Artificially Enhanced Minerals
A large number of minerals available on the market today are artificially enhanced or altered, and some are even artificially produced. It is important to be able to recognise the difference between these and naturally occurring minerals, as it will have an effect on the energy of the crystal, and in the jewellery trade, an effect on the value as well.
The industry is constantly coming up with new ways of altering and producing gemstones, and sometimes it is difficult even for experts to recognise them. A company in New York have recently started producing artificial diamonds which, when exposed to rigorous testing, have all the appearance of natural diamonds. The company places a microscopic serial number on each one to prevent fraud, and the diamonds are still considered to be valuable, although not as valuable as natural diamonds of the same quality.
This section looks at common artificially enhanced minerals, and where possible, points of recognition. If you are considering buying a valuable gemstone, and you are not sure if is completely natural, it is still best to consult an expert.
Agates naturally occur in bright colours, but the mines producing these colours are largely mined out. The majority of agates currently on the market are from South America, and are a dull grey. Therefore, most coloured agates are dyed. Pigments are usually derived from natural metals such as iron, or in the case of yellow, sugar. All are heated to some extent in the process, some more than others.
Recognition: Almost all brightly-coloured or black agates.
Good quality natural alexandrite is very difficult to source and phenomenally expensive. Synthetic varieties are available.
Recognition: Price is a factor, but most synthetic alexandrite will have a different colour range to natural
Some green beryl is heat-treated to make it blue.
Azurite is naturally occurring with malachite, but seldom available as a tumbled or polished stone. Tumbled azurite-malachite is almost exclusively powder or small pieces from each stone held together with resin. There will still be some resonance of both minerals, but it is not exactly natural, and personally I find that it does not have the same energy as natural. It is up to you whether you choose to use this in your healing work.
Recognition: The artificially produced variety usually has a relatively even distribution of small malachite chunks held in an azurite base. Naturally occurring azurite-malachite is uneven in distribution, with uneven polish. It is easiest to stick with unpolished specimens.
Natural carnelian is a variety of chalcedony, and the colouring agent is iron. Some is heat treated to bring out the colour, as the pale brown variety (known as sard) and yellow variety become red with heating. Much of what is on the market is agate, which has been dyed by placing it in a solution of iron nitrate and strongly heating it. If you are not sure if your stone is altered, take a philosophical approach with this, as agate is also a chalcedony, and the colouring agents are, relatively speaking, natural, and use your carnelian for its colour therapy qualities. In India, carnelian is brought up from the mine and laid out in the sun, which brightens the colour. I love the idea of bringing the sun into the crystal.
Recognition: Dyed agate is easy to recognise, as the banding (striping) shows, especially when held up to a light source. Natural carnelian exhibits cloudy distribution of colour, but it is still extremely difficult to recognise dyed and heat-treated from natural.
Garnet, Pyrope or Almandine
Red glass is used as a substitute.
Recognition: Usually appears unnaturally bright red.
An artificial variety is available, known as Hematine.
Recognition: Hematine is often magnetised, which hematite is not. A reputable dealer will point out the difference, or label it as such, provided they are aware. Otherwise, recognition is difficult.
Hiddenite (Green Spodumene)
Some green-violet types are heat-treated to improve colour.
Howlite naturally occurs as white with grey marbling. It is a soft, porous stone, which takes dye easily, and is frequently dyed turquoise blue as a substitute for turquoise. More recently chrysocolla-coloured (turquoise to green) has appeared on the market, as well as purple and pink.
Recognition: Reputable shops will label this stone as howlite, whatever the colour. The colouration is too even and bright to be untreated turquoise or chrysocolla.
There is a huge natural colour range in jade, but it is often dyed, and also impregnated with wax or plastic resin in order to improve colour.
Recognition: Lavender and pink Jades are almost always dyed, although they do occur in nature. The colours of dyed examples look too bright and unnatural. Waxed or resined examples will feel waxy to the touch.
Colour is often improved through heating and dying. Also, lapis powder is bound together with artificial resin.
Recognition: Powder with resin is too uniform, but heat-treated and dyed lapis is difficult to recognise, although sometimes the blue appears too bright.
Several techniques are used to enhance precious opal, but mainly for use in jewellery. If you are buying it for use in healing, a rough piece of boulder opal is unlikely to be altered.
Not imitated in rough stones, but in gems sometimes a corundum and spinel synthesis is used, and green foil is placed behind paler stones to enhance their colour.
Recognition: Natural peridot exhibits a strong double refraction (as in optical calcite), and in thick stones there is a doubling of the edges in the lower facets that can be seen with the naked eye.
Naturally occurring citrine variety of quartz forms when quartz containing a trace of iron is exposed to extreme heat and sometimes a small amount of natural gamma radiation, which give it a slight smokiness. It is far less common than amethyst. Amethyst also contains trace iron, but forms at a lower temperature. Most citrine available on the market is amethyst that has been exposed to high temperatures (Brazilian amethyst turns yellow at 470? C), and is referred to in the trade as “baked amethyst”. The disadvantages are that the energy is sometimes overly lively, and that the crystals shatter easily, as the process usually forms small fissures or cracks within the crystal.
