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Selenite is a quite popular mineral because of its pleasure silky appearance and natural cat’s eye or moonstone effect. As with any other natural material selenite has several fakes with a similar appearance. It means that there is a lot of substitute fake material which can have the trade name selenite, but unfortunately for buyers not to be the one. The article will help you to distinguish between real selenite and fake easily based on five main differences.
A very simple hardness test will allow telling if selenite is real or fake. Selenite is a variety of gypsum and its hardness is so low, so you can scratch real selenite by your fingernail. Fake selenite is much harder as it is usually represented by glass or plastic, which cannot be scratched by a fingernail.
Selenite has a lot of misunderstandings around its name which will be fully disclosed further. The misconception of the selenite name makes it hard to distinguish is it real selenite in front of you or fake. Different people mean different material under the word “selenite”. Selenite name came from the Ancient Greek word σελήνη, which stands for the Moon, but it’s not a moonstone!
How to Tell if Selenite is Real
Selenite is a transparent variety of gypsum. It’s a calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula (CaSO4·2H2O). It’s a very soft mineral, so in case you have a well-formed crystal in your hand, the best way to distinguish it from similar-looking quartz or glass is to scratch or split a part of it with your fingernail.
You will see a small scratch on the surface of real selenite. Selenite or gypsum has a very small hardness (just 2 from 10 on the Mohs scale). At the same time, quartz has 7! It’s impossible to do the same with quartz, glass, or plastic.
In the case of polished or tumbled samples of selenite, it’s much more complicated to make a hardness test, because sometimes the stone can be covered by lacquer, which cannot be scratched by a fingernail.
In such a situation check the second step to examine if your selenite is real or fake.
Because of selenite’s structure and chemical composition, it possesses very interesting thermal insulating properties. The real selenite stone will feel warm to the touch, while quartz and glass will be cold.
And the last tip to tell if the selenite is real is to look into its interior attentively. You will find tiny impurities of bedrock – the environment, where the selenite grew. It can be small particles of brownish-orange clay or sand or even black organic substances like bitumen or even oil.
What does Real Selenite Look Like?
Selenite is a transparent variety of gypsum. It occurs in well-formed transparent or semi-opaque white, milky, yellow-white, gray, beige, or orange elongated crystals. Sometimes it has tiny impurities of brown clay or sand, which is also a good sign for you that selenite is real.
There are also a few other varieties of gypsum. The first one is a satin spar – silky, fibrous mineral, which is composed of tiny needle-like elongated crystal of gypsum and have a cat’s eye optical effect.
In a polished state, selenite can display a moonstone effect – a light-blue moon-like glow.
It’s wrong to call selenite a moonstone because a moonstone is completely another mineral. Moonstone is a feldspar group mineral (orthoclase and sodium-rich plagioclase (Na,K)AlSi3O8)).
Both selenite and moonstone possess similar optical effects (pearly and opalescent schiller), however, it’s a huge mistake to name selenite a moonstone or vice versa.
Selenite also phonetically resembles the name of the chemical element Selenium (with the symbol Se), but there is no selenium in the selenite composition at all. Selenite is a mineral and Selenium as a chemical element are both named in honor of the Moon.
TIP: Speaking about the Moon, did you know you see rocks from the Moon on the Earth? Yes, the rocks were collected from the moon during lunar expeditions. Find out more about Moon rocks in the article below:
How to Tell if Selenite is Fake
Fake selenite can be represented by different materials. All of them look more or less like selenite. To distinguish natural selenite form a fake one its necessary to know fake mineral characteristic which is different from a natural selenite.
- If you cannot scratch your selenite by your fingernail – it’s a fake (most probably quartz, glass, or plastic).
- If it feels cold to the touch, most probably it’s a fake. Quartz or simple glass.
- If it feels warm, but you cannot scratch it with a fingernail – it’s a plastic fake.
A simple tip to make sure it’s a plastic take a needle or pin, heat it above the fire (gas stove, candle, or lighter) and slowly touch the examined stone. Plastic will start to melt and produce an unpleasant smell, while selenite will not react at all.
