HOW TO TELL IF A SAPPHIRE IS REAL
How can you tell if a sapphire is real? It's not as easy as you might think! Sapphire crystals are one of the most popular gemstones and one of the most commonly faked. So, how can you tell if a sapphire is real or fake?
1. LOOK FOR FLAWS
A real sapphire stone is very rare and valuable; as a result, most of the sapphires on the market are actually fake. One way to tell if a sapphire is real is by looking for flaws. A real sapphire stone will often have small imperfections (due to natural formation), while fake sapphires are unnaturally perfect because they consist of lower quality materials (like glass), and the manufacturing process is often not as precise.
However, the lack of inclusions in a sapphire stone does not necessarily mean it is a fake sapphire. Untreated sapphires are sometimes entirely flawless, and inclusions appear only when they are heated or treated with chemicals. So, if you're looking at a sapphire that appears to be flawless, it could still be real sapphire - but it's more likely to be fake.
The best clarity grade for sapphires is "eye-clean," which means imperfections are not visible with the naked eye (you need a microscope to spot them). These sapphire inclusions can take the form of other minerals, cracks, or fractures. The most valuable sapphire stones have few or no inclusions, but these "perfect" stones are actually quite rare.
Types of Inclusions in Natural Sapphires:
There are various types of sapphire inclusions ranging from feathers to fractures. To better understand whether you have a real or fake sapphire, check your suspected sapphire for some of these common inclusion types listed below.
Needles are long and thin mineral inclusions in sapphire stones. These natural flaws often occur in groups, giving a sapphire stone a striated appearance. Because these needles cross with one another, they are known as silk and have a silky-looking white texture, which is see-through or transparent on occasion.
All sapphires don't contain silk inclusions (they often occur in star-effect sapphires). But, surprisingly, all inclusions don't decrease a sapphire's value. Instead, silk is an example of a sapphire flaw that may actually increase its value. The highly reflective rutile needles scatter light within a cut sapphire in modest amounts, helping to illuminate the stone's deeper facets and increasing its brilliance.
The value of a sapphire stone with needle inclusions depends on a few factors. First the rarity of the stone - since it is more difficult to find one without any inclusions. Second, the size and visibility of the inclusions. And finally, the type of inclusions present. Sapphire crystals with inclusions that scatter light (like needles) are considered more valuable than those that don't.
B. Mineral Crystals
Minerals trapped inside a natural sapphire stone might be bright, dark, transparent, or opaque. For example, minute hematite, zircon, spinel, calcite, and mica crystals are frequent in sapphires. White crystal inclusions are preferable since the sapphire's hue should hide them; darker crystals, on the other hand, can dull the sapphire's color and make it appear opaque.
Feathers are small inclusions with the wispy appearance of a feather in sapphire stones. Many of these feather inclusions are white, and if they're big enough, they might cause damage to the sapphire stone's structural integrity leading to a lower price. Feather inclusions are tiny breaks or fractures that have little effect on the appearance of the stone.
When these small feather inclusions cluster together, they resemble tiny human fingerprints.
These are fingerprint-shaped networks of tiny liquid-filled tubes. The creation of fingerprint inclusions results from sapphires re-crystallizing to partially heal a fracture zone. Fingerprint inclusions are pretty typical in sapphires, although because they are tiny, such inclusions have little if any impact on the stone's quality.
Fingerprints are not always easy to spot and might require 10x magnification to see. When they do affect the sapphire's appearance, it is usually in a very minor way, such as by making the stone appear slightly included overall.
E. Color Zoning
Color zoning is another type of inclusion that can affect the value of a sapphire stone. Zoning refers to areas of different color concentrations within the same sapphire stone. For example, a sapphire might be predominantly blue with small patches of yellow or green. These areas of different colors are known as "zones."
Color zoning is a completely natural occurrence in a real sapphire stone. It occurs while the crystal forms deep in the earth, and different elements (such as iron, chromium, or vanadium) become concentrated in different stone areas.
Sapphires with strong color zoning are less valuable than those without any zoning or with only light zoning. That's because the zoning can affect the sapphire's color, making it appear mottled or patchy.
Cavities are small, empty spaces within a sapphire stone appearing like crevices. Cavities create fault lines (weak points) in a natural sapphire stone leading to the formation of cleavages, which can break away if you apply enough force.
G. Liquid Inclusions
H. Halo or Discoid Fractures
Halo or discoid fractures are oval or circular fractures that appear like rings around a sapphire stone. These fractures occur when the sapphire is subject to sudden changes in temperature (such as during the cutting and polishing process).
The high temperatures from heat treatment can also cause inclusions in heat-treated sapphires.
2. THE BREATH TEST
Another way to test the authenticity of your sapphire stone is a simple breath test. You can identify a real sapphire stone by quickly fogging it up. Track how long it takes the mist to disappear completely.
The mist will disappear within a few seconds if it is a natural sapphire stone because a real sapphire stone is naturally good at conducting heat. In contrast, a fake sapphire stone will take about 5 seconds or more to dissolve the fog.
3. CHECK FOR AIR BUBBLES
To test if a sapphire stone is real, look for air bubbles in the stones. These air bubbles result from creating synthetic stones in laboratories using glass. Inspect the sapphire gems from all angles to ensure there are no air bubbles, as this could indicate an artificial stone.
4. THE SCRATCH TEST
To identify the authenticity of a sapphire, the scratch test is a useful method. For example, if you have two sapphires and know one is a natural sapphire stone, you can use it to scratch the suspected stone. If the sapphire bauble you scratch is a real sapphire stone, you will not see any scratching because stones of equal hardness do not scratch one another. If you notice that a scratch appears, it is not an authentic sapphire.
5. CHECK HOW LIGHT REFLECTS
Another way to determine if a sapphire jewel is genuine is by checking how it reflects light. To identify if the suspected sapphire stone is real, stay in total darkness and use a flashlight to shine a light on it. If the stone is genuine, the same color as the sapphire stone reflects back. If it is a fake sapphire jewel (usually made of glass), you can see other colors in the crystal.
6. GET YOUR SAPPHIRE CERTIFIED
If you suspect that your stone is a real sapphire stone, there's only one way to be sure: take it to a gemologist appraiser. Imitation sapphires are plentiful, and some fakes can fool even the most expert jewelers. The best way to know for SURE if your stone is a real sapphire is to have it appraised by a professional.
There are a few things you can do to test if your sapphire is real. The most foolproof method is to take it to a professional gemologist, but you can also try the scratch test, breath test, or check for air bubbles. Real sapphires are beautiful and valuable, so it's worth taking the time to make sure your stone is the real deal!