Monday, June 15, 2015

"Hydro Tourmaline" Or Synthetic Tourmaline? Does It Exist? Hydro Quartz?


"Rubellite Quartz" Hydro Stone
Someone sent me a convo on Etsy and asked me if I have ever heard of "hydro tourmaline".  I responded that I have heard of hydro quartz that is being sold with such names as "Paraiba Hydro Quartz" or "Chrome Tourmaline Quartz" or "Rubellite Hydro Quartz".  In other words, they are selling "hydro quartz" using the well-known names of Tourmaline gemstones.  Otherwise, no, I have not heard of or seen "hydro tourmaline". I also mentioned that "synthetic tourmaline" is not listed on the GIA's list of synthetic gems, or on any other reputable site.

I heard back from this person who informed me that her discussion group (well, one person) determined that there IS a "hydrothermal tourmaline" process, or a "hydrothermally stabilised tourmaline" which results in synthetic tourmaline, or some sort of hydrothermally enhanced tourmaline.  I believe this person's response to me was to "inform" me that I was wrong, and her highly knowledgeable group was really right.  I wondered why she even asked me in the first place...  I stopped communication then, but I continued researching this subject---as anyone can easily do nowadays!
"Chrome Tourmaline Quartz" Hydro

I googled "Hydrothermally stablised tourmaline", and there was only one result (on the discussion board).  (This discussion group is on a highly regarded website for the sharing of information and opinions on jewelry.  Anyone can join and anyone can post answers on the discussion board.) Despite calling it "hydrothermally stablized",  this person was actually describing the "synthetic overgrowth" process of making synthetic emeralds and other stones.  This isn't an enhancement, but a hydrothermal method to produce a new, synthetic gemstone.  This involves taking a "seed" gem, and through pressure and heat in a solution, crystals grow around the center seed, forming a new stone surrounding the center seed. (I added a video below showing this process.)

But the trouble with this regarding tourmaline is that, despite anyone's assertions, there is absolutely NO synthetically grown tourmaline available.   Enhanced gemstones are simply gemstones that have their color or clarity "enhanced" by various methods, and MUST be disclosed as enhanced:  heated, irradiated, filled, oiled, dyed, etc.  (Regarding enhanced tourmalines: they are frequently heated or irradiated, and sometimes "oiled" to enhance the colors and fill the imperfections.) There was a study done a few years ago (see here) regarding rumors and reality surrounding "synthetic tourmaline".   And if you simply google "synthetic overgrowth" or "synthetic tourmaline" you can read many discussions about this, and they all say the same thing: no synthetic tourmaline gemstones are available. Labs try to create tourmaline, but the results are either extremely tiny stones or stones that "explode" or are otherwise not gem-quality.  Even this discussion reveals that, per Tom Chatham (of Chatham Emeralds fame), there are no commercially available synthetic tourmaline stones.  But that was from a few years ago.  What about today?  Has anything changed?
"Paraiba Quartz" Hydro

I contacted the Gemological Institute of America myself, and asked if there are any synthetic tourmaline gemstones available as of 2015.  I received a response and although I'm not able to post the response here (it's considered private between the GIA and me), they told me that, despite many attempts at synthesizing tourmalines, there are no gem-quality synthetic tourmalines available in the market today, nor is it economically feasible to produce gem-quality tourmalines.  This was as of June 10, 2015.

So going back to the convo on Etsy---despite what this person's online group member said, and despite the claim of a seller somewhere offering "hydro tourmaline", the stones they would buy would test as either "hydro quartz" that is simply the color of a tourmaline, some other synthetic or even natural stone that looks like tourmaline, or possibly glass (see below).   Maybe they would receive an oil-enhanced tourmaline, but in that case, it would be just a tourmaline that has been enhanced (and must be disclosed as enhanced), not a "hydro tourmaline".   Perhaps in the future there will be synthetic tourmalines, but there are no gem-quality synthetic tourmalines being sold as of today. PERIOD.

