Monday, October 21, 2013

Real Quartz v. Synthetics v. Simulated v. Hydro Quartz -- Which Is It?

I live in New Mexico, in the city of Albuquerque.  New Mexico's history includes silver mines, gold mines, copper mines, turquoise mines, and lots of artisans who make jewelry out of genuine metals and gemstones.

There is a very large facility that sells jewelry supplies to jewelers ALL over the world, including being perhaps the most trusted facility to purchase silver "shot" or grains for making pure silver or sterling silver rings, etc.  They sell sterling and gold and gold-filled wire, findings, genuine gemstones, just everything a jeweler could ever want.  It's called Rio Grande Jewelry  and luckily they are located a short drive from my home, ten or so minutes away.  I go there ALL the time because they employ dozens of knowledgeable jewelers and silversmiths (I don't know how many!) so if I have a questions about a gemstone, they can answer it.  Or they can repair or re-size anything, although they're a little pricey.  They have a small showroom and I love to go look at the charms and gems they have in the cases.  And they have a HUGE warehouse so anything in their catalogs can be purchased right then and there.  Seriously, there are hundreds of employees' cars in the lot.  They also offer jewelry making classes and people come to ABQ from all over to learn from the experts.  You can call them or send an email, and they are always fast to respond, but it's easier for me to just go there with an order or questions---everyone there is very nice and really helpful.

So I rely on their expertise often, and I trust what they have to say.

I was there recently to buy some gold-filled wire and to ask them about some sterling "tree" charms they have (right in their display case) that I read about in etsy's forums (someone outside of etsy who sells charms claimed she holds the copyright to this design and made the etsy seller remove her "copies"----and yet Rio Grande has the same items.  They checked and, NO, they laughed and said they have no knowledge of any such "copyright" for the item that's manufactured in Thailand, although that seller may have the copyright on the IMAGE in her catalogue, so there's that.).

But I really wanted to ask their expert opinion on so-called "Hydro Quartz" that is found in India, Thailand and China on Alibaba, and all over Etsy, sold as though it's a gemstone.  I asked them, "Is there such a thing AT ALL as "hydrothermal quartz" or "hydro quartz" that looks like emeralds, or like blue topaz or other gemstones?"

Answer directly from Rio Grande:  "NO.  Those aren't gemstones and are most likely glass.  We don't sell that here."

So if you clicked on the Rio Grande link at the beginning of this post, it would take you to their "green quartz" listings.  It will show you what "green quartz" actually is----and not an "emerald hydro quartz" to be found.  Green Quartz is also known as Prasiolite or "green Amethyst".  If you search Rio Grande for "blue quartz", you will find gemstone "doublets" and "triplets" made with clear quartz, some blue druzy stones in blue.  They have Chalcedony (the only real blue quartz, but also can be green or white or other dyed colors) listed separately. 

So---what is a Synthetic stone? Is it a gemstone?

In the jewelry industry, a "Synthetic" stone is a man-made gemstone, made in a lab, and is considered a real gemstone, with the same physical, chemical and optical properties as the natural gemstone.   To most people, "synthetic" means "fake" but not in the jewelry industry (confusing)!  Mostly people use the term "lab created" to describe synthetic gems.  The only real way to tell a synthetic gemstone from a "mined" stone is that the synthetic (or lab-created) stone is flawless, and natural stones are generally not.  Otherwise, there is NO difference.  Jewelers will test the stones and will see it's a sapphire, for instance, but when they look at it under a loup, it's flawless and therefore PROBABLY synthetic.  Sapphires and rubies are popular synthetics, as well as emeralds.  There ARE synthetic diamonds, but they are just as expensive as mined diamonds, but they are conflict-free. Man-made, or synthetic, diamonds are $1,000 and UP per carat.  They are definitely diamonds with a Mohs hardness of 10---only diamonds are that hard.  Some examples of lab-created gemstones that are available include:
  • Emerald (Beryl)
  • Aquamarine (Beryl)
  • Alexandrite (Color Change Chrysoberyl)
  • Ruby (Corundum)
  • Sapphire (Corundum)
  • Spinel
  • Diamond - VERY expensive, costs the same as mined diamond
Please note that there are some gemstones that are NEVER lab-created:  Topaz, Peridot, Garnet, and Tanzanite are three examples that I see listed as "created" or "synthetic" all the time.  Not so!   There is no such gem as a "created blue topaz" for example---the stone would be something like glass or CZ, but definitely is not a topaz.
(Edit to add:  A friend of mine who is a gemologist said that he recently heard of a lab that was attempting to create Tanzanite as they are very scarce and difficult to mine, so synthetic tanzanite might be available in the future!  I hope so because they're beautiful!)

Then what is a Simulated stone?  Is that different?

In the jewelry industry, a "Simulated" stone is simply something that was made to look like another stone.  It doesn't possess the chemical properties of the gemstone at all.  A simulated gemstone can be glass, plastic, a crystal (like Swarovski), a rhinestone, paste, anything.  A CZ is a simulated diamond.  A Moissanite is a simulated diamond.  A green CZ can be a simulated emerald or peridot, depending on color. And so forth.

What is Hydro Quartz?  Is it Quartz grown in a lab? 

Hydro quartz seen in the jewelry industry is NOT quartz at all.  It is a "simulated" quartz, in that it LOOKS like quartz (somewhat) or other stones but does not have the chemical properties of quartz or gemstones at all.  It would test as glass.  It is NOT a synthetic quartz, or a lab-created quartz.  It is ONLY simulated quartz, or glass that is sold to look like other gemstones including quartz.  A more honest name for this "hydroquartz" is actually "Fused Quartz."

What is Fused Quartz?

Fused quartz is manufactured by "fusing" (melting) naturally occurring Quartz crystals of high purity at approximately 2000 °C, resulting in a pure, clear glass.  It is used in the semiconductor industry, optical industry and electronics and other industries, including laboratories (borosilicate glass tubes, for example).  It is also colored and sold in glass "blocks" to the jewelry industry.

Is there such a thing as Hydrothermal Quartz at all?

Yes.   Companies in the electronics industry, for example, grow pure quartz crystals.  Also, some Siberian Amethyst (a deep purple with red flash) is lab-created.

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