Is your favorite crystal real or is it a fake? Whether or not you’re a witch, collecting crystals is a popular hobby — whether for the so-called healing properties of these stones, or simply for the aesthetics. One problem with the popularity of so-called healing crystals and gemstones, is the saturation of mislabeled, lab-created or flat-out fake rocks on the commercial market. If you’re not careful, the beautiful citrine you think you’re buying could actually be a heat-treated amethyst — or the gorgeous blue opal you’ve purchased online is actually a piece of glass! The following guide will help you in identifying real crystals from the fakes.

Learn basic gemstone identification

You don’t have to be a GIA certified gemologist to be able to identify some of the more basic crystals on the market. There are numerous books and websites to help you learn some of the basic identifying features of crystals like amethyst, citrine and a wide variety of topazes as well as pretty much any other stone you can think of. When you know the basic ins and outs of gemstone and rock identification, you’re able to eliminate the most obvious fakes from search results when doing online crystal shopping. Basics of gemstone and crystal identification involve learning the standard shapes of crystals and the differences in how they form. For example, amethysts naturally form as six-sided columnar crystals with pyramid terminations at their tips. In contrast, garnets grow as dodecahedral and trapezohedral formations. So, if you see a seller presenting a six-sided columnar crystal as a “garnet” you would know that — at the very least — the crystal in question is not garnet.

Natural crystal is cold to the touch

One of the fastest ways to know whether or not a crystal is fake, is by the temperature of the crystal itself. How does it feel in your hand? If it feels particularly cool or even cold, then chances-are it’s a real crystal. Synthetic or lab-created crystals and gems that are made out of glass and other materials — including plastic — do not stay cold to the touch. If they’re sitting somewhere cold, they tend to warm up pretty quickly in your hands. This bit of information is useful for when you encounter very-convincing crystals that look like what they’re being marketed as, but still feel “off.” If that beautiful and unusually affordable large chunk of amethyst or citrine feels dull and of “room temperature” when you touch it, then you probably shouldn’t buy it — because it’s probably fake.

Inclusions, imperfections and bubbles

Natural crystals and gemstones have natural inclusions — with the exception being super expensive diamonds and AAAA grade gemstones that are used in fine jewelry. If you’re buying a regular, run-of-the-mill amethyst point, it should absolutely have some flaws. You should be able to see little cracks, vectors and cloudy patches where the colors go from clear to milky. What you shouldn’t see are bubbles — or rather, what you shouldn’t see are several perfectly round air bubbles. If your crystal has several perfectly round bubbles in it, then it’s a piece of glass that’s been manufactured to look like a piece of quartz. Some natural crystals, on the other hand, do have bubbles — but these bubbles are always irregularly shaped, and oftentimes contain water! These crystals with water bubbles are actually pretty pricy as well.

Perform a hardness test

The Mohs Hardness Scale is usually a pretty accurate way to determine whether or not a crystal is real. For reference, a piece of glass is around 5.5 on the Mohs scale and a piece of amethyst is 7. This means that glass is a far softer material than amethyst, and therefore can be scratched and damaged more easily. This source explains in further detail how to perform a Mohs Hardness Test.

Naturally colored stone vs dyed

Sometimes a beautifully-hued amethyst might actually be a dyed piece of regular quartz — or even glass. Other times, a perfect orange-tinted citrine is actually heat-treated amethyst. While some of these examples involve genuine crystals, the inauthentic colors are a problem. In some cases, a heavily dyed amethyst geode can run when it gets wet, staining anything around it and losing its color entirely. Furthermore, it’s simply dishonest to market dyed or heat-treated crystals as more expensive or harder-to-find stones.

Observe one of your colored crystals. Do you see any veins of darker color inside of it? If you do, this could indicate that your crystal has been dyed. During the dying process, any inclusions or cracks inside of the crystal (which are natural) end up catching excess dye, which darkens these areas. When you sit your crystal in water, does the water become slightly tinted? If so, that’s an absolute guarantee that the stone has been dyed.

Conclusion: Does it matter if your crystals are fake?

This is really up to you. Some people actually prefer synthetic or lab-created gemstones and crystals because they’re supposedly more earth-friendly. Meanwhile, there are people who go further and believe that even synthetic materials have metaphysical properties. Nonetheless, it can easily be argued that — whether your crystals are real or not — the mass marketing of fake stones as real is a harmfully dishonest practice that should stop. The more in-the-know and informed we all stay, the harder it is to be fooled by some of these dishonest vendors!