Skip to Content

Real vs. Fake Agate: You Should Know These 7 Differences

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.

Agates are stunning, with their swirling colors and patterns… but watch out! Fakes are everywhere, especially online. Don’t get fooled! My 7 expert tips will help you spot the real deal and find the perfect agate for your collection.

Real agate stuns with its beautiful bands of color. But fakes are out there! Dyed stones are common imposters. If you see glowing neon colors or perfect circles trapped inside, suspect a fake. Here’s the ultimate test: a knife can’t scratch real agate.

There are different types of Fake agate, and to distinguish a Real agate from a fake one, you need to know the following 7 steps, which will protect you from buying a Fake.

Real Agate
Real Agate

If you want to check out the most beautiful real agates, you can find them here (

How to Tell if Agate is Real

Real agate is a translucent (semi-opaque) variety of microcrystalline quartz. Its chemical formula is the same as quartz (SiO2); however, while quartz is a monocrystal, agate is composed of tiny quartz crystals, different colors of which give rise to a magnificent pattern inside the stone.

Real Agate occurs in a variety of colors, more often in white, milky-brown, light-yellow, gentle orange, from light to dark brown, and reddish-brown. Gemologists characterize real agate by the stone’s multicolored bands, which can either form concentric circles or horizontal layers.

These bands are different in color because of slight changes in the chemical composition inside the agate minerals, triggered by changes in the mineral formation environment.

How to Identify Real Agate?

Here is a shortlist for you to identify a Real agate:

  • The Real agate will have gentle natural colors: white, grayish-white, beige, milky-brown, light-yellow, gentle orange, from light to dark brown, reddish-brown, and sometimes light blue.  
  • As real agate is composed of tiny quartz crystals, agate has the same quarts hardness – 7. It’s quite high, which means that real agate cannot be scratched easily. Even a knife will not leave any scratch on real agate.
  • Because of the relatively high density of real agate, you will feel a substantial weight when it is in your hand.
  • Real agate is also translucent, which means that layers will let the light go through the body of the stone.

How to Tell if Agate is Fake

First, Fake agate can be represented by different types of material. We will consider low-quality agate and chalcedony, the appearance of which has been enhanced by the dying process, as Fake agate.

Another two groups are colorful semi-opaque glass and look-alike plastic.

Fake agate usually looks extremely bright. Unnatural vibrant neon colors like bright pink, neon blue, turquoise, emerald green, vivid blue, and uniform black are typical for fake agate mage of dyed chalcedony.

Fake Agate’s color variation
Fake Agate’s color variation (source)

Here’s how to unmask a fake agate: try the light test! Genuine agate has some translucency – it lets a bit of light filter through. If your stone is stubbornly dark, it’s likely a cheap imitation, possibly made of dull plastic or opaque jasper.

Speaking of plastic, check the surface closely. A scratched-up stone is a dead giveaway for fakes. And keep an eye out for tiny bubbles trapped inside the “gem” – that’s a telltale sign of glass masquerading as agate.

How to Identify Fake Agate?

Fake agate represented by plastic can be easily identified by some optical observation and after the hardness test.

  • Start by scrutinizing the surface. Fakes made of plastic just can’t fake that gemstone glow! They’ll always have a dull, lifeless finish because plastic can’t be polished to the same brilliance as a real agate.
  • The second step is using a flashlight to watch if the light goes through. In most cases, it cannot, but if it is, put your stone on the newspaper or book and try to distinguish any letter. Fake agate will not allow you to do it.
  • Fake agate is too soft and you can try to make a little scratch with a knife. Fake agate will be damaged, real agate will not show you any sign of interaction.

Fake agate represented by the artificial glass can look like a real one; however, try to watch inside the stone attentively.

Using a magnifying glass or loupe, you can spot bubbles or swirls that cannot occur in a real agate. Sometimes, you can see them with the naked eye, and the bubbles might even be on the surface, leaving a hollow, round pit.

The final test to distinguish a Real Agate from a Fake is to look for places of dye concentration. The formation process of agate layers lets density and chemical composition vary from layer to layer.

One layer can absorb dye better; the other will not accept it. Small cavities or inner fractures will concentrate the dye, and you can identify these places using a magnifying glass.

Bonus tip on how to spot a Fake Agate (by the way, this tip is not mentioned on any other website):

In case you have an agate string, try to investigate a hole of the single bead attentively. Dye usually does not penetrate too deep.

So using simple equipment such as a magnifying glass and a light source, you can spot a fake. Depending on the time when the stone was dyed before or after the beads were carved, you will see two different pictures:

  1. White or grayish-white interior of the colorful bead in case the bead has been carved after the dying process.
  2. A tremendous concentration of paint inside the hole, in case the stone was dyed after the beads were carved.

TIP: Agate is a very popular rock that’s used in different industries for a variety of tools but it’s more famous for its use in jewelry and decorations. Find out more in the article below:
What Is Agate, And How Do Agates Form? Simple Explanation

Real vs. Fake Agate: The Main Differences

Here is the table of main differences in distinguishing real agate from fake.

