Tips for stone care

How to distinguish natural Variscite from a fake?

Variscite is a stone whose properties are a mystery to many. Only the lazy do not offer to buy natural variscite beads in the richest color abundance. But there is very, very little reliable information about this mineral from the phosphate class on the Internet. Even the useful ones that are available are buried under an impenetrable layer of commercial texts written by who knows who, designed to popularize variscite beads that suddenly flooded the handicraft market. Does natural variscite exist in nature, is it a stone? Read about it below.

Natural variscite – brother of turquoise

A mineral with this name actually exists and is still found in nature. But this mineral is one of the endangered ones, for which it is valued by collectors. Its rather late discovery never had any global significance for all humanity. Its name is often not even included in mineralogical and geological reference books. For example, variscite is not even briefly mentioned in one of the most famous textbooks for students of Soviet geological universities, “Minerals and Rocks of the USSR” (1970. Moscow. “Thought”, editor, Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences, Professor A.I. Ginsburg). The color of natural variscite resembles turquoise. And not by chance. Both minerals are aluminum phosphates. Due to the similar composition of impurities, the color range of variscite and turquoise is identical. Variscite has the same green-blue tones with a shift to yellowish and off-white. But, unlike its more valuable fellow, impenetrable to light, variscite is translucent. The color similarity was the reason why variscite was maliciously or mistakenly passed off as turquoise. This explains the references to the supposedly ancient history of the stone, which supposedly was found among the archaeological finds of Ancient Egypt, and Pliny wrote about the green gem. However, variscite is not included in the list of gems revered by the Egyptians. And it is not a fact that Pliny wrote specifically about this green stone.

Why is variscite little known?

The official history of the mineral begins in 1837, when the German mineralogist John August Friedrich Breithaupt described in detail the properties of the sample he found. He named the hitherto undescribed stone variscite, in honor of the place where he discovered it. That Saxon place should also be given a little attention. If only because you won’t find any Variscia on modern geographical maps. The fact is that once the lands between the German gentle principalities of Saxony, Thuringia and Bavaria and the Czech Egerland had the Latin name Variscia. Now that place is known as Vogtland, adored by tourists, with its Ore Mountains, which have long ceased to be such, but have not lost their charm. We will return to the picturesque mountains, which will help to happily diversify the symbolism of variscite. For now, let’s say that the mineralogical discovery of Friedrich Breithaupt did not become great. Variscite initially interested jewelers and stone cutters, just as any new product interests. In addition, the mineral turned out to be very flexible in processing. But it soon became clear that its reserves were extremely scarce. And although variscite was soon discovered in different parts of the world: the USA, the Russian Urals, Kazakhstan, etc. There are no deposits of it on any industrial scale anywhere in the world. In this regard, until recently, the stone was of interest only to connoisseurs of jewelry rarities and collectors. Exclusive products from it are still made to order or on a whim. From time to time they are exhibited at thematic auctions, as are variscite samples for mineralogical collections.

Chinese variscite

Variscite became popular in wide circles thanks to the large-scale stone-cutting industry of the People’s Republic of China. The Celestial Empire has always been able to process natural stone, and even process it masterfully. China has virtually monopolized the production of stone beads and handicraft components. The most affordable and in greatest abundance they come to the world market from there. To be fair, it should be noted that they also produce really valuable beads from really valuable stones. But, as in any production, waste remains, from which enterprising businessmen have become adept at pressing all kinds of stone imitations. And if you want to immerse yourself in the world of creating jewelry, subscribe to our free course “Creating bracelets from A to Z” (Click on the link for details).

Carnival – so carnival, or What do variscite and the Nutcracker have in common?

But do not rush to pass judgment on the bright and very accessible Chinese variscite for handicraft needs. Beads are loved by craftsmen and they make beautiful, durable products. In addition, the name of the rare stone practically repeated the history of the place where it once attracted attention, as a separate mineral, and not a parody of previously known ones. And this is symbolic! Those same Ore Mountains on the borders of Germany and the Czech Republic, which were mentioned above, have long lost the glory of their former treasury of a wide variety of gems and valuable metals. The mineral reserves of those places have become scarce. And the local miners and stone cutters, in order to somehow survive, found another profitable occupation, thanks to which the Ore Mountains became a well-known symbol of Christmas. It’s simple, stone cutters have retrained as wood carvers. Fortunately, those regions are also rich in wood suitable for artistic crafts. The traditional Christmas toy “The Nutcracker” needs no introduction. From there, tourists bring “smoking men” (Räuchermann) as gifts and souvenirs. Beautiful arched candlesticks (Schwibbögen) are in great demand. But historically, this luminous arch, made up of Christmas trees, houses of lights and clouds, perfectly complements the New Year’s decor, is associated specifically with mining. On the last shift before Christmas, miners hung their lanterns on the wall so that they formed a burning horseshoe: both a symbol of happiness and a symbolic image of the entrance to the adit – the only source of daylight in a gloomy dungeon. Didn’t the same thing happen with variscite? The brief moment of glory of the natural mineral was interrupted by its meager reserves. But the colorful imitations that borrowed his name have a joyful present and a future. Variscite is a symbol of the holiday of handicrafts. You can celebrate a bright celebration at any time. Natural stones that are sold in Cafebijo and throughout the rest of the world can be divided into 4 categories.

