Updated: Jul 1, 2022
How to Tell a Real Sapphire or Ruby from a Synthetic or Fake One.
There is nothing more disheartening than to discover that your treasured sapphire or ruby jewelry is fake.
Perhaps you inherited a beautiful-looking sapphire ring or ruby earrings, and you want to find out its value – or you were given jewelry as a gift but are suspicious about its authenticity. Rubies and Sapphires are varieties of the Corundum rock family. They have same properties but the main difference in the two is the color. If a Sapphire is red it is called a Ruby.
The first thing to remember is that sapphires do not only come in blue. They can also be yellow, green, orange or other colors in between. Also remember that natural, flawless sapphires are rare, so most of them are heat treated to deepen their color.
Is your sapphire real, synthetic, or imitation?
Real sapphires & Rubies (corundum) are mined from the earth and take millions of years to form under earth's pressure and heat.
Synthetic means they are man-made in a laboratory and are chemically, structurally, and optically identical. They are not fake. Synthetic Sapphire and Rubies have no resale value and their supply is abundant which allows them to be offered at a substantially lower price.
Imitation sapphires are made from other substances such as CZ, glass, and blue spinel. They are less desirable and much less valuable. These are only similar as far as their appearance. However, a familiar eye will be able to tell the difference in their optics.
Here is a list of tests to find out what type of sapphire you have:
Check For Blemishes
Natural sapphires and Rubies have flaws and inclusions which prove that they came straight from nature. If you look at them with a jeweler’s magnifying glass or loupe, you will see small spots that are small crystals or lines that are called feathers. These inclusions show the stress these precious gemstones have gone under in their development under the earth.
Synthetic, laboratory-made are generally flawless inside, though they have the same kind of chemical composition as real sapphires. They are subjected to the same kind of formation process as a natural sapphire, but the process is controlled to ensure that the stone doesn't have any inclusions.
Imitations can be made from other low-quality substances, even glass. Glass fakes show tiny air bubbles within the stone as pockets of air are trapped within it during manufacture.
Corundum ranks a 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, second only to a diamond, so if it leaves a mark when scratched with a harder substance, you will know it is a fake. You can try this by scratching the stone with a key or a coin.
This is a simple way to tell if your sapphire is real or not. Just breathe on it. A natural ruby or sapphire will un-fog in a second or two. An artificial one will take much longer.
Turn out the lights in a room and shine a flashlight on the stone. It should reflect only the color of the stone. If it reflects other colors too, it is a fake.
If you can see intersecting lines in your sapphire or ruby while examining it under a microscope, it is a poor-quality stone – but not necessarily a fake. It is called a ‘composite’ sapphire, as the seller has filled in the inclusions with lead glass to make it look better.
Has it Been Heat Treated?
Many sapphires and rubies are heated to make their color deeper or brighter. While you may not think this is a negative, it does mean that your stone is not 100% ‘real,’ though heat treatment is widely considered a gem industry norm. Heating a sapphire or ruby amplifies their color which enhances their appeal to consumers.
Unheated sapphires and rubies are some of the most valuable gemstones. Currently 95% of all sapphires and rubies are heat treated, which makes owning an unheated corundum that much more rare. It is always great to understand your gemstones and if there are any treatments associated with them for valuation purposes.
Sapphires are one of the most highly prized colored gemstones on earth and the demand for them is only increasing. While natural sapphires are the most valuable and coveted, there is nothing wrong with a synthetic sapphire, as long as you are not over-charged for something that is actually ‘man-made.”
If you have sapphire jewelry, the best way to be one hundred percent sure of your sapphire’s authenticity is to have it examined by a GIA Graduate Gemologist, who can certify whether it is natural or synthetic.