Imitations by Stan Shelley

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2018 at 11:31 am by Shelley's

As long as mankind has been placing value on certain things, someone has been trying to make imitations of those things. Ancient coins were mimicked more than modern ones are. In the middle ages, fake paintings were made to look like popular artists had painted them.

No field has had more imitation than that of jewelry. In the eighteenth century, a variety of transparent paste was used to imitate diamonds.  Making false-colored gems was difficult until synthetic rubies and other man-made gems were invented around 1900.

[We interrupt this blog post to explain the difference between an imitation and a synthetic.  An imitation just looks like what it is imitating. An imitation sapphire can be anything that looks like a sapphire. A synthetic sapphire is really a sapphire. Its crystological and chemical makeup is that of sapphire.  But a synthetic sapphire is man-made whereas a natural sapphire is made by nature. Thus we consider synthetic sapphire to be an imitation – an imitation of natural sapphire.]

Recently a couple of nice pieces of estate jewelry have arrived which are unusual knockoffs of colored gems. 

Lapis is a rich blue gem that usually has specks in it which look like gold, but are actually iron pyrite (fool’s gold.)  We have a bracelet from the mid-twentieth century with five flat tablets that look just like lapis.  Actually, they are blue lead glass. The bracelet is 14K gold and even has some diamonds, so obviously, the maker was not trying to make the cheapest thing around. Of course, when we sell it, we will tell the buyer what it is, but my bet is that everyone else will think it is fine lapis and the new owner will not tell them otherwise.

In the latter 1800s, before synthetics were invented, there was a fascinating way to imitate emerald.  They assembled the knockoff. They put a thin slab of garnet on top because it is very hard and does not scratch easily. Underneath it, about 80% of the “gem” was glass. Thus the name for this is a garnet and glass doublet. But wait ….. isn’t garnet red? That’s right and they used colorless glass, so how does this imitate green emerald? To fuse the garnet to the glass they used a thin layer of green glue. The green color casts throughout the stone making the whole thing look green.  Take a look at the picture and you will see:

Can You Believe That the Top Portion of This Gem is Actually Red?!

Of course, all of this discussion gives you one more reason to buy from a trusted gemologist.  More about these pieces.