If you are interested in finding out if a garnet stone is real, you need to familiarize yourself with the mineral, its attributes, and what it looks like after processing. The minerals that we see in jewelry stores have usually undergone plenty of processes and treatments before they become shiny and appealing enough for jewelry buyers. Of course, we only want to purchase real garnet, and never the fake garnet specimens.
The garnet family is enormous, so we will be tackling an overview of the garnet types that are used for jewelry and not those used for industrial abrasives like sandpaper. The most familiar types used in jewelry are almandine, uvarovite, andradite, pyrope, grossular, and spessartite.
Pyrope is the most popular in the garnet family because of its deep red tones. Pyrope is often mistaken for rubies because of the visual similarity in color.
However, it should be remembered that garnets and rubies are like apples and oranges, and apart from the color, they share few similarities – chemically speaking. Almandine is another subtype of garnet that features brown tones and some mixed red and brown tones. Spessartite, on the other hand, is one of the brightest garnets around and is pure orange.
Grossular garnet is naturally bright, but with the infusion of some chemical impurities, it can produce different colors as well. Andradite has the highest luster in the garnet family and is often found either dark green or black. Andradite specimens are further subdivided into smaller groups. Demantoid garnet, which is highly prized among collectors, is the specie of Andradite garnet. Uravorite garnet naturally occurs in just one color – green. Uravorite rarely emerges in large quantities and is usually found as tiny crystals of garnet.
Spotting Real Garnet vs. Fake Garnet
Being aware of the garnet properties can help you spot the real deal from the fake ones or simulants. The first parameter is the durability of the garnet. Garnet registers at least 6.5 on the Mohs scale, which means you can easily scratch softer metals. A fake garnet made of glass (or even worse, a mix of polymers and glass) will be more delicate and will not be able to scratch harder materials easily (if at all).
The second reliable test is to see (with just your bare eyes) how light and colors interact with the mineral you are holding when you expose it to natural light. Garnet often presents a variety of colors, including greens and yellows, when held up to natural light.
It has been commonly observed that garnet shows some specks of orange when you see it keenly with ample lighting. Another essential facet of genuine garnets is their clarity. The term “crystal clear” is personified by this mineral family, especially when you can observe the inner crystal structures. Garnet provides even more clarity than more valuable minerals like sapphires and rubies.
It is common for high-value minerals like rubies to have internal inclusions. Garnet, on the other hand, rarely shows internal imperfections, and virtually all of the garnets in the jewelry market today have undergone minimal processing because they already look so right off the bat.
Believe it or not, garnets are rarely irradiated to amplify their color. It is also rare for processing facilities to use methods like superheating to improve the garnets’ visual qualities. They are cut and polished, and they are already perfect for different kinds of jewelry settings.
What about color? The garnet family comes in a rainbow of colors, so it is not reliable to base your decision based on color alone. There are going to be similarities between garnet and other minerals in terms of color, so the basis of your choice to buy has to be correlated with different properties or factors such as clarity, price, value, etc.
When garnet is placed side by side with ruby, for example, you can say that the two minerals are of the same color, but the quality of the color in terms of hue and depth is going to be different. Rubies, in general, are going to be of a different red than red garnets, and in terms of deepness, rubies will always trump garnet. Garnet, on the other hand, holds its own against simulants and fake garnet because it naturally possesses the crystalline structure necessary for a high level of reflection of light, which is central to the dispersion of colors in minerals.
High-quality garnet is always pleasing to look at, and you don’t need to exert a lot of effort to appreciate its natural beauty. Simulants or fakes may require a lot more light and a lot more visual maneuvering before they look good. This holds for other genuine minerals in the market today.
Genuine crystals are usually presented to buyers “as is” because they are already naturally pleasing to the eyes. Fakes are often dressed up or dolled up with plenty of ornamentation because on their own; they might look dull.
And if you want to be sure that what you have purchased is garnet, you will need the help of a jeweler who is technical in his study of gems. An expert jeweler will have access to a dicroscope, which measures the refractive index of specimens. Garnet has twice the refractive index of diamonds (yes, real diamonds), and the species of the mineral can be confirmed by checking how it refracts light.
Also, “garnet simulant” is a misnomer because there are not garnet simulants; they are not produced in labs, because they are already plentiful out in nature. Also, avoid anything that has been irradiated because this is not the standard practice in the industry, and even high-end jewelry stores will tell you that. And if you are keen on hunting for high-quality garnet, you may also find the color-changing specimen that behaves a lot like alexandrite.