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Moonstone is a quite popular gemstone because of its intriguing blue sheen and modest price. Even being an abundant gem, moonstone has a lot of high-quality hard-to-spot fakes. They are so widespread that some people haven’t ever seen a real moonstone and think about real moonstones with a picture of fake in their imagination.
Real moonstone as a variety of feldspar is represented by oligoclase and albite minerals. Because of their mutual orientation, real moonstones usually have a hardly noticeable micro-layered structure. Fake moonstone is free from any fractures or inclusions and looks perfectly homogeneous.
Moonstone fakes are hard to identify at first glance. Fakes are made of specific glass and even have their own name – opalite. Fasten your seat belt as we are going to uncover the inner structure of real moonstone and spot fake characteristics once and for good.
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How To Tell if Moonstone is Real?
Real moonstone is highly praised for its most captivating adularescence effect, which is blue and white-colored light that appears to billow across a gemstone.
Fake moonstone also has a similar phenomenon; however, we are here to give you a clue on how to recognize the natural mystically beautiful gemstone.
Real moonstone is a member of the feldspar mineral group. Real moonstone is an intergrowth of feldspar group members (albite and oligoclase). It has tiny parallel layers or fractures, which are sometimes intersected by other fractures perpendicularly. Real moonstone has fractures and inclusions.
Real moonstone is a member of the feldspar mineral group. The feldspars are the most common minerals in the Earth’s crust. They consist of three end-members:
- Orthoclase – KAlSi3O8
- Albite – NaAlSi3O8, and
- Anorthite – CaAl2Si2O8.
The moonstone, as a gemstone variety name, can be applied to any feldspar that shows adularescence. Commonly moonstone is composed of two feldspar species: orthoclase and albite.
These two species are intermingled during crystallization. They form closely spaced layers, that due to the diffraction mechanism, scatter light rays in many directions, producing the adularescent phenomenon.
Adularescence makes the surface of a polish moonstone seem to glow with light-blue and whitish colors, resembling the Moonlight. Also, the produced misty light seems to roll across the cabochon surface during the motion.
Flawless, clear, or translucent gems exhibiting a rich blue sheen are considered to be the most valuable. Moonstones are typically cut as cabochons or carved to best show off this effect. The finest moonstone gems come from Sri Lanka, Burma, Tanzania, and India.
What Does Real Moonstone Look Like?
Real moonstone, like any other gem, can slightly vary in their appearance; however, to be called a moonstone, a gem has to display a noticeable adularescence phenomenon.
Real moonstone body color can be green, yellow to brown, or gray to nearly black. The gemstone ranges in appearance from semi transparent to opaque, colorless to white, with a blue, silver, or white adularescent effect. Real moonstone usually has imperfections of parallel layers and fractures.
Real moonstone’s color range includes both warm hues (from yellow to brown) and cold hues (from light green to blue and gray).
The finest real moonstones possess a colorless, semi-transparent to nearly transparent appearance and vivid blue adularescence that’s sometimes referred to in the trade as blue sheen.
To fully display the adularescence of moonstone, it is commonly cut as a cabochon. The other reason for the cabochon cut is the moonstone’s two cleavage directions, which make a gemstone more prone to breaking while faceting.
Real moonstone has very characteristic perpendicular fracture systems, which helps gemologists to differentiate natural material from fake. Real moonstone inner fissure systems are situated along with cleavages directions of the mineral.
Such fissure systems are short pairs of cracks running parallel to the vertical axis of the crystal, with shorter cracks emanating perpendicularly along the length of the parallel fissures. These resemble many-legged insects under the microscope and are known as “centipedes”.
Moonstone is a relatively soft gem (6 and 6.5 on the Mohs scale). However, it is still harder than glass and opalite – the most common moonstone fakes.
Here are three main quality factors of real moonstone:
- Bodycolor. Moonstone body color should be nearly colorless and free of any yellowish, brownish, or unattractive green tints.
- Sheen (adularescence) color. The sheen should be ideally blue.
- Sheen orientation. The sheen should be centered on the top of a cabochon, and it should be easily seen from a wide range of viewing angles.
TIP: Tumbled moonstones are even more beautiful than raw moonstones. Check out step-by-step guide on how to tumble moonstone in the article below:
Can You Tumble Moonstone? Try These 4 Simple Steps
How to Identify Real Moonstone?
Real moonstone is commonly a gemstone with imperfections. These imperfections will help you to separate a real gem from a fake.