This experience with the Etsy "convo" reminded me of Isaac Asimov---do you want the answer that is true, or the answer that satisfies?  They are often not the same. 
Well, I prefer the truth.  And buyers deserve the truth.

Here's an interesting video from Tairus, a company that makes incredibly beautiful synthetic emeralds using the hydrothermal method (plus sapphires, rubies, beryl, and alexandrite):


Synthetic Amethyst
There are a lot of stones, online on Ebay and on Etsy, that are being called synthetic "hydro" stones. There are a HUGE number of "hydro quartz" stones being sold on Etsy right now, in colors that range from clear to pale blue to deep blues and purples, reds and pinks, pale colors and vibrant colors.  While it's true that there is a large market for synthetic quartz in industrial applications, sellers are saying that the jewelry industry is now growing synthetic quartz gemstones, despite the fact that quartz is the most abundant and common mineral found on Earth.  The hydrothermal process to create these man-made stones is expensive and time consuming.   For certain, there are some synthetic blue quartz gems, and synthetic Amethyst does exist (and MUST be disclosed as synthetic), as Amethyst is considered the most valuable of all quartz varieties.  Synthetic Amethyst is a perfect, rich purple color, with no inclusions and no color "zoning" like that which is found in natural Amethyst. 

I recently purchased some "hydro quartz" on Etsy from a couple of different gemstone sellers.   I bought the same color of deep "tourmaline pink" (like rubellite).   They arrived and look absolutely beautiful---the colors are rich and vibrant (each stone, although from different sellers, was EXACTLY the same color of pink), and the stones are clear and free of obvious bubbles, which would be found in glass.  Even looking through a 10x loupe, the stones look nice.  The surface on one set of stones had a sort of "orange peel" look, very slight, which made me wonder if it was coated.  The faceting on all the stones wasn't quite as sharp or defined as I had hoped.  I did the "scratch test" on glass, and one stone felt like it was scratching the glass, but I couldn't find any mark.  The other stones just slid over the glass.  None of the stones themselves were harmed.  So my own examination didn't really tell me anything.

I took them to a certified gemologist to have them checked last week, to verify if these are quartz, or glass.  The gemologist used various methods to check all the stones, and then told me they were NOT quartz, but were glass.  All of them were glass.

This is not to say that the Etsy sellers are trying to defraud anyone.  But they purchase their stones for resale from gem dealers in India or China or Thailand---wherever these so-called hydro quartz stones are made---as hydro quartz, and then they sell them to jewelry designers, and so on down the line, until now, the market is saturated with glass stones sold as quartz, as well as some actual hydro quartz.  You really can't tell the difference without having the stones tested, and not many people will bother taking them to a gemologist for testing.

So that was MY very recent experience with "hydro quartz" from Etsy:  just very pretty glass that looks like quartz (or even tourmaline).  No problem----I'll wear it myself!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fake Gemstone Rings on Ebay: Quench-Cracked Flame Fusion Synthetics?

In 2013, I wrote THIS post about fake gemstones being sold as "natural" gemstones on Ebay.  I wrote it as a "buyer beware" in an effort to help unsuspecting buyers from being "suckers", even though these huge-carat gemstone items are $25-$50 or so. 

17.6-Carat (!)  "Ruby" For $49
Someone sent me an email regarding a $25 "Ruby" ring they purchased from Ebay (Bulran) and claimed they had it "tested" and it was a real ruby, and because the "labor is cheap" in Thailand for stone cutting, they're able to offer inexpensive rubies.  Wow!  Imagine finding a genuine mined ruby, 6 carats or more, that is natural and unheated (or perhaps even heated) and having it set into a ring, for $25!!  What a deal!!  And then this person threatened me because I *dared* to say that a 6-CARAT ruby for $25 was not a genuine ruby gemstone!!

