Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fakes and Frauds on eBay

This post is an edited version of a message I posted on the Beading Daily forums earlier today. One of the contributors, Robin, provided a link to an eBay seller who had lots of nice gemstone beads. I couldn't help but take a look. Here is my response:

The seller does have some nice looking beads, and the prices are good, but...I'd be wary of a lot of the products listed.

The seller has purple, red, cherry and volcano and other colored "quartz" and does not state that these are man-made materials, and are bascially a forumula of glass. Also, the colored turquoise - "maple," "pumpkin", "fire", and others is listed as "stabilized" but not that its been dyed - turquoise does not come in orange, purple, or red. I'm almost positive that it's not even turquoise but magnasite.

But my biggest problem is the "crab" and "fire" agate. In almost every listing, the material has been dyed and "enhanced". There is a form of agate called "crab" or "crab fire" which is mottled red, orange, and white, and looks somewhat like the back of a cooked crab. It should not be mistake for "fire agate" which is a much rarer type of agate that occurs in nodular form, has similar optical properties to Australian opal.
Crab agate is a pricey material when cut well, but over the last few years, cheaper look-a-likes have come on the market. In the latter case, the manufacturer (probably Chinese) has taken a common form of agate, cut it, drilled it, dyed it, heated it, and plunged it into a cold bath to induce fractures.

This one's the closest to looking like the real thing (but it's not):

This one's pretty scary - it's banded agate that's been dyed green (a pretty common material), heated and cooled to induce fractures, then dyed with white to highlight the fractures, and finally dipped in an acid bath to give it a matte finish.

THIS is what real crab agate looks like:

This one is not:

(These are not examples from the eBeads seller on eBay, but from pictures posted online).

Can you see the difference? In the real one, the mottling is on a single plane - but in the second image, there is a definite layering, like a bird's feathers. Also, in the first one, the mottling is soft, rounded and fit together like plant or skin cells- extending out in all directions. In the second one, the mottling is distinctly directional and very uneven, very much like a broken car window.

I don't think the eBay seller is deliberately trying to mislead, I just think that s/he really doesn't know much about what s/he's purchased and is simply relying on the descriptions from the wholesaler. Just because 50 sellers on eBay believe that "dragon skin" agate (the same process as "crab fire" agate, but with black dye) is a naturally occuring mineral doesn't mean that it is. There's nothing wrong with buying and using these types of beads, but ignorance is not bliss, and you shouldn't pay for something that's essentially a fraud.

I get so aggravated by these frauds. I have too many friends who now have trouble making a living trying to sell the real thing at $20 a strand when the booth across the aisle sells these fakes for $5.


Ara L. Lavin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ara L. Lavin said...

Hello I find the information in your post very usefull. I felt some guilt for some of my latest purchases. Any way Ill like to know if there is any gemstone store in particular that you recommends?