Real moonstone can be identified by its natural imperfections. Layers of oligoclase and albite minerals, which repetitively change each other, and two fractures systems that intersect under the right angle, will help in real moonstone identification. Real moonstone has no round air bubbles inclusions.
A micro-layered structure, created by a repetitive combination of feldspar minerals, is a sign of real moonstone.
If you look at the moonstone in light, you can see the layered structure inside. Synthetic fake moonstone is blurred and homogeneous. No micro-layers can be observed.
Real moonstone is quite soft (6 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale) gemstone and should be worn carefully. However, being soft in terms of wearability it’s still harder than glass and any kind of moonstone fakes.
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):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
How to Spot Fake Moonstone?
Fake moonstone is extremely widespread. It has an unusual and attractive appearance. Most probably you already have one in your collection. It’s the best time to check your moonstone!
Fake moonstone looks too perfect. It doesn’t have any inclusions or fractures and looks sterile and homogeneous. Sometimes fake moonstones made of glass have round air bubbles, which cannot be observed in a real gemstone. Fake moonstone looks semi-transparent and milky. Some fakes are warm to the touch.
An opalite is the most common fake of moonstone and opal. Opalite is not a natural mineral and has no relation to opal, moonstone, or quartz. Opalite is a man-made glass.
It is perfectly clear, meaning no inclusions at all and no micro-layered structure. Sometimes there can be tiny bubbles captured within the opalite glass, while there are no bubbles inside the natural moonstone at all.
Also, fake moonstone can be spotted due to its milky glass appearance.
Recently, there were natural moonstones spotted impregnated by artificial materials. They can be also considered as fakes, especially in case there was no proper disclosure of their enhancement. UV light can come in handy while spotting this kind of fakes. Artificial filler glows under UV light.
TIP: UV light is a perfect tool to use when rockhounding. Check out how to use UV light when rockhounding and what the best UV Lights are in the article below:
GUIDE: Rockhounding with UV Light & 3 Best UV Lights (2021)
Real vs. Fake Moonstone: The Main Differences
Fake moonstone can be represented by opalite synthetic glass, plastic, and impregnated natural material.
Here is a general table with differences between real moonstone and a fake one. Please, make sure to check all the characteristics before buying a moonstone.
|Material characteristic||Real moonstone||Fake moonstone|
|Micro-layered structure||Has hardly-noticeable layers in the mineral structure.||No layers. Fake stone looks even and homogeneous.|
|Touch test||Cold to the touch for a few seconds.||Warm to the touch in the case of plastic-made fakes.Cold to the touch in the case of glass or opalite fakes but for the first second only.|
|The color of adularescence||Only one color is observed on the gemstone surface, either blue or white.||Different sheen colors can be observed in one stone: from yellow to blue.|
|Hardness||6 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale||5 for glass or opalite3-4 for plastic-made fakes|
|Fracture systems||Tiny fractures can be observed. Two fracture systems intersect each other under a right angle.||No fractures can be observed.|
|Presence of air bubbles||Absent.||Sometimes can be observed in opalite fake moonstones.|
|Price and visual clarity combination||High price (more than a hundred dollars) for an eye-clean gemstone.||Low price ($5-20) for transparent and inclusion-free stones.|
|UV light test||Can be inert or glow blue or orange color. Luminescence is evenly distributed on the mineral surface.||Impregnated fake moonstones will glow under UV light unevenly.|
TIP: You know the difference between real and fake moonstones now, do you know how valuable the real moonstone can be? Find out more about the value of moonstones in the article below:
Are Moonstones Valuable Rocks? The Real Worth of Moonstones
Even being a quite common mineral, the moonstone has very high-quality and hard-to-spot fakes. Opalite (man-made glass) is the most widespread fake of moonstone. Please, pay attention to the next 8 differences to identify if the moonstone in front of you is real or fake:
- Micro-layered structure for real moonstone.
- Touch test. Real moonstone is cold to the touch.
- The color of adularescence. Only one color (blue or white) for real moonstone.
- Hardness. Real moonstone hardness is greater than that of glass and fakes.
- Fracture systems. Fractures intersect under a right angle in the case of real moonstone.
- The presence of air bubbles is a characteristic of fake.
- Price and visual clarity combination. Transparent and free from any inclusion cheap moonstone – is a sign of a fake.
- UV light test. Fake impregnated moonstone glows unevenly.
TIP: You already know how valuable the moonstones can be but do you know where to find them or how they are formed? Check out the articles below and find out more:
How and Where to Find Moonstone? The Ultimate Guide