Characteristic featureReal agateFake agate
ColorGentle natural colors: white, grayish-white, beige,
milky-brown, light-yellow, gentle orange, from light to dark brown, reddish-brown, and sometimes light blue.  
Vibrant, neon colors: bright pink, neon blue, turquoise, emerald green, vivid blue, opaque black.
HardnessCannot be scratched by a knife.Fake agate represented by dyed chalcedony – cannot be scratched by a knife.
Glass – cannot be scratched by a knife.
Plastic  – can be easily scratched by a knife.
TransparencyTranslucent or semi-opaque. The light can go through.Fake agate is opaque. Fake agate made of glass will be semi-opaque.
FracturesEven waxy.Glassy, with a conchoidal or shell-like surface. Uneven fracture for plastic fake.
Polish qualityCan accept very high polish without any abrasive scratches visibleCan have scratches and polish imperfections.
Dye enhancementNo dye presence. Colors are smooth and change each other gradually.The layers look contrasted, there are some spots of pure dye concentration.
Bubbles and swirls presenceNo round bubbles or swirlsFor manmade glass fakes – the presence of bubbles and swirls.
The main differences between real and fake agate

TIP: Agates look quite dull from the outside. When they are cut and polished, their wavy patterns and colors are revealed. Find out about cutting and polishing agate more in the article below:
How to Cut and Polish Agates? Follow These Simple Steps

Real vs Fake Fire Agate

Real Fire Agate is a brown variety of agate that reflects bright flashes of iridescent yellow, red, orange, and green from hemispherical surfaces within the stone.

These phenomenal features are known as a “botryoidal habit” – having a shape reminiscent of a cluster of grapes.

Real Fire Agate has a unique iridescence sheen and shows a play of color and bubbled pattern, while Fake Fire Agate has static orange, red, and brown colors without any iridescent effect. Also, Real Fire Agate sources are Mexico and the United States exceptionally, so if you are offered a stone without source locality or out of Mexico and the US it’s Fake Fire agate.

Real Fire agate
Typical look of fake Fire Agate

Real fire agate is a gorgeous botryoidal agate with iron oxides (magnetite, maghemite) and titanium oxides (rutile, anatase) in the layers. These oxides provide a stunning iridescent sheen in a bubbled or hemispherical pattern. Fake fire agate is extensively widespread because of its high price.

A Real Fire Agate is rare and has only been found in commercial quantities in localities of two countries:

  • sites in the states of Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, and San Luis Potosi in Mexico;
  • the states of Arizona, California, and New Mexico in the United States.

The largest number of reported fire agate localities is in Arizona, where the material has been popular with jewelry designers, lapidaries, gem collectors, and mineral collectors for about fifty years.

Real Fire agate is all about the dynamic iridescent colors, while fake fire agate is only about static orange-red and brown colors. A nice Real Fire Agate makes you feel like you are looking deep into molten iron, but Fake Fire Agate is simply orange.

TIP: Agate can be found almost anywhere on Earth, but is it a valuable rock? Check out the complete guide in the article:
Are Agates Valuable Rocks? The True Worth of Agates

Real vs. Fake Moss Agate

Real Moss Agate occurs in various patterns, it looks like landscapes with trees, moss, or ferns. Chrystal of chlorite is responsible for this magnificent effect. Moss agate is far more widespread than Fire agate, so few fakes exist.

The main difference between Real and Fake Moss Agate is transparency. Real Moss Agate will possess intriguing dark green bonds on the translucent gray, grayish-blue background, while Fake Agate’s body of stone will be opaque.

BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):

Where to Buy Real Agate

Real agate is extremely popular because of the variety of colors and patterns it occurs in. It’s impossible to find two identical specimens.

However, we do not recommend using the Etsy platform this time, especially for the Fire Agate purchase, as most of the agates are fakes hidden behind the affordable price.

Of course, the best way to buy a Real Agate is to look for rough material, so there will be almost no way to mislead you.

Local and global mineral fairs and markets (such as Tucson or Munich Mineral Show) will allow you to choose the best specimen for your collection.

Another way is to purchase on websites dedicated to semi-precious stones exceptionally.

I personally checked a few online shops and chose the best one for you, so you can be sure that Fire Agate is real. Here are some of them:

TIP: A gemstone priced too good to be true? Your instincts are right – it’s almost always a fake. But that’s not the whole story. Sometimes, there are other reasons for those shockingly low prices. Want to know the truth? Dig deeper in the article below.
Why Are Some Gemstones So Cheap? You Should Know This


Agate might be common, but finding a truly stunning, real agate takes a discerning eye. Fakes flood the market, tempting buyers with impossibly low prices and flashy colors that nature could never create.

The rarest gem of all? Real fire agate. Its fiery shimmer is unmistakable, yet with only two sources worldwide (Mexico and the USA), finding one is a thrilling challenge. Remember, true fire agate has a unique play of light, unlike anything else – that’s your key to finding this elusive treasure.

To sum up, here is the list of features you should pay attention to distinguish Real Agate from Fake:

  • Color:  Extremely bright and saturated hues are a sign of a fake.
  • Hardness. It is impossible to scratch a Real Agate by knife
  •  Transparency. Real agate is translucent, which means, that light can pass through the stone, while Fake agate is mostly opaque.
  • The presence of round bubbles is a sign of Fake Agate.
  • Dull appearance is a signal of Fake Agate made of plastic.
  •  Scratches on the surface- also typical for Fake Agate.
  • The concentration of dye in fractures or cavities is also a characteristic of Fake Agate.

TIP: Finding an agate is much more rewarding than just buying one – as any rockhound already knows. Check out the best locations in the world in the article below:
Where Can I Find Agate Rocks? Best Places in the US & World