Being exquisite and magical has its price.  The Lapis Lazuli has been one of the most used materials in jewelry for thousands of years and therefore, it is no coincidence that it has become one of the most counterfeit stones in the world.  It’s not easy to tell the difference between fake lapis and the real gemstone.  Each day the imitations are becoming better. So, how to say if Lapis Lazuli is real?

Imitation Lapis Lazuli is very common.  In more recent times large volumes of synthetically produced lapis have flooded the market place.  The imitation techniques are getting better each day.  Some of it is such a good quality that it is hard to tell apart from the real thing.

Many cheap minerals and gemstones can be dyed to imitate lapis.  Poor quality jasper, white howlite, spinel, sodalite or calcite can be used for this purpose.

How to tell if Lapis Lazuli is Real

The best way to detect fake lapis is by only looking at it.  Although you probably better be an expert because the imitations are so good that you can be easily fooled.

Primary Test

Magnification will reveal a totally unnatural appearance to this material.  Here is where you’ll see the perfect golden specks patterns the fakes have.  The flat blue and the white streaks when scratched will also be present.

Lapis has that intense deep dark blue (ultramarine) colour.  It is like looking into a well of water.  The fake looks flat dark blue.  Only the very best top quality lapis is a uniform blue colour with virtually no fool’s gold.  This lapis is incredibly rare deeply sought after and costs a fortune.  This is the type of lapis you only see set into the finest 18k or 22k gold settings.

 

Price

Top quality Lapis Lazuli is not cheap.  When you find jewelry of lapis that you think is a bargain you better check it properly. Usually, a natural lapis lazuli necklace of good quality is above 40 USD.

 

Descriptive gemstone names

Descriptive names are sometimes used before the gemstones name.  For example, Oriental Emerald, which is in fact a green sapphire.  An American Ruby is a garnet.  Australian Jade is quartz that’s been treated.  Always question the authenticity of any gemstone that’s advertised with an extra descriptive name.  Some Lapis Lazuli examples:

Swiss Lapis: is really chalcedony or dyed jasper

German Lapis: is in fact dyed jasper

Canadian Lapis: is sodalite

White

When the stone has too much white it means it’s classed as a cheaper calcite.  If it has too much dark blue-gray it means it’s a cheaper Sodalite.

Sodalite is a semi-precious stone.  Its colour varies from a pale blue-grey (common) to quite deep royal blue (rare).  Sodalite does not reach the true ultramarine colour of lapis.  One of the components of Lapis Lazuli is Sodalite.

Dye

Other kind of imitation is by dyeing the stone.  Forgers also use similar stones or Lapis Lazuli of 3erd quality to dye it and make top quality imitation Lapis.  To test if your lapis has been dyed wipe your stone with acetone or alcohol.  If it looses its color it’s either a fake or a poor quality lapis.

Taiwan is the top center for dyeing stones.

 

Secondary Test

Natural Lapis Lazuli will have a reaction to the Chelsea Filter.  The Chelsea Filter is a dichromatic filter.  It can only transmit light in 2 regions of the spectrum, deep red and yellow-green.  Genuine Lapis Lazuli will react with a weak brownish red and the synthetic lapis will react with a bright red colour.

 

Fools Gold

Natural lapis have silver or gold particles that shine which are seen inside the stone.  This effect is real difficult to imitate and is a good indicator that it is real lapis.  Nowadays some good quality fakes are showing this feature also.  Although it usually ends up looking too uniform and too perfect for it to be real.

 

Hardness

Real Lapis Lazuli is around 5.5 on the MOHS Gemstone Hardness scale.  So you have an idea of the hardness keep in mind that diamonds are 10 in the scale.

Reconstruction

Forgers also use a technique of reconstruction.  They collect all the leftover bit of lazuli gemstone and they make a new stone or bead by grinding them and binding them together.  It’s made of lapis so technically it’s not a fake but it’s not the true thing either.  This lapis stone has an unnatural pebble dash feel and look to it.

Composite Gemstones

They are made from a small piece of a desirable, genuine stone that’s combined with an inexpensive or imitation gemstone to make the real thing appear larger or to enhance its appearance.  Opal jewelry is often with composites.  Doublets are composite stones made with a large, inexpensive chunk of material, sometimes an inexpensive mineral, that’s topped by a thin slice of the gemstone it’s meant to represent.

The division usually isn’t obvious until you look at the piece under a loupe.

One type of doublet is assembled by sandwiching a coloured bonding agent between two clear, inexpensive stones-the added hue makes it look like a coloured gemstone.

Triplets are composites that are constructed in three parts instead of two.

