Today we take a look at the different types of crystal enhancements because there seems to be so much confusion on socials, with people discussing if a crystal is natural or fake.
The truth is, it’s a lot more complicated than a simple question.
In basic terms there are several different classes of crystal out there: –
Here I will discuss natural verses crystal enhancements and go through the differences and what the terms mean, with some examples of crystals that belong in that group. I will look at man-made and synthetics crystals as well as some of the fakes out there in another post.
Natural versus crystal enhancements
The accepted definition of natural crystals and gemstone is those collected and broken to a smaller size and sometimes polished or tumbled. A lot of crystals sold in occult and spiritual shops fall into this bracket, but probably not as many as customers would imagine.
The quantity of certain crystals coming to the market is far below the demand for them, so they become extremely expensive. This creates a market for cheaper alternatives. Crystal shops will sell mined crystals not up to the grade for jewellery, along with enhanced, artificial and even fake crystals.
Gemstones have had alterations made to them for thousands of years to make them more desirable. The techniques employed in the jewellery industry without issue, do not fit in with the ethos of customers in the holistic trade. The main crystal enhancements are: –
- Acid treatment
These are all low-tech treatments carried out by miners themselves to increase prices, with some techniques hard to detect as they mimic natural processes. Some wholesalers will not know if crystals have had treatment, so the chances that resellers online will know is very slim.
You’ll find arguments either way online on whether a dyed crystal that is still natural or is now ‘man-made’. If you dye your hair blond, is it still natural hair?
Firstly, it is not a new phenomenon. In ancient Rome they knew how to dye agates. Processes and new colours have developed over time offering a vast array of possibilities.
For a crystal to accept a colour, it must have a porous nature to let the dye get into the stone. This can be natural or done through heating and cooling to create cracks. Crackle quartz is a good example of this. Here are some commonly dyed materials that naturally accept colour: –
- Howlite, naturally white. Commonly dyed turquoise, blue and red.
- Dalmatian Stone, naturally pale grey, or cream with dark spots. Commonly dyed blue and red.
- Feldspar, usually in clear or light-coloured varieties. Commonly dyed in bright unnatural colours.
- Agates, naturally grey, brown, and other earthy tones. Commonly dyed pink, purple and other bright colours.
- Jaspers, naturally in a wide variety of colours. Normally dyed to resemble other gemstones.
- Tigers Eye, commonly red, blue, or gold. I have seen beads from China dyed green, but other colours would be possible.
There are 2 main reasons for dying crystals: –
- Decoration. The attractiveness of bright and vibrant colours draws in buyers. To make the most money they use stones that would be virtually worthless in their natural state.
- Rare colours. Turquoise is rare and can be expensive. If someone wants a piece for crystal healing or magick then they can use a dyed stone instead.
Dyed crystals can have uneven colour across the stone, scratches showing underlying colour and dye accumulations in cracks and pits. They can fade in sunlight and also the colours may run if they get wet.
Coated crystals have a rainbow or metallic sheen and usually have ‘Aura’ in their name (e.g., Angel Aura Quartz, Amethyst Aura Cluster). The process involves heating the crystal to over 800°C in a vacuum and bombarding them with metal vapour. It is an atom thick layer of metal forms across the surface that gives the rainbow sheen.
Some sellers claim the metal enhances the natural energy of the crystal, but others feel the high temperature destroys the natural structure inside the crystal. Either way, the thinness of the coating makes it prone to scratches and wear. They may also be fragile due to the heating process and may react to cleaning chemicals.
Due to their popularity and artificial appearance, fake aura crystals will make it to the market, created using spray paint. Signs to look out for would be, uneven thickness of the coating and accumulating in pits of the crystal surface. Don’t try to scrape the coating off before you buy it, as you might damage a genuine aura crystal.
This is probably the oldest and easiest enhancement to perform, and stones used in jewellery are regularly heat treated. Most gemstone collectors know about heat treatment and its connection to Citrine. I have a post about it here titled Heat Treated Citrine. Carnelian, onyx, and quartzes can all be heat treated to enhance their colour, but the public are not as aware of it.
Detecting heat treatment can be difficult, as natural stones heated in the ground can be almost identical to the enhanced stones. As I have said, miners can heat treat their worthless stones to make a viable product. In the end experience and gut feeling are the only things to guide you.
No, I’m not talking crystals in psychedelic colours as the name suggests, but the use of acid to remove imperfections in minerals such as Jade and Onyx. Chalcopyrite placed in acid to create Peacock Ore, a stone with iridescent colours, like peacock feathers. Peacock ore can also be a form of Bornite, but this is rarer and not often seen in holistic shops.
Certain crystals have a rough top layer of stone covering them when they come out the ground. Acid baths dissolve this material creating a clean, attractive mineral ready for the market. This often happens with Calcite and other minerals that react strongly to acid. The structure of the crystal has not changed, but it may be smoother and a more solid colour.
As acid removes impurities, it will be almost impossible to know if a mineral has been treated, but the edges and corners could look rounded.
Exposure to radioactive elements or radiation (sunlight, microwaves, x-rays) change colour of some crystals. This is common in material for the jewellery industry such as diamonds, topaz, and pearls, where changes made to the colour of a stone can greatly increase its value. Radiation also darkens colourless and pale gemstones for the crystal healing and spiritual marketplace. The typical crystals used are: –
- Fluorite from colourless to darker colours
- Quartz from light colours to dark brown, Amethyst, Smokey, and Rose Quartz
- Tourmaline from pale and colourless to yellow, brown, pink, red and red-green
This is not really an enhancement, but I am including it here for clarity. The metals used in aura coatings, along with Silicon Carbide and Bismuth do not occur naturally in their pure form. Naturally, they form ores and need to go through refinement to remove the impurities. While the metals only coat other crystals, some of the extracted material can be quite beautiful in its own right.
Natural Silicon Carbide is exceedingly rare, but if you heat silicon and carbon powders together, once cooled they form a lattice like crystal that has a rainbow sheen.
Bismuth is a metallic element but only occurs naturally in ores. Once extracted, melted, and cooled it forms intricate towers available in most in crystal shops.
Refined crystals are usually metallic minerals are easy to identify as they don’t occur in nature. Even though they are manmade they are usually attributed healing properties.
What does this mean for crystal enhancements?
It’s up to you!
In the jewellery industry, all these enhancements are accepted practices and most precious stones will have had some form of treatment. With high value stones they will use even more enhancements to remove flaws and cracks but is not a concern for crystal healing. Most customers will buy a piece of jewellery on how it looks, not how it got that way. With crystal healing, the creation process of the gemstone went through is part of its value, and some people believe the healing properties a crystal change with exposure to outside forces or chemical reactions.