Hahaha!  OK, I'll stop with the sarcasm.  I can't believe I need to say this but here goes:

16.22 Carat "Ruby" - $9.99!
There is NO SUCH THING as a genuine, natural ruby that is 6 carats or so, set into a sterling silver setting, with a halo of stones surrounding it,  for $25.   Could you ever possibly even FIND a 17.6 carat genuine Ruby like pictured above??   To the right is another ring---16.22 carats ("natural from Madagascar"!) for only $9.99!!  First of all,  large gem quality rubies can be more valuable than comparably sized diamonds and are certainly rarer!  For a 6-ct. round-cut VVS2 diamond, the price is: 6 x $106,444 per carat = $638,664 (approximately).  A 6-carat ruby would cost a FORTUNE and would certainly be set in platinum or solid gold, not sterling silver!  What would a 17-ct Ruby be worth??  A million dollars, or more?

If you search all these "ruby" rings on Ebay, it's surprising how similar these all look---EXACT same color, same cloudy or feathered webby "inclusions", same huge size...

There are lots of created rubies (synthetic) grown in various ways, and although those would test as a genuine corundum (ruby), any gemologist would instantly know it isn't natural.  ANYONE would know a ruby that size wouldn't be natural!!  Especially when a ruby is SO large and so red and so clear!!  And from Ebay!?!   It is 100% unethical and unlawful to sell a gemstone and NOT disclose treatments (such as heating, irradiation, oiling, glass filling, etc.) and NOT disclose that a gem is synthetic or just a simulant!!

Quench-Cracked Flame Fusion Synthetic
Because synthetic (man-made) gems are generally thought to be too perfect or too flawless,  and therefore obviously man-made, there is a way to introduce flaws into the synthetic gems to give them "fingerprints" or other naturally-occurring flaws.  Flame fusion synthetic rubies can be heated and then suddenly plunged into cold fluid so they crack internally, producing what looks like natural fingerprints or feather inclusions which are found in natural rubies.  To the right is a picture that clearly shows these web-like inclusions introduced to this synthetic stone via heating and then quenching.  This looks almost EXACTLY like the very inexpensive "rubies" sold on Ebay.  Could they be flame fusion synthetics that have been quench cracked?  Could they be dyed quartz?  They could certainly be---but for sure, they aren't natural rubies.

Lab-Created Ruby at
A created ruby is beautiful and perfect, and great to wear, but they are not worth anywhere near the price of a genuine mined ruby.  A 5mm created ruby (.65-carats), on, is $360, for example.  That's a good deal, but not exactly cheap.  And as you can see (left), the color is of course perfect (pinkish red) and is flawless.  A GENUINE ruby that has been mined from the earth costs about $2,000 a CARAT for a 5mm stone--and UP.  Here is a natural, untreated ruby that is .90-carats and it sells for $12,000
If  you scroll down that page, you'll see a 7-carat ruby for $50,000 a carat--$350,000 for a natural ruby. 

Those are examples of genuine rubies and how much they are sold for.  A lab-created .65-ct. ruby alone (unset) is $360 and that's a wholesale price for jewelers.   What do you think you're really getting from Ebay for $25?

If the ring is pretty and you love it, then buy it.  Jewelry is FUN and fabulous, to be worn and admired and enjoyed.  But know that you are not getting a huge genuine Ruby (or Sapphire, or Emerald, or Aquamarine, etc. etc.) for $25. Or $50.  Is it really quartz, or glass, or some other gem simulant---I don't know for sure.  But I DO know that it's not a genuine precious HUGE real natural  ruby for that price!

Friday, June 12, 2015

What is "Scorolite Opal"? Is It Quartz? Is It Scapolite?

"Scorolite Opal" - Or Quartz?

Someone asked the question "What is Scorolite Opal?" today on Etsy's forums.  And there were many responses from some of the fabulous and informed Etsy jewelry sellers.  So what is it?

The bottom line is:  there is no such gemstone as "Scorolite Opal".  It is possibly glass, or coated quartz, or light-colored (and poor quality) Amethyst, which is purple quartz, or some other quartz such as "Lavender Moon Quartz".

