of the crystals (either in person or online) to ensure they’re ethically sourced.

How to tell if crystals are real

Crystals are formed in the earth’s crust from a combination of temperature, friction, pressure, and time to create unique crystalline structures of different shapes, sizes and colours.

Because of these ties to nature, true believers say crystals can channel the earth’s energy to help restore the frequency of a space. Some use them as a healing tool, harnessing their perceived innate forces to shift negative energy from the body and attract positive vibrations.

So, if you’re keen to add crystals to your self-care routine, you want to make sure you’re getting the real deal. Here’s what to look for: 

Symmetrical patterns

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. The natural world isn’t known for producing perfectly symmetrical patterns. When crystals are formed in the earth’s crust, they aren’t stylised. They grow in unique formations, no 2 are the same which is one of the reasons they are so special.

So, if you spot a crystal that’s flawless with perfectly symmetrical patterns – that’s a big red flag.

Malachite and turquoise are 2 gems that are often common fake crystals. Sometimes they’re even made from plastic and have a plastically feel when you touch them.

Saturated colours

Although nature is packed with beautiful, bright colours, if your crystal is unnaturally vivid there’s a good chance it’s a knock off.

Sometimes fake crystals are dyed brilliant colours to catch your eye. If there’s any cracks or marks on the crystal, you might notice a build-up of colour if it’s been dyed. Try removing the dye with a damp cloth, otherwise you can use nail polish remover on a cotton bud to see if the colour fades.

In other cases, crystals are heat-treated to change their colour so they look like a different type of stone. Citrine is one of the main offenders when it comes to heat-treated gems. Heating the stone gives it a burnt orange appearance, but true citrine is actually a light lemon colour. Why does heat treating matter? It’s believed the stone won’t offer the same  energetic vibrations as it would have otherwise.

Perfect formation

Natural crystals are formed under very specific conditions in the earth’s crust (pressure, temperature, mineral composition, time). Because of this, genuine crystals come in a range of shapes and sizes and are often covered with natural imperfections.

Fake crystals often look unnaturally perfect from their shape and size to their flawless surface. They’ll usually lack imperfections like cracks, chips and other flaws that make natural crystals so perfectly imperfect.

Glassy appearance

Fake gems are often made from coloured or painted glass. The naturally glassy appearance of clear quartz crystals makes it a prime target for glass imitations. So, if your stone is crystal clear without any imperfections, you can probably count on it to be a glass lookalike.

Air pockets

Another tell-tale sign that your gem is just a piece of glass is air bubbles trapped inside. While earthborn crystals almost always have imperfections, they definitely don’t look like air bubbles.

Unusual names

Be careful of crystals with weird (or weirder than usual) sounding names. We’re probably familiar with some common names like quartz, turquoise, jade, amethyst, citrine and labradorite. If you’re not sure, do a quick web search to confirm the crystal is genuine.

Fake crystals might have overly creative names like African emerald, melon moonstone and aqua aura quartz. So, if you’re on the hunt for a new crystal to add to your collection, steer clear of anything with a wacky name.

Mohs hardness scale

One way of testing your stones is with Mohs hardness scale. The idea is stones that fall higher on the scale are able to scratch softer stones. The ten-point scale goes from talc at number 1 (a very soft mineral) up to the hardest which is diamonds at 10.

Natural gems tend to fall around the 7 mark, whereas glass sits at about a 5. If you use a real stone and scrape it against a fake it will leave a visible groove.

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Which crystals are easiest to fake?

Moldavite, turquoise and quartz are some of the easiest crystals to fake.

Genuine moldavite is super valuable, which is why so many people try to reproduce it. Moldavite comes from a single meteorite impact site in central Europe, so if it’s sourced anywhere other than Austria, Germany or the Czech Republic it’s probably not the real deal. The price tag can be a dead giveaway too. If it seems cheap, there’s a good chance it’s not legit.

Turquoise is another common target when it comes to counterfeit. Sometimes knock offs are made from cheap plastic. But often when people think they’re buying turquoise it’s actually dyed howlite – a real crystal – but not what you’re paying for. A fake usually has one flat colour, whereas the real deal should have varying depths of colour, particularly around the edges.

Quartz is another gem that’s easy to imitate because it’s so similar to glass. Natural quarts will be cool to touch, glass won’t feel the same. And again, look for tiny air bubbles inside the ‘gem’ to spot a fake.

Do your homework

Before spending your hard-earned cash on crystals, it’s important to do your research.

  • Wherever possible buy the stone in person – you can often tell a fake by feel
  • Beware of symmetrical or flawless stones
  • Buy from a reputable retailer
  • Ask questions about where it’s from and whether it’s been ethically sourced
  • Know the market price
  • Trust your instinct - if it seems too good to be true it probably is
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