1. 100% natural stone

No processing except cutting. This type of stone is becoming less and less common in the world. Because natural stone produced on an industrial scale does not always look attractive to the buyer. Of course, when it comes to purchasing a PRECIOUS stone, its naturalness comes first. In precious stones, color, transparency, purity, and saturation are most valued, but even raw gems do not look as luxurious as they do after cutting.

2. Refined stone

In nature, stones of suitable beauty are quite rare, but substandard ones (with an inexpressive design, weakly colored) are found much more often. That is why stone refining is common – processing stone in various ways to improve its physical and aesthetic properties. This includes heating to very high temperatures, irradiation and various methods of coloring the stone. Most precious stones are refined. If jewelers only used gemstones that did not need visual enhancements, then even the cheapest items would become prohibitively expensive due to the unavailability of the material. Therefore, for example, heating, as a method of refining a precious stone, was used in ancient Egypt and is being improved to this day. Refining stones allows the color, purity or richness of the stones to be better displayed. And such a stone also becomes more durable. Refining methods are used equally for both precious and ornamental non-precious stones. If you look at the catalog of real natural stones that have not undergone any of these additional treatments, you will see that almost all the stone will be in a fairly narrow range of colors, often downright boring. Recently, with the advent of equipment and the latest technologies, stone refining has reached a new level. For example, the very attractive ametrine stone, which has one half purple and the other yellow, is the product of heat treatment of a featureless light amethyst by heating one side of it. It is also known to tint coral to red, expressive shades or bleach it to light. Of the popular stones of inexpressive color, agate is most often stained. Coloring of agates was carried out back in the 18th century! The red color was obtained using iron oxide, black – with sugar and glucose solutions with heating and long-term exposure. The blue color can be obtained by using a warm solution of blood salt and subsequent exposure to a solution of ferrous sulfate. And to get citrine, you need to heat the amethyst to 400-500 oC. The temperature effect not only gives the stone its characteristic color, but also makes it resistant to daylight and heat.

3. Imitation

Imitation of a certain type of natural stone from. another natural stone! For example, sold all over the world (including on well-known American websites), an imitation of natural jade made from colored dolomite (i.e. marble). It is called “mountain” jade. Or the notorious variscite, about which many copies have already been broken on the Internet. Like jade, natural 100% variscite comes in a very limited number of shades. But it has a very rich, interesting texture, a delightful pattern on the surface. Colored magnesite is sold under the guise of variscite. Also, imitation of noble turquoise from colored howlite is popular. But, we draw your attention – despite the special treatment, the same howlite or magnesite does not cease to be a NATURAL STONE!
Also included in the section of natural stone imitations are various composites made from natural stone chips combined with various resins, sometimes very expressive and attractive.

4. Fake diamond

Imitation of natural stone from any composite materials, or even simply from polymer clay. For example, malachite or amber are often counterfeited in this way. As you may have guessed, most often we come across two middle categories on sale. Despite various technical tricks, these stones are natural. Although their visual and physical properties differ from the original ones.
Such a large number of different types of processing of natural stone can turn the head of any buyer. And we need awareness of the methods of refining our favorite stones in order to avoid disappointment when purchasing them. Moreover, we see fakes on every corner. If we talk categorically, then 90% of precious and semi-precious stones can be called fakes due to previous processing that improves their aesthetic properties. A full gemological examination of an ornamental stone is a multiple of its market value, so it makes no sense. To verify what is written above? But you can simply enjoy the beauty of the stone, enjoy working with it, lovingly collect exclusive ones, that is, completely from the world of your fantasies, jewelry. And get joy from creativity! How important is the “naturalness” of a stone to you? Leave your opinion in the comments to the article!

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