Synthetic

A synthetic gemstone shares a natural stone’s physical, chemical and optical qualities, but it is created in a laboratory.  You’ll see synthetic versions of nearly all popular gemstones and many versions have been available for many years.  Older synthetics were fairly simple for gemstones to detect because they were often too perfect.  Some modern synthetic gemstones look more natural and are harder to identify.

Jewelry that includes quality synthetic gems can be just as beautiful as jewelry made with natural stones.  Good synthetics aren´t always inexpensive, but should cost much less than natural stones of similar size and quality.

Since synthetic gemstones have the same composition as their natural counterparts, they could technically be called genuine.  It would be considered deceptive labelling if the stone’s origins are not disclosed.

 

Simulated

Unlike synthetic gemstones, simulated stones are in no way similar to the natural stone they are imitating.  Their chemical composition is not the same nor are other gem qualities like refractive index.

Plastic Artificial Lapis Lazuli

Can be spotted by tapping it on your teeth.  Plastic will feel almost warm and not cold like glass or a gemstone.  It will also make a dull quiet clink when gently tapped against your teeth.

 

Temperature

Imitations are cold as most of gemstones.  The difference is that they quickly warm up when held and real gemstones will stay cold.  Glass Artificial Lapis Lazuli has no gold specks although some top quality copies like Gilson Glass Lazuli does.  Here the specks are too smooth and also too uniformly patterned to be real and the blue colour is to even.

 

Physical Evidence

Real Lapis Lazuli will leave a blueish mark on a rough surface.  It also emits a foul smell when it’s cut in half.  The sulfate in it smells with air contact.

Repair and Settings

You have to take the same precautions with the fake lapis as you do with the original lapis.  No cleaners as the stones are very porous and will soak up cleaners.  No heating in ultrasonic or by torch.

 

Fakes

Gilson Lapis

Synthetics made by Pierre Gilson of France. They are much softer than the original Lapis.

Synthetic Lapis

It consists of grainy blue spinel coloured by cobalt oxide and gold flakes to resemble pyrite.  This material is also much harder which makes it easier to distinguish.

Reconstructed Lapis

Tiny chips of lapis and pyrite cemented together the same way reconstructed turquoise is made.

 

Dyed Lapis

A good quality of lesser quality lapis is dyed to improve the blue tone.  Once the stone is dyed it is often oiled or waxed to improve luster.

Dyed Howlite

White Howlite is dyed to create a lapis substitute.  The dye tends to fade and there are also no pyrite inclusions.

Mountain Jade Lapis

This stone is not Jade or Lapis.  It is a dolomite marble dyed bright blue.  This is another stone that the colour fades and there are also no inclusions of pyrite.

German Lapis

It is also called Swiss Lapis.  It’s blue dyed jasper that is also lacking in pyrite inclusions.

Misidentifications

Sodalite

Sodalite is also actually more indigo than lapis and also lacks pyrite.  Another way to tell the difference is a streak test.  Lapis has a light blue streak while Sodalite has a white streak.

Azurite

Azurite usually forms crusts alongside malachite.  It is also much darker and also much softer than lapis.  It is only 3.5-4 on the scale.

Dumortierite

It’s a darker Indigo than lapis and also lacks the pyrite inclusions.

  

Why should anyone go to so much trouble to make Lapis Lazuli replicas? 

Ancient imitations of lapis were made because the real stone, required for various sacred purposes such as a passport to the underworld, was either unobtainable or too expensive.  Although more recent fakes are also made with all the artistry available to the arch forger, to satisfy the demand of greedy, often gullible, collectors.

Colour Imitation

The imitations do not stay with the objects, but also with the pigments.  The desire to find a substitute for lapis led to the development of substances of similar colours. This led to “Faience” and also to the first synthetic pigment “Egyptian Blue”.  In both cases copper sulfate was mixed with soda ash, then kiln-made or produced by boiling in a furnace.  Much of the Egyptian Artefacts were made with Egyptian Blue.

Faking is not an exclusively Egyptian speciality; the forgers of elaborate antiquities (Mesopotamian lapis seals for instance) are just as likely today to be Chinese or European.

Some people say that there is no reason to avoid fake gems, what you do want to avoid is paying too much for misrepresented jewelry.

In Idar-Oberstein there is a an imitation so sophisticated that is difficult to describe the substance as imitation.  Its name is Galalith. It is formed by casein protein in cow´s milk. It was discovered in the 1890´s by Wilhelm Krische but was introduced to the jewel industry by Jacob Bengel  in 1870.  He soon realized there was a fortune to be made with Galalith in the newly fashionable costume jewelry.

When beautiful things exist, there will always be people trying to imitate it.  The world is said to be full with fakes.  Always be careful when you buy Lapis Lazuli.  Try always to acquire it in reliable stores.

Source: Roberto Ramirez – Adaptation: Rut Rodriguez