From clearing out negativity to bringing peace and promoting self-love, crystals have been revered for centuries for their spiritual and healing properties. Owning crystals is a great way to harness the earth’s energy, but if you’re new to the crystal game, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to get started, especially when it comes to acquiring and shopping for stones — and knowing how to tell if a crystal is real.
Each crystal has its own unique properties and healing vibrations that correlate to different spiritual meanings. And so you want to make sure you’re getting a hold of the right stone to match with what you intend to use its healing properties for in your life. That being said, as the spiritual field of crystal healing has grown over the past few years, especially with the prevalence of social media, there are more fake and misrepresented crystals to encounter than ever before.
Take moldavite for instance. A rare green tektite (not technically a crystal) formed by a meteorite impact 15 million years ago in central Europe, moldavite blew up on WitchTok, the spiritual side of TikTok. As of now, #moldavite has over 494.1 million views on the app. The craze about the glassy mineral came as a result of the stone’s properties, which are known to result in dramatic and chaotic, sometimes even traumatic, 180 experiences in its owners’ lives. As Madison Young, the owner of Open Eye Crystals and the Ace of Cups club in Los Angeles, tells NYLON, “It’s a very buzzy energetically high, high frequency vibrational stone.”
The thing about moldavite though is that there is a finite amount of it on the planet, and so getting your hands on it can definitely put a dent in your wallet. “Moldavite is really expensive because it comes from one meteor impact at one time, so what’s out on Earth is what’s out,” says Young. Given that, plus the popular demand for the stone, moldavite fakes are just about everywhere online.
Moldavite isn’t the only case of counterfeit stones either. There are plenty of scams and disreputable sellers that try to take advantage of the healing crystal market. “It is important to note that identifying these ‘fakes’ is not always easy and you should never be ashamed for making mistakes,” Susan Diamond, the owner of Moonstone Metaphysical and Serpent’s Kiss crystal shop and learning center, tells NYLON. “Many seasoned store owners are often fooled.”
So how can you tell if a crystal is real or not? To get to the bottom of it, NYLON asked Young and Diamond for their expertise to help understand what makes a crystal real, as well as how to tell if a crystal is fake.
Man-Made Vs. Natural
There’s debate amongst the crystal community about man-made versus natural crystals when talking about authenticity. Most agree that natural crystals are superior, as they were made by Earth under the exact right circumstances in order for it to exist now in front of you. “It took the right pressure, temperature, mineral composition, and thousands if not millions of years for it to be created, so there’s something special about it being baked in the middle of the planet, right?” says Young. “You just marvel at it, like it’s nothing short of a miracle for something to have the right everything happen for this to pop out of the earth.”
But that’s not to say that crystals made by humans in a lab don’t have any merit and aren’t “real.” Both Diamond and Young agree that laboratory stones have their own properties that make them unique in their own way and definitely usable. Though synthetic, these stones still share elements with those created through the forces of time, gravity, and pressure.
“While their manner of creation brings a different level of wisdom, they may still be worked with,” Diamond says. “Many people prefer to work only with stones created through the forces of nature. However, I know many individuals that have benefitted from working with lab created and/or enhanced stones, as well.”
Some common man-made stones that plenty of people use include citrines, a popular type of quartz crystal often used to welcome abundance, prosperity, and positivity. Natural citrine is very rare, which is why most are actually heat-treated amethyst. “The heat changes the color and contributes to a more solar quality similar to natural citrine, which is often a much paler color than the heat treated variety,” explains Diamond.
Another example, smokey quartz that is very dark or almost black in color is likely to be irradiated quartz. And aura quartz, which is very popular for enhancing spiritual well-being, is also synthetic, made by combining various metals with quartz and thus coating them with different hued iridescence, according to Diamond. “Beautiful to behold, they carry both the wisdom of the quartz and the metals that they are merged with,” she says.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference whether or not you like to work with man-made crystals, and according to Diamond, no one way is right or wrong. “Trust your instincts to know what is right for you.”
Know A Crystal’s Worth
Price is a dead giveaway when it comes to spotting fakes. Before buying anything, do some cursory research to see what the going rates are for the stone you want. If you find a crystal that is highly undervalued, it’s likely not the steal you think it is.
“I once had a customer tell me that the moldavite in my shop was too expensive and that he had purchased one online that was half the price!” Diamond says. “He then proceeded to tell me how he was able to shape it by melting it in the microwave. What he actually purchased was a very pricey piece of plastic.”
Most crystals come in at very approachable price points, but if you know you are searching for a rarer stone, keep in mind what the average market price is for it to make sure you aren’t getting duped for a counterfeit, likely made of just plastic and glass.
Shop At Reputable Sources
The best thing you can do to avoid purchasing misrepresented or false crystals is to find a trustworthy seller that you like and will answer any question you have. “To avoid these trappings, I highly recommend working with an experienced crystal purveyor, someone who works with them, loves them, and respects them,” Diamond says. “And, whenever possible, purchase them in person. Ask your local store about their expertise. And if they don’t have what you are looking for they may be able to recommend an alternative, saving you from internet traps and scams.”
“Because it’s so expensive, there’s a lot of people trying to fake it,” says Young. “If you see a big stone with a huge knocked off price, you can usually tell it’s a fake.” And since all moldavite came from a single meteorite impact site in central Europe, all of it will likely come from the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany, so if you see it sourced from anywhere else, you’ll know you’re dealing with a counterfeit.
“Often for profit purposes, disreputable dealers might sell inexpensive glass and call it ‘blue obsidian’ or ‘cherry quartz,’” Diamond says. Although some stones are naturally very vibrant in color, if you see a highly unnatural looking crystal, it might be fake. And blemishes mostly aren’t a sign that a crystal is fake, but you might be able to spot fake quartz by checking to see if there are tiny air bubbles beneath the surface of the stone.
“Dyed howlite is often sold as the more rare, and therefore more expensive, turquoise,” says Diamond. “Howlite, a wonderful stone in its own right, does not share the same wisdom as turquoise.”
Misconceptions About Fake Crystals
In addition to the divisive conversation about man-made and natural crystals, there are other misconceptions about how to tell an authentic stone from a fake one. Diamond notes that there is a lot of crystal misinformation coming out of TikTok in particular. For example, some users on the app claim that the way to identify fake crystals is that they have small marks or cracks, but that simply isn’t accurate.
“The truth is most natural stones have either cracks or inclusions in them!” Diamond says. “If anything, I would be suspect of perfectly clear crystals. Although they do sometimes form that way in nature, more often than not, you will find imperfections.”
There is also sometimes a misunderstanding about tumbled versus raw stones, Young points out. Just because a crystal is smooth or shaped doesn’t mean it’s fake. Tumbled crystals are ones that are put through a process to make them smoother, but it does nothing to the energetic or vibrational integrity of the stones, according to Young. Small tumbled stones tend to be very affordable, making them easily accessible for individuals at any stage of their spiritual journey.
Overall, rather than counting on the reliability of influencers and unsubstantiated information from social media, Diamond says, trust a seasoned professional instead. And if you have questions, ask! The best way for knowing how to avoid fake crystals is to find a seller that you trust and have a positive relationship with. And most importantly, as Diamond says, “trust your instincts to know what is right for you.”