ZULTGEMS, authorized Zultanite® distributor, in response to the prevalence of simulants being sold as genuine advises against purchasing Zultanite® in Turkey, the sole origin for this natural color changing gemstone. ZULTGEMS’ use of designer collaborations, popular shopping destinations, retail partners, home shopping networks, media and red carpet placements have been hugely successful in raising the profile of Zultanite®, one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful gemstones.
Last month a honeymooning American couple visits a jewelry store in the popular tourist destination of Kusadasi, Turkey. The salesman tells them about a new Turkish gemstone called ‘Zultanite®’ and once they see the color change, they’re hooked and purchase a three carat ring for around USD5,000. The only problem… they actually bought synthetic color change glass with a retail value of just a few dollars per carat. The scam became apparent when the couple attended a cruise ship jewelry event by Provenance Gems, a Chicago based jeweler and an official retailer of genuine Zultanite®. Provenance Gems Sales Manager, Dominick R. Barranca, explained, “They were really surprised when they saw real Zultanite® and wondered why the gem they purchased looked so different. They thought they had the real thing and were not happy when the dupe was revealed. She was upset and obviously, so was her husband – this experience clearly tarnished their honeymoon.”
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incidence. “It’s definitely caveat emptor for those thinking of buying Zultanite® from Turkish jewelers. I discover about two scams every month and ZULTGEMS receives emails from concerned individuals almost every week”, said Barranca, continuing, “Honestly, it breaks my heart. It is tough telling someone they’ve been deceived, especially when their first experience with Zultanite® is a fake. They think they’re getting a bargain, but they’re actually being duped into buying a cheap synthetic.” Provenance Gems Director, Marek Chmiel echoes these concerns, “Over the last few years I have seen a huge increase in color changing glass being sold as Zultanite®. This is very prevalent in the tourist shops of Istanbul and fake Zultanite® has exploded in Kusadasi – they offer the imitation as genuine Zultanite® the very first second one enters their shop. The shame is that it is very easy to tell apart from Zultanite®; genuine Zultanite® displays natural tranquil colors whereas the fakes have harsh neon hues. I have seen fakes on sale from USD300 to many thousands.”
A synthetic color change glass manufactured in India, Alexite is the trade name of this simulant. The color change effect has been induced by the addition of vanadium, chromium, manganese and iron in varying quantities to produce different colors. There is also another synthetic glass, Zandrite®, developed by a major glass manufacturer to mimic Alexandrite, which could also simulate Zultanite® to the untrained eye. This glass’s color change is affected by the addition of neodymium.
While identifying real Zultanite® is actually straightforward, the easiest way to be assured a Zultanite® is genuine, is if it comes with a Zultanite® Authenticity Guarantee. Mr. Chmiel, added, “This plastic card with an embedded hologram verifies each genuine Zultanite® to be of entirely natural origin, ethically mined with environmentally safe techniques and never enhanced; every Zultanite® we sell comes with this guarantee and consumers love the peace of mind it provides – if a Zultanite® doesn’t come with this card then it may not be real.”
ZULTGEMS Managing Director, Darren Lockie is faced with the highly unusual situation of having to recommend against purchasing Zultanite® from its country of origin. “Counterfeiting gemstones is a problem old as the gemstone industry and unfortunately, Zultanite® is not exempt. Manufactured color change glass is being deceptively sold as Zultanite® by some unethical Turkish jewelers who target tourists. Some are even accompanied by fabricated laboratory documentation certifying them as genuine. While there are undoubtedly reputable Turkish jewelers, there are simply too many fakes in this marketplace”, said Lockie, continuing, “This problem is not just restricted to people unaware of the gemstone. A wealthy couple purchased fake Zultanite® at a jewelry store in Istanbul after learning about Zultanite® during a Provenance Gems presentation – they thought they could get a better deal, but ended up paying USD4,500 for glass. We’ve even had several instances of trade members being scammed by Turkish dealers.”
Mr. Lockie also stressed that Zultanite® is not actually cut in Turkey, “Zultanite® tests the skills of even the most experienced lapidaries. It has to be orientated to accentuate the color change and prevent cleavage damage during polishing – it’s very low yield (2 percent) also frustrates cutters. Turkey doesn’t have these skill sets commercially, which is why Zultanite® is faceted in Brazil, Canada and India. ZULTGEMS is your guarantee that each gem is cut by some of the world’s most experienced lapidaries to optimal proportions.” Beautiful, ethical, natural and rare, Zultanite®’s beguiling color palette, combined with an exotic pedigree, has made it a favorite among jewelry aficionados around the globe. As a natural gemstone, Zultanite® has an intrinsic value based on its genuine rarity. Gemologist Jeffery Berman has evaluated the imitation material and believes it will continue to cause problems for consumers. “When I first examined imitation Zultanite®, my immediate impression was it is just too good to be true. The color change is way beyond what one would expect in natural Zultanite®. Gemological investigation revealed the material to be nothing more than glass doped with rare earth elements – a few dollars retail per carat at the most”, said Bergman. An American gemstone professional with 40 years of experience in the mining, cutting, wholesaling and retailing of gemstones, Mr. Bergman has operated his own research facility in Bangkok since 1990. Mr. Bergman has been featured in many gem and jewelry periodicals including Gems & Gemology, JewelSiam, AsiaWeek, JNA, JCK and many other publications around the world. He has also appeared in interviews on the BBC, CNN, NBC, ABC and GEO as well as guest speaking at gemological laboratory seminars, gemological association conferences and universities.
“If both materials are presented side by side it would be very easy to teach anyone how to differentiate the real thing from an imitation. Unfortunately, unscrupulous dealers are likely to get away with this fraud since news of this cheap imitation has not yet been widely disseminated”, said Bergman, continuing, “My only practical suggestion is to stick with reputable Zultanite® suppliers who provide the Zultanite® Authenticity Guarantee. If a client is acquiring a fine quality Zultanite® they should consider independent confirmation from a recognized laboratory and only deal with vendors who offer an ironclad money-back guarantee.” While the experienced professional can immediately tell Alexite does not look like a real gemstone, Bergman added, “When viewed under a Hanneman Filter, Alexite displays unnaturally vivid bubblegum orange-pinks that are blatantly indicative of a gemstone simulant. Zultanite® is also differentiated by its higher refractive index (1.70 – 1.75) and double refractivity; at 1.55, Alexite has the same refractive index as Quartz, but its relative density clearly identifies the material as manufactured glass.”
Aside from cruise ship retailers who visit Turkish ports, ZULTGEMS currently does not supply any Turkish jewelry distributors, wholesalers or retailers. “We are in talks with several companies, but trust is an issue. After all, so many Turkish jewelers have either deliberately or inadvertently sold glass in place of what many consider to be the country’s national gemstone”, said Lockie, ZULTGEMS Managing Director, continuing, “It is actually ridiculous we have to tell people not to buy Zultanite® from the country it is mined – as an Australian, I could never imagine telling people not to purchase an Opal souvenir on their holiday, but at the end of the day, we not only have to protect consumers, but also the reputation of Zultanite®, one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful gemstones.” Provenance Gems Sales Manager, Dominick R. Barranca, summed up his feelings stating, “We need to keep educating consumers on Zultanite® and Turkish jewelers need to start selling the real deal – if these two things happen, it will be great for everyone.”