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Real sapphires are – unfortunately – very difficult to distinguish from fake sapphires. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s impossible to discern whether the antique sapphire ring you just inherited is the real deal or an imposter.
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can test the validity of your sapphire.


  1. Breathe
  2. Look Closer
  3. Real Sapphires

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The vast majority of fake sapphires consists of a material called lead glass. This glass does pass the visual test, bearing a surprising resemblance to genuine sapphires. Glass does have some difference to sapphire in its properties that you can utilize to try and identify the material from which your stone was made.

Breathe out on your gemstone and count how long it takes for the stone to become clear again after being fogged up by your breath. A genuine sapphire will clear up very quickly. On the contrary, glass – which retains moisture more effectively than sapphires do – will take longer to clear. If your stone takes perhaps five or six seconds to start to clear up, it could be lead glass.


real sapphire rings versus fake in comparison of breath test
Left: These are fake. I breathed on the one on the bottom. Compare the upper stones with those on the bottom. Do you see the difference in color due to the condensate of my breath? Right: Lab-created sapphire. The photo was taken with the same time difference between breathing onto the stone than for the fake sapphires. The condensate vanished within nearly no time.



breathe test on a blue lead glass bottle
For comparison I made the test on this empty blue glass bottle. Compare the bottleneck with the body. See the difference? I breathed on the part just besides the label and the condensate remained long enough to document it on the photo.



Look Closer

Since lead glass is the most common material for sapphire fakes, there are a few ways of checking for the presence of glass. If you look very closely at your sapphire, you might see some bubbles within it; they could even be very small and difficult to spot with the naked eye. These bubbles are air pockets, and they’re a sure sign that what you’re looking at is glass. It is very difficult to create glass in the specific shapes of sapphires without generating at least some air bubbles in the process, although they can be very small.

Another thing to look for within the sapphire is white lines. These lines are essentially thread-like connectors that will appear to be holding the stone together. If these are present in your gemstone, unfortunately it is likely because it is holding the stone together. In this case, what you have is not a genuine sapphire, but a composite sapphire.


Real Sapphires

The breath test and the presence of air bubbles are ways of determining if a sapphire is a fake. Here are a few ways of knowing if it’s real. In a dark room, use a direct light to shine on your gemstone. A sapphire will reflect blue light, appearing to sparkle with blue colors. Glass, however, will sparkle and reflect a variety of colors. While the rainbow-style sparkle is very visually appealing, unfortunately it may be a sign you don’t have the genuine article.

The term ‘real’ when used to describe sapphires is something of a misnomer, because there are sapphires that aren’t naturally formed in the ground. Nevertheless, they are still considered to be real despite scientists created these sapphires in a lab. The reason is that their properties are still the same as those of mined sapphires. Some people are put off by these lab-created sapphires, finding them too ‘perfect’. Thy often value genuine sapphires with minor chips or scratches here and there more than lab-created flawless sapphires.


real sapphire rings versus lab-created
The multi-gemstone necklace, Diana-Kate Middleton inspired ring and the single stone are lab-created sapphires. The sapphires of the earrings and rings on the wood are real. The golden ring features a cabochon star sapphire.  I made the sapphires and rubies ring on the right myself in a recreational class when in graduate school.


The Best Way

Without a doubt, the absolute best way to establish whether or not your sapphire is real or fake is to take it to a professional. Jewelers might be able to give you some information, but a gemmologist with proper certification can give you a plethora of information about whether your sapphire is real or not, as well as what the quality of the stone is if it is the genuine article.
When buying sapphires, it’s important to buy responsibly. Most quality jewelry shops will sell their jewelers with proper certification, confirming that you are getting what you pay for when it comes to luxury jewelry like sapphire jewelry.

Armed with this knowledge, you can do your best to identify any sapphires you come across. Good luck with your examinations; you never know – you might just end up finding a new passion!

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