How to Avoid a Fake Out?

by Christine.
(United States)

question-mark-tan-on-red-grungeFirst of all, a big thanks to Rena and her team for this great site! I am a relatively new but passionate jewelry designer and metal-smithing student.

I was recently very excited to attend my first jeweler’s show. I saw some cool exhibits and bought a few tools. I also bought some loose stones for bezel setting from a large, busy, and apparently reputable dealer.

I was excited to take my purchases in to my metalwork class, but then dismayed when my teacher gently informed me that my $30 piece of occluded quartz was really just glass with ashes rolled in it.

In terms of life lessons, I realize that $30 is a relatively inexpensive price to pay, but I am wondering, practically speaking, how I can avoid this happening in the future.

I don’t see how I can become an expert in all kinds of stones (though that would be fun). How do you know if you can trust a vendor or dealer?


FREE - Get 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks

Get Rena's 7 Super Jewelry Making Hacks, plus the Jewelry Making Journal Newsletter - all for FREE.

We Respect Your Email Privacy

  • Wow, getting ripped off is no fun and really zaps your confidence. I think I would have fallen for that too and apparently the other customers were taken in as well. I would report him to the jewelry show authorities so that no one else can be a victim. I buy from companies that have been in the gem stone business for many years and are well known. Your instructor could lead you to some good ones. Good luck in your future endeavors and enjoy school!

  • There are probably more of us that have been taken advantage of than you realize, especially in the beginning of our jewelry making journeys!

    I spend hours poring over gemstone sites, doing google searches and comparing pictures of what I see, as well as picking the brains of sellers at bead shows and my local bead stores. Turquoise is very close to my heart, and finding genuine turquoise is especially difficult, along with being misnamed.

    I wonder if Rena could set up a topic where we could list the reputable stone sellers we’ve dealt with, along with giving feedback on what others’ experiences with those sellers has been?

  • Nancy says:

    Sorry you had a bad experience. Did he intentionally mislead you? Many (most?) show vendors don’t label things well. One of my favorites is like that. He is extremely honest, and he will tell you exactly what everything is, but his items aren’t labeled. He’s very popular but will take the time to explain anything you need to know and will often toss in some extra (and interesting) info.

    I have only run into one vendor who wasn’t that nice — it was at my first show, and I was so obviously clueless. He was listening to me discuss something with another clueless person. Looking back I realize he was absolutely taking advantage of my ignorance about a stone and consciously misled me. (Come to think of it, he wasn’t that busy. Hmmmm, did others know about him?) But in my experience most vendors are really honest and willing to be helpful. The important thing is to ask. Never be embarrassed. A vendor with any sense and who wants repeat business will be helpful and honest!

  • Lucy A says:

    I remember when I first started making jewelry I was at a bead show and a lady at the same table where I was pointed to the beads I was holding and told me they weren’t what was marked. She said instead they were dyed agate, which was much less appealing, and had less value. She then started pointing out all the other things on the table that were “faux”.

    We asked her how it’s possible to learn it all as it seems impossible to tell the difference with most beads. She said it took her years of jewelry making and handling the different stones to be able to know by sight and feel which ones were probably not what they were labeled as.

    I learned as much as I could then found vendors I could trust and just stick with them, or sometimes ask them for a reference when I need something they don’t carry.

    At first you do have to take a leap of faith but once you verify that everything you got from a particular vendor is genuine you can continue to do business with that person and build a rapor.

  • A couple years ago, before I started my bead business, I bought “garnet” from a Chinese dealer on eBay. Well, now I see the banding and know they’re just dyed agates. I bought $3 strands of “aquamarine” knowing full well that you can’t get aquamarine at that price.

    Based on the word of my supplier, I listed crab fire agate, hematite, and white jadeite as untreated. But after researching, I pushed the issue with him. He supposedly contacted his supplier and came back with the truth nature of these treated stones. Was he lying or just ignorant?

    I sell a lot of Chinese amazonite. Amazonite is a blue-green microcline feldspar. But something didn’t sit right with me. None of my gemology books listed China as a source of amazonite. shows only one mine for amazonite in China, certainly not enough for commercial sales.

    I posted my concern on a gemology group, and two gemologists offered to test the beads. Five samples from three different vendors tested as dyed quartz with an unknown filler. Here’s my blog post on that topic:

    I’ve been selling beads for a year and a half, and I’m always learning something new. There are so many stones. I can’t afford gemologist training, so I got books on chemistry, mineralogy and gemology. I joined some gemologist groups and ask a lot of questions. I use my loupe a lot. And the Internet.

    I try to list all treatments on my site, but getting my vendors to disclose them to me is like getting my cats to sit patiently while I make their meal. I asked one vendor to list all treatments on my order spreadsheet, and instead she just highlighted the stones that weren’t treated.

    Learn the common treatments and trade names of various stones. Antoinette Matlins wrote a great book on how to use tools for gemstone identification, called Gem Identification Made Easy. Join your local gem and mineral society. Join gemology forums. There’s just no substitute for self-education.

    Find a stone you know is commonly treated, like “black onyx.” Onyx is by definition a black and white banded chalcedony. There’s just not enough black to make strands of $2 beads. It’s all dyed agate. So when you go to a show, act stupid, and ask if the black onyx is treated. If the vendor tells you “no,” then you know with whom you’re dealing. Ask if the citrine is treated? (It is mostly all heated amethyst.)

    I saw this cool “tibetan eye” bead on a vendor’s site. I asked how it was created. He told me it was “natural.” (Natural just means it’s a natural stone. It doesn’t mean it isn’t treated. So natural lapis could be dyed, but it’s actual lapis.) So I asked him, “You mean it came out of the ground like that?” He skirted the question. I refuse to deal with another vendor because they had a picture of imitation malachite described as natural, and I told them so. They corrected it, but I’ll never trust them.

    Chinese amazonite is my ace in the hole. I’ve had two vendors raise the price outrageously, claiming the rough has gone up. (It’s funny how the rough price always goes up on the stones you buy a lot of.) Is that so? Dyed quartz now costs more than garnet?

  • Thanks for weighing in, Joanne. I was actually going to link to your linkedin comments on the subject, but I couldn’t find the discussion.

  • Adrien says:

    Don’t beat yourself up, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
    I bought some turquoise pieces from a “reputable” vendor. I was very pleased with the quality until I dropped a piece and it broke. It was the first piece or “turquoise” I saw that was blue on the outside and white on the inside. I contacted the seller thinking that maybe he didn’t even know what he was selling. I never got a reply. So good-bye vendor. I used the remaining pieces, but let customers know they were dyed howlite. When a customer comments that the price of my turquoise jewellery is high, I pull out the broken pieces and use them to demonstrate the quality of my items.
    One last comment. So it’s not quartz. So what? If it is a beautiful stone, make jewellery with it and let your customer know that it’s glass. For some customers, appearance is far more important than having a genuine stone. You will not be able to charge as much for it, but at least you can recoup some of your loss.

  • Katie says:

    I collect crystals so I have done my research on a large number of stones. when it comes to beads it can be harder to tell because its small (most times) and the cut on the stone could be hiding what you need to see to tell what stone it is. with quartz you can tell by the temp, when you hold in it in your hand and it gets warm fast its glass, quartz will be cold unless you hold it for a long time.
    I’d suggest buying a book on stones that is pocket book size or something.

  • Do you have any idea if amazonite cabs from India are likely to be fake? What about rough amazonite, is it too likely to be dyed quartz?

  • >