Have you ever found yourself in a scenario where you were either gifted a moonstone or were in the market to buy one but weren’t sure if the jewel in question was real or an imposter? At times, it can feel quite awkward to ask for an origin.
This uncomfortable situation is only heightened if you were given a piece of fine jewelry. How are you to figure out if the gem inside is real or merely synthetic? It may not matter as much if the purchase was not yours, but if you are investing your own money into purchasing jewelry, you should do a fair amount of research into the background of what you are searching for.
Moonstone is a great example of a gem that is easily and commonly replicable. As the birthstone of June, it is quite popular, and its symbolization for its namesake creates great production value in jewelry designs.
It can be difficult to determine the type you are holding in your hands without knowing specific markers. Here at Mark Henry Jewelry, we value the preservation and design of truly rare stones, so we’ve compiled a guide for exactly what to look for!
1. Understand the Basics
Before we jump into the ways to determine raw or real moonstone from a knockoff, we must discuss what the stone is composed of.
General characteristics of the orthoclase piece include:
- Crystallography: Monoclinic.
- Refractive Index: 1.518-1.525, 1.518-1.524 in Virginia.
- Luster: Vitreous.
- Fracture: Conchoidal.
- Specific Gravity: 2.56-2.59
- Pleochroism: Rare.
- Heat Sensitivity: None.
These markings of raw moonstone can be difficult to observe with the naked eye, and that is where testing comes in. It is almost impossible to look at a gem and visually identify certain characteristics, such as its heat sensitivity. Many synthetic moonstones may portray themselves with some of these markers as well.
Moonstones are incredibly varied in terms of body color. If they are colorless and translucent with a light blue sheen, they are typically the most prized and expensive kind. It is fair to say that if you have acquired one of these lucky stones, the price will match the quality, and there will be little room for second-guessing its authenticity.
Other body colors include white, yellow to orange, pink to red, brown, and even gray. The amount of iron inside the moonstone is what determines the body color, and a higher level of iron oxide can turn a stone red.
It should be noted that transparency can range in moonstone, and the stones can be anywhere from entirely see-through to opaque and solid in hue. This does not indicate whether or not your finding is fake, despite the fact that full transparency may look or feel more luxurious.
Location, Location, Location
Moonstone can be found across the world. It is formed in gravels and pegmatites; thus, it can be mined in Sri Lanka, North America (U.S. and Mexico), South America (Brazil), and Myanmar. Stones from Myanmar specifically are typically colorless with great clarity. Their blue sheen makes them very rare, and they are most often accessible through second-hand sales. If you find a Myanmar moonstone for a price that seems too good to be true, it likely is a fraud.
Mark Henry Jewelry utilizes only the best mines, many of which we have grown relationships with over the course of decades. Any moonstone purchased through us has been vetted and mined under fair work practices and conditions while still maintaining the highest quality sheens and colors.
2. Beware of the Rainbow
Transparency is a great point of contention when it comes to real moonstone, despite the fact that not all raw pieces have it. It can be seen in the Schiller effect. This happens when labradorite with albite layers that are thin create a blue tint; layers that are thick create a white one.
A Schiller effect that produces multiple colors (for some, that could be blue and green or blue and orange) happens due to labradorescence. If you see this effect, you have a piece of rainbow moonstone.
Rainbow moonstone, despite its name and beauty, is not raw moonstone. Labradorescence does not equal adularescence, the sheen that the stone is known for. This confusing terminology can bring about some questions.
In a lab in Carlsbad, California, a study of four cabochons yielded some surprising results. Cabochons, gems that are shaped or polished, have a lower price point than raw moonstone.
These pieces were white in body color, partially transparent to translucent, and had a carat weight of 1.74ct-10.57ct. This set off alarms for the researchers because the most highly regarded blue sheen stones are somewhere between 15-20 carats apiece.
It was initially believed the moonstones were rainbow. Raman spectroscopy revealed that a transparent base stuck to a white covering was actually gypsum, a component not found in genuine moonstone or genuine rainbow moonstone. The shine of the stone was slightly irregular, and the top was covered with uncolored plastic to replicate the colorless properties of a valuable moonstone.
The team of researchers concluded that the waxy gypsum had led to the plastic top being coated in a virtuous layer. There were gas bubbles throughout the piece due to the plastic, which also helped them to conclude the stone was a fraud. There were even deformations created by touching the piece, a significant clue.
3. Check for Opalite
Opalite is simply a glass that has a resemblance to real moonstone. Of course, glass is far from stone. It is typically cheap to buy, and this can help you deduce your findings.
If you want to be more direct in your digging, look at the layers of the stone. Moonstone has orthoclase and albite stacked on top of each other, but since opalite is one solid mass, it does not have layers. Naturally, there are no inclusions in the opalite. Bubbles are visible.
While moonstone retains its sheen, opalite may look different in any variety of colored lights.
4. Inclusions Reveal the Reality
Moonstone is a rare gem in that it commonly has many inclusions. Rare and raw gems typically do not have, or show, inclusions as they may lower the value or mark proof of a dupe. Do not rule out a piece of moonstone just because you can see a hairline fracture inside of it.
Moonstones are fairly weak, with a hardness of six on the Mohs scale. Stress cracks called “centipedes” are frequently found in moonstones and can be used to determine authenticity. They are created when exsolution pressures set off fissure systems. If you notice that your stone has a darker coloring in one area, it may be a cavity from cracking.
These inclusions can be amended to prevent further breaks. The weakness of moonstone makes it difficult to wear in some forms of jewelry, which can lead to enhancements. While these may be helpful for wearability, they also can depreciate the value of the real stone and move it further away from its raw form.
Popular enhancements for moonstones include placing a dark coating on the backside of the stone to bring out adularescence. This can be seen under a magnifying glass easily. A better way to deal with the fragility of these pieces is to get a protective setting placed on them.
5. When in Doubt, Consult It Out
Going through numerous rounds of inspection and following these steps can only help so much - but it can definitely start to feel daunting if you are going it alone. That is where jewelers come in. With an expansive knowledge of and appreciation for the craft, they should be the first call you make when questioning a piece.
Mark Henry Jewelry offers consultation services with our experts in exotic gems, including an online contact form for longer questions and a pop-up assistant tab on our website.
Our staff is highly skilled and informed of the products that we provide our consumers and would be more than happy to aid you in this process of finding your perfect moonstone piece from our collection.
By the Light of the Moon
Whether you’re new to the gem trade or new to purchasing exotic jewelry, it is never too late to follow these rules. For a stone as gorgeous and multi-faceted as moonstone, it is no question why you would want a real, genuine version in your collection.
After all, moonstone is the symbol of fertility, protection, and harmony. Whatever your reason for looking into a moonstone piece, rest assured that you will now be able to tell a real stone from its synthetic counterparts.