Recognition: Citrine usually forms individual crystals with parallel sides. It is pale yellow, and sometimes smoky. Some naturally occurring citrines, such as Russian, will also have a green caste. Amethyst, on the other hand, usually forms in beds, making the base of the crystal much narrower than the centre, without side faces. After treatment, the colour is quite dark and orange – heat-treated citrine has a reddish tint, giving it more the appearance of dark amber, and it is often full of rainbows, due to the cracks produced by heating. Citrine geodes are baked amethyst.
Natural smoky quartz is clear quartz with traces of aluminium that has been exposed to small amounts of naturally occurring gamma radiation during its formation. It is relatively rare, but easy to replicate using clear quartz, usually of low grade, which is given a blast of radiation in a nuclear reactor. This enhanced mineral should not be used in crystal healing. Although natural smoky quartz has been exposed to radiation, it is usually a small amount over a very long period of time. A short, sharp dose of radiation will fragment the energy of the crystal, making it feel confused and disjointed. A few years ago a new variety of quartz appeared, known as “black quartz”. This is an irradiated variety, and although it is very attractive, should not be used in healing.
Recognition: It is not always easy to recognise the difference. However, as a general rule, irradiated smoky quartz will present as shiny, bright crystals with black tips, but the base of the crystal or crystal bed is often white. Natural smoky, on the other hand, will be of consistent colour and shade from tip to base, and they are often “ugly ducklings”, which is to say the external appearance can be quite rough or uneven. Higher quality pieces are available, but tend to be expensive. If in doubt, use your intuition. You will find the altered variety quite difficult to hold, with uneven energy, and it certainly won’t feel like a grounding crystal.
Synthetic varieties have been available since the 1920’s
Recognition: Difficult in faceted stones. If you use spinel in your healing work, I suggest you stick to natural crystals.
Tanzanite is a variety of Zoisite with a lovely blue to violet colouration, so named as the only known deposit is in Tanzania. Recently available is an exquisite bi-coloured variety with deep violet base and citrine-coloured tip. Tanzanite is often heated to remove any yellow or brown tints. As gemstones, tanzanite is imitated with synthetic spinel and corundum, and doublets are made of glass with a tanzanite crown.
Recognition: If in doubt, stick to rough stones and natural crystals for use in crystal healing.
Blue topaz is a naturally occurring stone, and is still available. However, since 1976, almost all blue topaz available on the market has been produced by irradiating and heating natural clear (colourless) topaz.
Recognition: Not applicable – natural is rarely available. If it is important, try to source a natural, uncut crystal, or take it to an expert for analysis.
Some tourmalines are heat-treated, or exposed to gamma radiation, to alter colouration.
Recognition: Those exposed to radiation will fade in colour with time. Heat-treated tourmalines are difficult to recognise.
Natural turquoise is soft and fragile, and will easily fracture when handled, for example when inlaying in jewellery. Therefore, it is frequently stabilised by treating with resin, which also deepens the colour. Turquoise powder is also bound with artificial resin.
Recognition: Treated turquoise usually appears darker, harder and shinier than untreated, but recognition is not always easy. Powder bound with resin is too uniform, and often shows individual chunks of turquoise.
Blue and clear Zircon is produced by heat-treating other types of zircon at a temperature of 800-1000?C. Zircon naturally occurs as yellow, grey, red-brown and brown, and colourless and blue specimens are very rare.
Recognition: Although beautiful, stay away from clear or blue varieties for use in healing.
‘Aura’ Quartz refers to a number of quartzes, such as aqua aura and ruby aura, that have been electroplated with various metals, giving it a variety of colours (depending on the metal used), and an iridescent appearance. Personally, although I find some of these very attractive, I don’t use these altered quartzes in healing, but there are a number of crystal healers who do. My advice is to use your discretion.
In mineralogy, the term ‘cat’s eye’ refers to chatoyancy, a natural effect when a mineral contains parallel fibres, needles or channels, which create a play of light resembling the slit eye of a cat. However, there is also an artificially produced stone sold under the name ‘cat’s eye’, which has a similar appearance to satin spar.
A blue glass-like substance was discovered on the plains of Peru, and for many years was thought to be a type of volcanic glass. The colouration is turquoise-blue, and it can be very beautiful. Recently a sample was sent to the Open University Laboratory, where it was discovered to contain soda and lime, showing that it is in fact a manufactured glass. That said, it is also several hundred years old, and is believed to be of Incan manufacture. It has a certain energy about it, possibly due to its age and origin, and is occasionally used in healing and meditation. In addition, a modern version is available, also being marketed as blue obsidian. It is not a true mineral, and not relevant in crystal healing.
Goldstone is a synthetically produced stone containing copper. It comes in a wide variety of colours. Unfortunately, goldstone is sometimes sold as sheen obsidian.