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Real vs. Fake Garnet: Focus on These 6 Differences

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It’s challenging to differentiate between fake and real garnets without gemological equipment. Garnet fakes are not so widespread because real garnet is a quite common mineral; however, they still arise on the market from time to time. Today we will describe some characteristic features that will allow you to spot a fake stone.

The biggest difference between real and fake garnets is that fakes represented by glass or synthetics are perfectly clean and free from any inclusions. Fake garnets made of glass are softer than the real ones. Synthetic garnets are harder, heavier, and have a greater refractive index.

Surprisingly, garnet has been known for Egypt’s pharaohs and ancient Romanians. Carved garnets were used as a central stone of signet rings to stamp the wax that secured important documents.

Garnet is quite a widespread gemstone. It is rarely faked; however, there are some varieties of garnet, which cost more than $1,000 per carat. That’s why you should be aware of fakes and methods of their identification.

Real vs. Fake Garnet: The Main Differences
Real vs. Fake Garnet: The Main Differences

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How To Tell if Garnet is Real?

In case you see a mandarin orange garnet, don’t think it is fake. Garnets occur in a wide pallet of colors.

The best way to tell if a garnet is real is to consult with an expert who has special equipment. Thoroughly watch the stone under the loupe. Real garnet will have some imperfections, while synthetic analogs are absolutely clean from any inclusions. Also, no signs of gluing on the girdle should be observed.

Real garnet has a highly saturated color; it always has some inclusions. It never has bubble inclusions. It is hard enough to scratch a piece of glass and withstand a knife.

What does Real Garnet Look Like?

People usually think of garnet as a dark red gemstone, which is gathering dust in Grandmother’s jewelry box. However, garnet has a rich palette of colors: greens that rival the best quality emeralds, oranges, pinkish oranges, and deeply saturated purplish reds similar to rubies.

Real garnet has highly saturated colors (every color except blue). Natural stones have imperfections and crystal inclusions, which make them unique. Demantoid (green garnet) has special “horsetail” inclusions, which is a sign of real stone. Real garnets have no such bright fire as their synthetic analogs.

All garnets have essentially the same crystal structure. They all belong to the cubic crystal system, and their most common habit is the dodecahedron – a shape with 12 equal diamond-shaped sides. There are more than twenty garnet species, but only nine are commercially important as gems:

Almandinefrom purple to orangy red Fe3Al2(SiO4)3
Pyropefrom purple to orangy redMg3Al2(SiO4)3
Rhodolitepink to violet(Mg,Fe)3Al2(SiO4)3
Grossular + Tsavorite (green)through yellow to reddish-orange and orangy red, to a strong vibrant green.Ca3Al2(SiO4)3
Spessartinea variety of oranges and yellowsMn3Al2(SiO4)3
Andradite +Demantoid (green)yellow and yellowish-green Ca3Fe2(SiO4)3
Uvaroviteemerald green*crystals are too small to be cutCa3Cr2(SiO4)3
Garnet Species with their Color and Formula

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TIP: Garnets are often cut and polished because of their relatively low hardness. Check out the step-by-step guide on how to cut and polish garnets in the article below:
How To Cut & Polish Garnets: Follow The 6 Simple Steps

How to Identify Real Garnet Stones?

Real garnets are hard to identify without the help of gemological equipment. A magnifying glass is a must in this process.

Real garnet stone can be identified by saturated colors, and the presence of inclusions (for example, a ‘horsetail’ inclusion in demantoid garnet). Real garnets are not birefringent: they have no pleochroism and remain dark under polariscope. Real garnet is harder than glass but softer than synthetics.

1. Real garnet can be identified by inclusions:

  • Demantoid (green garnet) is one gem where the presence of certain distinctive inclusions can have a positive influence on value. Classic features of Russian demantoid are the curving, radiating bundles of fibers known as “horsetails.” These inclusions resemble fine silky strands that radiate out often from a small central inclusion like the tail of a horse or a comet.
  • Hessonite garnet (orange garnet) has a turbulent inner appearance called the roiled effect. 

2. Real garnet colors are supersaturated. They can reach up to burgundy, brown, and black.

3. Real garnets are optically isotropic. Ask any bench jeweler to check the garnet with a polariscope. It should be darkened all the time.

4. Real garnet is harder than a piece of glass, plastic, and a knife.

TIP: Are you interested in cool tips on how to find rocks and minerals in rivers and creeks? Check them out in the article below:
8 Tips On Finding Gemstones In Nature (Rivers & Creeks)

How to Spot a Fake Garnet?

How to Spot a Fake Garnet?
How to Spot a Fake Garnet?

Fake garnets are represented with a variety of materials. It can be other cheaper real gemstones with the same appearance, glass, and plastic, assembled stones, lab-grown cubic zirconia, and occasionally synthetic garnets.

Fake garnets made of glass or synthesized artificially are perfectly clean and have no inclusions. Fake garnets substituted by other minerals can be anisotropic, which means they will not constantly darken under a polariscope. Fake garnets can be spotted by the presence of glue on the girdle.

