Smoky quartz is a popular crystal loved by many for its natural beauty and Earth-formed origin. However, identifying a real smoky quartz can be challenging, as not every fake is easily recognizable. So, if you want to know how to determine if your smoky quartz is genuine, keep reading.
Defining Real Smoky Quartz
Before we dive into the topic, let’s define some terms. Synthetic quartz can be produced by doping trace elements, though it’s a difficult process. Synthetic crystals are grown in a lab like synthetic emeralds are lab-grown beryl crystals with chromium doping. Synthetic materials can be ethically bought and sold but must be disclosed. Quartz is not as closely tracked as sapphires or rubies, and information about it may not be readily available.
Simulant material is fake material that’s used to deceive, often with the intention of replacing natural material. Glass is the most common simulant, but there are also specialized materials created to deceive. Both types of simulant materials can be found in cut smoky quartz, and it’s the latter that’s most concerning.
Detection of Simulant Material
Simulant material is often easy to detect by hand. Try scratching it with a knife known to be good steel. Quartz won’t be scratched by the knife as it’s 7.0 on the Moh’s scale, while glass can be scratched with a bit of effort. There’s a series of colors released by Nanosital that mimic smoky quartz, but they have a higher specific gravity.
To determine if your specimen is a simulant, check if it aligns with quartz properties. Quartz has a hardness of 7.0 on the Moh’s scale, a specific gravity of 2.65, and a refractive index of 1.54-1.55. Most stimulants are glass with hardness around 5-5.5, have a specific gravity difference from 2.65, and a refractive index different from 1.54-1.55.
However, performing specific gravity and refractive index tests is time-consuming, and many people don’t do them, even on their own specimens. Irradiation of low-grade quartz can also produce a smoky color and be sold without disclosing the process, making it difficult to know if a smoky quartz is synthetic or natural.
A Note About Irradiated Natural Quartz
When it comes to irradiated natural quartz, the challenge lies in its indistinct chemical composition. This brownish-black hue of smokey quartz is due to aluminum trapped in its crystal lattice, which can be produced by adding radiation. However, a synthetically created smokey quartz can be difficult to distinguish from a natural one through laboratory analysis.
Instead, much smokey quartz on the market is low-quality crystals from Arkansas that have been bulk-irradiated without proper care. These crystals often exhibit a dark brown to black color, inclusions, and internal flaws. If the smokey quartz is dark throughout the entire crystal, it’s more likely to be natural.
On the other hand, if it’s a cut gemstone, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s been irradiated or not. You may be able to determine this by looking for physical damage caused by radiation or checking if it’s sold as “treated smokey quartz.” However, the information is not widely known.
Provenance Is The Only Sure Way To Know If Smokey Quartz is Real or Not
The origin of the stone is the most reliable way to determine if it’s artificially irradiated or not. It’s important to not just trust the information provided by overseas dealers but to research and compare the stone with other samples from the same area.
You can find this information on websites like Mindat’s database or Facebook groups dedicated to rocks in that region. The best way to be sure about the authenticity of a naturally irradiated crystal is to personally collect it from the earth with a rock pick. This may be more costly, but it’s also a fun adventure. You’re more likely to encounter artificially irradiated crystals when shopping at retail sites, so be wary and do your research.
The issue of synthetic quartz is common for all varieties, including smoky quartz. Clear quartz is unlikely to be synthetic as there’s a high demand for optical-quality quartz that consumes most of the market. For colored quartz, it may be difficult to know for sure unless a thorough examination is done.