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

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Agate is one of the most widespread semi-precious stones. It occurs in a variety of colors and textures, the combination of which can satisfy any taste. At the same time, there are a lot of fakes imitating agate. Fake agates have flooded online shops these days. Further, you will understand how to make your purchase safe based on our 7 recommendations and find the best quality Real agate avoiding fakes.

Real agate has continuous colorful layers. The most common Fake agate is dyed chalcedony or jasper. To distinguish Real agate from Fake, pay attention to the color. Vibrant neon colors are a sign of a fake. Round bubbles inside the stone are typical for fake. Some Fake agates can be scratched by a knife.

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

If you are interested in checking out the most beautiful real agates you can find them by or here (fossilicious.com).

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 the quartz is a monocrystal, agate is composed of tiny quartz crystals, different colors of which give rise to a magnificent pattern inside the Real agate stone.

Real Agate
Real Agate

Real Agate occurs in a variety of colors, more often in white, milky-brown, light-yellow, gentle orange, from light to dark brown, 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 as 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 the Real agate 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 of all, 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)

Fake agates usually do not transmit light. If no light shines through and the stone is opaque it is an indicator of fake agate, probably made of jasper or plastic.

Fake agate made of plastic can look dull and a lot of scratches can be spotted on the surface.

Another type of fake agate will possess small round gas bubbles inside the body of the stone. This is a characteristic of glass.

How to Identify Fake Agate?

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

  • The first step is careful observation. Made of plastic Fake agate will look dull because plastic is a too soft material and cannot accept fine polish. 
  • The second step is to use a flashlight and 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 magnifying glass or loupe you will be able to spot bubbles or swirls, which cannot occur in a real agate. Sometimes you can even see them with a 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 at all. Small cavities or inner fractures will concentrate the dye and you will be able to 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 agate string, try to attentively investigate a hole of the single bead. Dye usually does not penetrate too deep.

So using simple equipment as a magnifying glass and a source of light you will be able to 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.

Real vs. Fake Agate: The Main Differences

Here is the table of main differences in how to distinguish 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 the 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 contrast, 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

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, which provide a stunning iridescent sheen in a bubbled or hemispherical pattern. Fake fire agate is extensively widespread because of the high price of Real Fire Agate.

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: Real Fire agates are one of the most beautiful gemstones in my opinion. As you already know they can be found in the states of Arizona and California. Check out complete guides on rockhounding in these two states:


Where to Rockhound in Arizona (and What You Can Find)


The 9 Best Places to Dig for Gems in California (with maps)


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 there no many fakes of it.

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 rocks and minerals 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 there are mostly Fake Agates 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 (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 for you, where you can be sure, that Fire Agate is real. Here are some of them:

TIP: If we see a really low price for a gemstone, it is very likely that it will be a fake. Fakes are not the only reason for very low prices. Find out more in the article below:


Why Are Some Gemstones So Cheap? You Should Know This


Conclusion

Even though Agate is a widespread mineral, finding a Real Agate of good quality is a challenge. Fake Agates attract a lot of people by their unexpectedly cheap prices and vibrant saturated colors.

Real Fire Agate is extremely hard to find, so the best way to be safe in your purchase is to remember about Real Fire Agate’s unique iridescence and just two countries (Mexico and USA) which supply it to the whole world market.

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: Agates are one of the most favorite rocks for cutting. Do you know what the best tools for cutting rocks are? Find out the best cutting tools in the article below:


What Can I Use to Cut Rocks? These 5 Tools are the Best!