There is no mention of this stone anywhere---not on (except for a discussion regarding "fakes, frauds and marketing ploys"), not on the GIA's website,  nowhere outside of Etsy.  Not even on Ebay!!

More "Scorolite Opal"
If you google "Scorolite Opal", the search results are all for shops on Etsy, or for sellers who have websites but also shops on Etsy.  Once again, it's a "stone" that is marketed primarily TO Etsy sellers from gem wholesalers, some located in the US and some in India.

When I searched on Etsy for strands of this stone sold by suppliers, at least one result was simply Opalite being sold as "Scorolite Opal".  Opalite is glass, not any sort of a gemstone, totally man-made.  There were 8 results total.  Some of these stones are more clear and glowing, some are nearly opaque, some seem to have a moonstone-like "adularescence" within the stone, some are more blue...they are all different.

Of course, the best way to discover what a stone really is, is to have the stone tested by a gemologist.  In fact, I found the following information regarding this stone online:

"Another Fake: “Scorolite
Although the term “scorolite” is sometimes used as a synonym for “scorodite”
lately one can find many mentions of “scorolite” on the Internet as a
“relatively new gemstone”. There it is described as “purple/greyish”, and sometimes even “colour change” or “tenebrescent”.
Now , genuine scorodite is occasionally faceted as a gemstone, but very rarely since it is too soft for anything but collectors of rare gemstones, and very few facetable crystals exist. Those that do are prized by collectors because of their beautiful green-blue colour. 
Curious about what exactly this material was, your editor purchased some “scorolite” beads (actually advertised as “scorodite”) on ebay.The specific gravity of the material was much too light for scorodite. 
I then sent it to KerryDay of KGD Minerals in Ottawa, who performed EDS on a sample. Conclusion: the "scorolite/scorodite” was actually just quartz,var. amethyst — and not particularly nice amethyst at that."

Scorodite - Beautiful Blue!
This article (above) refers to Scorodite.  This is from 2009---six years ago!  There is a gem called "Scorodite" which is a natural mineral.  Scorodite is an incredibly beautiful mineral found in ranges of intense blues, and is nothing like this Scorolite stone.

When I first read about this "Scorolite Opal" and looked at pictures of it, my first thought was that it was maybe purple Scapolite.  Maybe a typo somewhere along the way led from Scapolite to Scorolite...?  However, Scapolite is a genuine gemstone (purple, similar looking to amethyst), and is NOT any sort of Opal.  

Some of these "Scorolite" stones look quite pretty.  Some look a LOT like purple Scapolite, or like pale Amethyst, or even translucent chalcedony quartz. They would probably be a nice, fun addition to a  jewelry collection.  But it's NOT any sort of Opal gemstone, it's not a "new, rare" gemstone,  and is most likely quartz, whether natural or coated, or perhaps man-made.

Possibly Lavender Moon Quartz? 

There is a gemstone, a variety of quartz, called "Lavender Moon Quartz".  It is just beautiful, and has a translucent soft lavender glow.  It looks a little like moonstone, it has an opalescent glow, and a little like translucent chalcedony.  But it's none of those---it's a variety of quartz all its own.

I noticed some of this so-called Scorolite Opal jewelry on Etsy that has more of this lavender "glow".  I am guessing that some of this "Scorolite" is actually the beautiful Lavender Moon Quartz.  Some other "Scorolite" appears to be amethyst (it doesn't possess this glow) or some other type of quartz, some maybe scapolite, and some are obviously Opalite.

Here is a picture of genuine Lavender Moon Quartz, which is available at Rio Grande Jewelry  (highly reputable gemstone and precious metals supplier):

Lavender Moon Quartz

That picture doesn't really capture the beauty and luminous glow of this stone.  I googled images of Lavender Moon Quartz and I see that some very high-end designers (Yurman, for example) have used Lavender Moon Quartz in their jewelry.  It's SO beautiful, and it's a natural gemstone!