Monday, May 18, 2015

Moonstone or Opalite? How to Spot the Difference

Moonstone v. Opalite
I'm glad there are people who read my blog!  And I have gotten a few questions lately regarding Moonstone and Opalite, and how to tell which is which.

It's really pretty easy to tell if something is Opalite---which is just glass, and not a gemstone---or if it's Moonstone.  And lately, sellers are really pushing this glass Opalite as "Opalite Quartz" claiming it's a natural stone!  It is NOT, it is still just glass, no matter how many times deceitful sellers say it.


Opalite Nuggets
This is a man-made variety of glass.  It's NOT a gemstone, not opal or moonstone or quartz, but is just a very pretty glass and its trade name is Opalite.  A large number of sellers online (Ebay, Etsy, and elsewhere) simply sell it as "Opalite" or "Opalite Quartz" and sometimes even describe metaphysical properties of this glass.  But Opalite is ALWAYS glass, not a gemstone, and I can't imagine what "healing properties" glass might have.  Many sellers unfortunately refer to Opalite as "Sea Opal" or "Moonstone"or just "Opal", and lots of other VERY misleading or downright false names for this glass stone.  It is NOT any type of opal, and is most definitely NOT moonstone.  And it certainly doesn't form as a crystal! 

Opalite is often carved into figures, like talismans or Buddhas and skulls, etc., and lately carved or molded into crystal "point" shapes, and is sold as strands of beads or briolettes.
Opalite Donut

It is also carved into faceted briolettes, smooth cabochons, smooth circles, hearts, ovals, rounds, squares, and other gemstone-like cuts that are sold as jewelry items.


Opalite "Point"
Opalite may have a sort of "glow" and is carefully photographed to enhance this glow.  But Opalite is perfectly CLEAR, meaning no inclusions at all.  There are tiny bubbles captured within the glass, which you can see in person and sometimes in photos, which are almost always found in glass.  Opalite has a milky white translucent appearance with golden highlights when viewed against light backgrounds.  But when opalite is placed against a dark background, it will have a blue glow.

In other words, the "glow" of Opalite glass changes when viewed against light or dark backgrounds.

Also, Opalite glass is VERY inexpensive, and can be found in hobby stores like Michaels (marked "Opalite Glass") for about $5 for an entire strand of beads.

Moonstone against light background

Moonstone against dark background

Moonstone is a real gemstone, a member of the Feldspar family that also includes Labradorite and Sunstone, as well as Rainbow Moonstone and Amazonite.

Moonstone is made of two minerals---orthoclase and albite---which form in stacked layers within the stone.  When light shines on this gemstone, the thin, flat layers scatter the light in a unique way, causing a phenomenon called "adularescence".  Adularescence is the shimmering glow that moves across the gem, like a ghostly and ever-changing glow, as you move the gemstone.   Moonstone has this shimmering blue glow, whether it is against a white background, dark background, or none at all!  The glow follows the light in bright flashes.
Genuine Moonstone

Rainbow Moonstone is actually not moonstone, but is a variety of Labradorite.  It also has adularescence in a variety of colors---blues, pinks, yellows, purples, greens, reds----hence the name.
Faceted Rainbow Moonstone


Just by looking at the Moonstone, most of the time, you can see these "layers" within the stone.  The Moonstone will have "inclusions" or "cracks" and other features within the stone, and won't be perfectly clear like glass.  There are some VERY high-end Moonstones that look nearly clear, but even these will not have that milky glass appearance like Opalite.

Rainbow Moonstones also have these "layers" within the gem, as does labradorite.


You could always just ask the seller if they are selling genuine Moonstone, or Opalite!  Any honest seller will tell you the truth.  Or if you still have doubts, just ask me and I'll be glad to take a look and see if I can tell.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rainbow Calsilica: Is It A Real Gemstone? Or Manmade?

There are lots of jewelry pieces made with "Rainbow Calsilica", a brightly colored stone that looks very much like those old sand sculptures---you know, bands of different colors of sand that fill glass vases.  That's what I think of when I see this jewelry.  It's interesting to look at, and no two pieces are ever exactly alike.  It has been popular since its introduction to the marketplace in 2002, when it was described as being found in a mine in Mexico.  It was very expensive when first introduced, and people paid big money for this unusual "gem".  But is it really a natural gemstone?

Polished and Bezel-Set

Blocks of Material Before Polymer
The conclusive answer is: NO, it is not natural.

Rainbow Calsilica has been extensively analyzed by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and SSEF (Swiss Gemological Institute Basel), and they both have concluded that this "gem" is made of  manmade pigments, polymers (plastics), resin, calcite, and
Close-up of Layers
other components that aren't created in nature at all. 

You can read the report for yourself HERE.

So the analysis of this material shows that "Rainbow Calsilica" is pulverized carbonic rock mixed with pigments and stabilized with polymer. 

There is another manmade "gem" called Fordite, or "Detroit Agate".  The name itself is kind of funny, because it's actually made from layers of paint overspray from car manufacturing.  These enamel paint layers were baked along with cars, and the resulting pieces were cut and polished.  Fordite looks a lot like Rainbow Calsilica, and is highly collectible.

In reading about Fordite and Rainbow Calsilica, I read something very funny:  there is someone who makes similar looking cabochons out of old bowling balls, which he calls (tongue in cheek)  "Bowlerite" which is "found in wooded alleys".  LOL!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Simulated Diamond Is NOT A Created Diamond!