- In case you are going to investigate selenite’s moonstone effect (narrow light-blue flashes on the stone which occur after the stone, light or observer movement) look on the surface. In case the whole surface displays such effect no matter which direction you rotate the mineral – it’s a fake! Selenite will have one narrow white or light-blue stripe. This characteristic stripe is visible if the stone moves only in one direction back and forth.
- Fake selenite will look too perfect. The stone will be even, absolutely transparent. It will not have any flaws, fractures, or impurities inside. The stone perfection is a sign of manmade material (either glass or plastic).
- Fake selenite will show very saturated colors of the stone body. Saturated purple, blue and red are signs of fake selenite.
What does Fake Selenite Look Like?
- Fake selenite in form of tumbling is commonly looking like transparent or translucent white or honey -yellowish mineral.
- Sometimes fake selenite can show unusually bright for natural selenite colors (like vivid yellow, red, or purple).
- Fake selenite can be easily misinterpreted with glass, quartz, or plastic.
- Fake selenite usually displays an attractive and even moonstone effect (billowy, moonlight-like sheen) on the whole surface of the stone. It has an absolutely clean interior, so no impurities can be detected inside the stone. Fake selenite is very hard (cannot be scratched by a fingernail) and cold to the touch.
- Sometimes fake selenite show even rainbow effect on the surface. So you can observe all rainbow colors play.
Real vs. Fake Selenite: The Main Differences
Here is the table of main differences in how to distinguish real selenite from fake.
|Characteristic feature||Real selenite||Fake selenite|
|Hardness||2 on the Mohs scale, so can be scratched by a fingernail||Cannot be scratched by a fingernail|
In case fake selenite is plastic: can be scratched by a knife
In case fake selenite is glass: cannot be scratched by a knife but can be scratched by another piece of glass
In case fake selenite is quartz: cannot be scratched nether by knife nor piece of glass
|Warm/cold feel to the touch||Warm feel to the touch||Warm to the touch in case fake selenite is plastic|
Cold to the touch in case fake selenite is quartz or glass
|Moonstone effect||The moonstone effect is represented by a silky or narrow white sheen, which moves in one direction||Moonstone effect observed on the whole surface and look like spots rather than a stripe|
|Colors of moonstone effect||White, light-grey, light-blue, yellowish, orange, green (very rare)||Any highly saturated color, purple, red hues.|
|Impurities||Tiny dots of orange-brown clay, or sand||No impurities, the material is flawless|
TIP: One of the most common ways to recognize real and fake selenite is to test Mohs hardness. Check out the best Mohs scale test kits in the article below:
Where to Buy Real Selenite
Selenite is a quite widespread mineral, so buyers are rarely subjected to fraud. The best way to choose the most beautiful and natural selenite from some famous deposit is to visit a Mineral Show. Mineral Show or Mineral Fair is the best place to find real selenite.
The biggest one is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in the United States and the Munich Show in Europe held once a year. It’s a brilliant opportunity to buy mineral directly from the person who found it and know its locality.
Amazon (Amazon link) and Etsy are also quite good sources to buy selenite in their raw or carved appearance. In case you would like to explore some exotic samples of real selenite for mineral collection – The Arkenstone is noteworthy.
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)
Selenite is a perfectly looking variety of gypsum. It’s highly appreciated by many people for its gentle sheen and silky luster. There are also numerous fakes, which can substitute natural minerals, and here are some highlights of how to tell is it real selenite or fake:
- Selenite is a very soft mineral. In form of crystals, it can be scratched by a fingernail.
- Because of its natural thermal insulating properties, it feels warm to the touch.
- Natural selenite can have some imperfections as tiny clay of sand inclusions, which are the same as fingerprints unique to each specimen.
- Real selenite has pearly colors. It means that bright and saturated yellow, purple or blue-colored stone is fake.
- Selenite is highly praised for its moonstone optical effect, but spots, which cover the whole surface – are a sign of a fake. Selenite will have a whitish line, which moves in one direction back and forth.
TIP: As you can see, it is not always easy to recognize real and fake crystals. So it is always good to know the differences not only between individual crystals but also overall between rocks, minerals, and crystals. Find out more in the article below: