“To tell the truth, there is no fraud or deceit in the world which yields greater gain and profit than that of counterfeiting gems”.
Pliny the Elder, (23-79 AD), Historia Naturalis
As exemplified by Pliny’s timeless observation, 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, we advise people against purchasing Zultanite® from Turkey – there are simply too many fakes in this marketplace. But what is this glass, how is it identified, what is it really worth and is it even a gemstone?
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.
Identification is best left to a trained industry professional and to assist, we have included some gemological pointers below. For most of us, the easiest way to be assured a Zultanite® is genuine, is if it comes with a Zultanite® Authenticity Guarantee – if a Zultanite® doesn’t come with this card then it may not be real.
As a natural gemstone, Zultanite® has an intrinsic value based on its genuine rarity, whereas Alexite is simply a cheap imitation. This is best illustrated by the following retail replacement valuations of an 11 x 9 mm oval Zultanite® and an 11 x 9 mm oval Alexite performed by the Labtrade Gemological Laboratory (LGL). Mineral or organic materials worn for personal adornment, a gem is only a gem when it is beautiful, durable and rare. Occurring entirely by chance, gemstones like Zultanite® truly are amazing miracles of nature. On the other hand, imposters from the factory like Alexite are not rare as they are manufactured. Color change glass is not a gemstone and should not be sold as such.
- Comparing the photographs below, the old analogy that if “something looks too good to be true…” is once again correct. The experienced professional can immediately tell Alexite does not look like a real gemstone.
- Zultanite® is more attractive than Alexite in mixed lighting.
- When viewed under a Hanneman Filter, Alexite displays unnaturally vivid bubblegum orange-pinks that are blatantly indicative of a gemstone simulant.
- Alexite has a refractive index of 1.55 while Zultanite® has a refractive index of 1.70 – 1.75. At 1.55, Alexite has the same refractive index as Quartz, but its relative density clearly identifies the material as manufactured glass.
- Alexite is singly refractive while Zultanite® is doubly refractive.