I got an email from someone I NEVER heard of before--some random Etsy jewelry seller.  He was accusatory and threatening, and I have NO idea what his problem was---he didn't really say!  But by simply looking at his shop, I could only guess that apparently he read my blog post about created diamonds v. simulated diamonds, and felt I was unfairly attacking him or something.  (Guilty much?)

To this seller---and for anyone who is reading this blog---here are the FTC rules regarding this very issue.  I didn't make it up!!  This isn't my opinion!!  I'm not writing "nasty" things about anyone---just the FACTS regarding compliance with the FTC!!   There are rules that are enforced in the jewelry industry to protect consumers from fraud!  I've put the text regarding "created" stones in bold:

§23.23   Misuse of the words “ruby,” “sapphire,” “emerald,” “topaz,” “stone,” “birthstone,” “gemstone,” etc.

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to use the unqualified words “ruby,” “sapphire,” “emerald,” “topaz,” or the name of any other precious or semi-precious stone to describe any product that is not in fact a natural stone of the type described.
(b) It is unfair or deceptive to use the word “ruby,” “sapphire,” “emerald,” “topaz,” or the name of any other precious or semi-precious stone, or the word “stone,” “birthstone,” “gemstone,” or similar term to describe a laboratory-grown, laboratory-created, [manufacturer name]-created, synthetic, imitation, or simulated stone, unless such word or name is immediately preceded with equal conspicuousness by the word “laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]-created,” “synthetic,” or by the word “imitation” or “simulated,” so as to disclose clearly the nature of the product and the fact it is not a natural gemstone.
Note to paragraph (h): The use of the word “faux” to describe a laboratory-created or imitation stone is not an adequate disclosure that the stone is not natural.
(c) It is unfair or deceptive to use the word “laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]-created,” or “synthetic” with the name of any natural stone to describe any industry product unless such industry product has essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as the stone named.

So, again, per §23.23(c) of the FTC Rules:  it is deceptive to call a gemstone (like a diamond) "created" or "laboratory created" UNLESS it has the same physical, chemical and optical properties as the natural gemstone. 

So a CREATED DIAMOND is a diamond that is laboratory created, also known as a synthetic diamond, and there are only a handful of labs that are capable of creating gem-quality diamonds.   Created Diamonds are very expensive (about the same cost per carat as natural diamonds) and for a long time, were only created in canary yellow colors.  Colorless created diamonds are produced now, but only in smaller sizes---about .60-cts is the largest clear created diamond available today. Larger sizes of created diamonds in colors can be found (canary, pink).   Created Diamonds are micro-engraved (seen with a high powered loupe) indicating that they are created.  This is done so a created diamond is never confused with a natural "mined" diamond--and there is no other way to tell them apart, since any test would confirm this "created" diamond to be in fact a diamond.  Created or Synthetic gemstones are lab-created stones that don't just look like the gemstone--they have the same physical and chemical properties as well.

A SIMULATED diamond or other gemstone is just that---a stone that LOOKS LIKE a diamond or gemstone.  The most diamond-like SIMULATED stone is a Cubic Zirconia.  A CZ is grown in a lab, which would make this a lab-created CZ simulated diamond (NOT created diamond). The CZ industry has come a LONG way since it was first producing CZs, and now they rival the finest diamonds in appearance and WILL NOT cloud or yellow.  In fact there are "grades" of CZ.  These CZ stones are affordable alternatives to diamonds.  Moissanite is another popular Diamond simulant---it is a lab created stone (man-made) and is a lot more expensive than CZ.

There is nothing "wrong" with a CZ simulated diamond!  In fact, as anyone who reads my blog knows, I love them and own them and have even heat-treated them myself.  And any seller, per the FTC RULES, *must* disclose that a stone is a CZ and not a "diamond" or "created diamond". 

But there is EVERYTHING wrong with calling a CZ a "created diamond".  It is NOT.  It is a violation of the FTC to do so.  This isn't my opinion----I'm only INFORMING consumers regarding this.  And sadly, it appears there are plenty of sellers who aren't informed, or choose to thumb their noses at the FTC.

You can find beautiful CZ simulated diamond engagement rings set in solid gold all over the internet or in jewelry stores everywhere, on TV channels like HSN and QVC, and they are BEAUTIFUL.  And they are affordable.  They are, in MY opinion, the BEST diamond-like choice for an engagement or wedding ring (I'm not really a diamond fan, for ethical and other reasons). But reputable places like HSN or QVC or large name jewelry stores (as well as smaller jewelers) will ALWAYS disclose that these are CZ, these are "simulated diamonds" or "diamond simulants" and even give them their own trade names (such as Diamonique or Absolute, which are trademarked Cubic Zirconia stones by QVC and HSN respectively).  Reputable jewelers will always comply with the FTC and disclose the nature of their stones and gemstones, and any treatments to the stones.

You will NEVER find a misleading term like "created diamond" or "synthetic diamond" by any reputable, knowledgeable jeweler, unless it is in fact a 100% carbon diamond, which will be almost as expensive as a "mined" diamond.  NEVER.

By the a senior executive at a major worldwide advertising agency, I worked as the marketing specialist for many companies, including several  high-end jewelery companies in the United States, South America, and Europe, and so I'm VERY familiar with the FTC Rules, consumer information, legalese, and the consequences of such violations.

So if you have any questions, feel free to ask!