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Emerald Simulants

A Guide To Emerald Simulants

emerald costume jewelry
Green glass is a very common emerald simulant used in costume jewelry.

Emerald simulants are natural or artificial materials that imitate the appearance of emerald without possessing any of its chemical or physical properties. Many emerald simulants are given names that include the word “emerald.” For example, “Endura emerald” is another name for green glass.

Emerald simulants have been used for centuries. Both Pliny and Seneca (~ 1st century) mention the practice of staining stones to imitate smaragdusThe Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis, which is also known as the Stockholm Papyrus (recorded in the 3rd or 4th Century A.D.) provides 1st century recipes for imitating precious stones.

paste emerald ring
A paste emerald ring from the Georgian era.

The Egyptians pioneered the use of glass (paste) imitations of emeralds and other gemstones. Dealers from the Indian subcontinent quench crackled rock crystal or low quality beryl and filled the cracks with colored oil or dye. King (1865) described how clever dealers in Ceylon used the bottom of wine bottles to create fine “emeralds,” which were sold at high prices to foreigners.

Today, common emerald simulants include assembled stones such as synthetic spinel triplets and beryl (or quartz) triplets formed from two pieces of colorless beryl (or quartz) glued together with green cement.  Other common simulants include green synthetic cubic zirconia (CZ) and green yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG).

emerald triplet
A synthetic spinel emerald triplet.

Gemologists have no problem distinguishing simulants from natural emeralds because they have very different properties. Using glass as an example, gemologists will evaluate properties such as the refractive index , hardness , and specific gravity  when making a distinction.

Under magnification, glass also looks very different than emerald. Glass will have distinctive bubbles and swirl inclusions, it may have mold marks or rounded facet edges, and it will exhibit scratches and abrasion due to its inherent softness.

Aside from simulants made from easily recognizable materials, another element in the marketplace to be aware of are Synthetic Emeralds, and we explore them next.
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