If you’re like me, you like a beautiful gemstone necklace, bracelet or set of earrings. There is something about making or purchasing jewelry with genuine gemstones that makes it more unique and special. I particularly enjoy gifting handmade jewelry to my friends, family, and my kid’s teachers around the holidays. There are thousands of affordable, semiprecious gemstones out there to choose from, in hundreds of shapes and colors. Unfortunately, although many of these beads are labeled as gemstones, many of them are not. There are certainly 100% natural gemstone beads and cabochons available, but there are also many imitations, manmade, dyed, or altered stones as well. Manmade gemstones are beautiful, and a great addition to any piece of jewelry, they just aren’t natural. If you do prefer authentic stones, you need to educate yourself on what to look for and how to make an informed purchase.
To be clear, there is no fool-proof way to ensure your gemstones are 100% natural other than taking them to a certified gemologist and having them examined under a microscope. There are, however, a handful of things you can take into account when shopping for gemstones that will help you to determine if you’re purchasing natural gemstones or fake gemstones.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for gemstone beads or gemstone cabochons.
The more information that is available for the gemstones you are purchasing, the better. Thoroughly read product descriptions and look for ones that are transparent and forthcoming with information about the gemstone beads or cabochons they are selling. In the description, look to see if the seller lists the origin of the stones or where they are mined. Knowing where a gemstone comes from or where it was mined will help in determining whether it is an authentic gemstone. In addition, look to see if the description of the product includes terms like “dyed” or “manmade”. There are many stones available in the market that appear to be real gemstones, but in fact they are dyed or chemically treated stones made to look like natural gemstones.
Let’s take turquoise for example. You’ve probably seen many beautiful turquoise beads available for sale but would it surprise you to know that around 90% of turquoise beads and other products are not actually turquoise? They are beautiful and certainly look like the real thing, but they are actually dyed howlite or magnazite. Howlite is a white stone that is extremely absorbent and is dyed and treated to look just like turquoise. If a seller is selling dyed howlite, the product description should be transparent and tell you that. So again, if you want authentic stones, do your due diligence and thoroughly read up on all available information on the product you are looking to purchase. Read descriptions closely, look out for the origin of the stone, and be aware of keywords that would raise a red flag such as “manmade”, or “dyed”.
One important suggestion I want to add is, if you’re looking to make gemstone jewelry that you will then resell, be sure to offer all information in your finished piece as well. Be clear about where the stones are from, what they are, whether you’re using sterling silver, and another other information you can provide. Buyers appreciate the information and will be more likely to make a purchase if they know exactly what they are purchasing.
The price of a product is often a telltale sign of real or fake. Have you ever wanted to purchase something and the price is so low that it makes you think, “this is way too good to be true”? If you ever ask yourself that question when purchasing gemstone beads or cabochons, then it probably is too good to be true. Authentic gemstones are unique and special and rarer than you think, causing their price points to be much higher than their imitation counterparts. For example, real turquoise is in limited supply and only makes up about 10% of the market and therefore carries a high price. If you’re looking at a 16” strand of Kingman turquoise beads with a price of $75-$100, you are more than likely looking at real turquoise. If you’re looking at a strand of turquoise with a price of $5, you can be pretty certain it’s not authentic but rather a dyed, altered stone. When making a gemstone purchase, do your homework and research the average prices of those stones and then some comparison shopping.
COLOR AND APPEARANCE
Another important factor to keep in mind when looking for gemstones is the color and overall appearance of the stone. Truly natural gemstones like African Opal are only mined, cut, and polished and not altered in any way. They contain blemishes, flaws, and imperfections and no two beads or stones are exactly the same. An authentic stone will have grooves and divots that you can feel when running your fingernail over the surface.
If you come across a strand of gemstone beads that are especially colorful, vibrant, smooth, and shiny, like Mixed Agate, it is very likely these beads are dyed and altered in some way. Let’s take goldstone for example. Goldstone is a very sparkly, copper-colored stone that was made to look like Sunstone, but is not an actual stone. Goldstone is actually made up of glass that is infused with copper to give it that sparkly, sunstone look. So, as you’re looking to purchase gemstones, take into account their overall appearance and be leary of a strand that is overly colorful, and bright.
The last and possibly the most important factor in purchasing real gemstones is buying them from a trusted seller. A reputable dealer will check all of the above boxes. They should provide a thorough description of the product and be transparent about where the stones are from. In addition, they should disclose if the stones are composite stones and whether they are chemically treated or altered in any way. Be cautious of a seller that is not forthcoming with this information. Do some research on the seller by checking out their sales review. Consumer reviews are an excellent resource to find out information about a seller, whether that information is good or bad. Lastly, do not shy away from asking the seller for more details or information. A good vendor should be readily available and willing to answer any additional questions you have about their products.
The market is full of gorgeous gemstone beads and cabochons with hundreds of colors, cuts, and styles to choose from. If you’re in the market for authentic beads, do your homework and take your time with your purchase so that you can make an informed decision and make sure you’re getting exactly what you want. If you are on the search for gemstones beads or cabochons, the Potomac Bead Company has hundreds to choose from, including natural and manmade. If you have any questions about any of the products available, we will be happily answer those for you and make sure you have all the information you need to make an informed purchase. We will be able to provide you with any and all information you are looking for when making your purchase. The Potomac Bead staff can also make recommendations to you for which beads or stones to choose that fits within your budget. And lastly, check out our Better Beader Episode on Youtube titled “Are Your Gemstones Real?” for more information and examples on what to look for.