Fake garnets can be spotted according to the next criteria:

  1. Saturation of color. Fakes are mostly bright and not as saturated as real garnets.
  2. Hardness. Fakes made of glass and plastic are softer, while lab-grown stones are harder than real ones.
  3. Specific gravity (SG). The specific gravity of real garnet is lower than that of synthetics.
  4. Birefringence (double refraction). Real garnet doesn’t have any birefringence! If there is any observed – it’s a fake.
  5. Refractive index (RI). The refractive index is lower than that of lab-grown simulants.
  6. Inclusions. Synthetic counterparts are mostly perfectly clean.

TIP: The almandine garnet is the most common type of garnet that can be found in the United States. Check out the best environments and exact locations where to find garnet in the article below:
Where to Find Garnet: 4 Best Locations Near Me (United States)

How to Identify Synthetic Garnet?

Synthetic garnets are man-made garnets artificially created in labs. Even though they have the same crystal structure as natural garnets, they are mostly used as diamond simulants.

Synthetic garnets are rarely used as a gemstone. They are harder (8.5 on the Mohs scale against 6.5-7.5 of the real one) and havier. Synthetic cubic zirconia, which usually substitutes real garnet, has a higher hardness and refractive index (very sparkling, fiery material).

There are different types of synthetic or lab-grown garnets. 

  • Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) – Y3Al2(AlO4)3
  • Yttrium iron garnet (YIG) – Y3Fe2(FeO4)3
  • Lutetium aluminum garnet (LuAG) – Al5Lu3O12
  • Terbium gallium garnet (TGG) – Tb3Ga5O12
  • Gadolinium gallium garnet (GGG) – Gd3Ga2(GaO4)3 

All of them are mostly used as optical isolators for high-efficiency laser systems, in optical circulators for fiber optic systems, in optical modulators, and in current and magnetic field sensors

Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) and gadolinium gallium garnet (GGG) has been used as diamond simulants over the years rather than garnet simulants.

Both YAG and GGG are available in a variety of colors. When impurities are incorporated into the garnet lattice, different color variations are produced.

  1. Step for synthetic garnet identification

Magnification is one of the ways to spot lab-grown materials without complicated equipment. Synthetic material is usually perfectly clean as it is created under controlled conditions. Sometimes you can spot round or elongated bubbles in synthetic garnets, which cannot be found in real ones.

  1. Step for synthetic garnet identification

Lab-grown garnets have a far greater specific gravity of 4.5 – 4.6  g/cm3, while real ones have just  3.47 – 4.15 g/cm3. That means that synthetics are more havier.

Real vs. Fake Garnet: The Main Differences

The main difference between real and fake garnets is the optical isotropy and cubic crystal system of real garnets. Fake garnets made of glass and synthetic analogs are flawless. Glass fakes are softer than real garnets; synthetics are harder, heavier, and have a higher refractive index than real garnets.

Characteristic featureReal garnetFake garnet
Saturation of colorAny color except blue.
The colors of real garnet are vivid and saturated.
Very bright unsaturated colors.
Hardness6.5 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale.
Harder than glass and polymer materials.
Fakes made of glass and polymers are softer than real garnet.Synthetic garnet is harder (8.5 on the Mohs scale).
Specific gravity (SG)3.47 – 4.15 g/cm34.5 – 4.6  g/cm3 for synthetic garnets.5.6 –  6  g/cm3 for cubic zirconia (CZ) simulants.
Birefringence (double refraction)None. Stay darkened under a polariscopeSimulants represented by other natural stones are mostly birefringent.
Refractive index (RI)1.714-1.888Lab-grown cubic zirconia has a higher RI – 2.15-2.18. It means it is too sparkling compared to real garnet.
InclusionsReal garnets can have other crystal inclusions.Synthetic materials are mostly perfectly clean, sometimes they can have bubbles. Fakes made of glass can have round or elongated bubbles.
Differences between real and fake garnets

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Garnet is a ubiquitous mineral known for thousands of years. The garnet mineral group consists of numerous varieties which occur in a wide range of colors (yellow, green, orange, pink, red, burgundy, brown, purple).

Garnet is not only a dark-red stone in your Grandmother’s jewelry box. Some of the garnets’ green varieties, such as Tsavorite and Demantoid, cost from  $2000 to $15,000 US dollars.

Because of the high prices of garnets, there are sometimes fakes spotted on the market. Fakes are mostly represented by glass, polymer materials, other real gemstones which look like garnets, synthetic cubic zirconia, and rarely synthetic garnets. 

Synthetic (lab-grown) garnets: yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) and gadolinium gallium garnet (GGG) are mostly used in the high-tech sphere as laser rods and rarely as gem substituents.

It is challenging to tell apart real and fake garnets without any equipment help. Examine your specimen under a magnifying glass attentively to find some inclusions. It’s always better to consult with an expert who has basic gemological equipment. 

Here are the criteria you should pay attention to identify whether the garnet is real or fake:

  • Saturation of color
  • Hardness
  • Specific gravity (SG)
  • Birefringence (double refraction)
  • Refractive index (RI)
  • Inclusions

TIP: When you know how to spot real and fake garnets you might be interested in the value of garnets. Find out the answer in the article below:
5 Crucial Factors of Garnet Value: What’s the Garnet Worth?