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Tools I Use to Identify Colored Stones: Gemstone Identification

Do you have a few colored stones or gems lying around and want to identify what they are? Have you been shopping for jewelry and wondering if the gemstone is real? Identifying colored stones can be difficult, especially if it’s your first time doing so. Luckily, I’m here to help guide you through this process! In this post, I will share some of the key tools and techniques that I use when trying to determine the identity of a colored stone. After reading this post, hopefully, you will feel empowered with newfound knowledge about gemstone identification.

What is Gemstone Identification?

Gem identification entails locating hints and discarding possibilities. What sort of hints? The gem’s visual and physical qualities. The number of potential gems decreases for each of these traits that we measure or see. We continue to collect data until we have a set of characteristics that can only be attributed to one gemstone.

We rely on our experience with gemstones and employ cutting-edge technology for gemological identification, including microscopic examination of the item and tests like light refraction, dichroic testing, and absorption spectroscopy. Detecting treatments such as coating, dyeing, clarity enhancement, fracture filling, heating, irradiation, and oiling requires several additional tests. To precisely identify a gemstone and its tools requires time, knowledge, and the proper equipment.

At some point, gem identification becomes an art. The ultimate determination is based on human observation, supplemented with knowledge and experience, rather than precise instrument measurements. This is especially true when attempting to distinguish between natural and manufactured jewels. The majority of a synthetic ruby’s physical and visual qualities will be identical to those of its natural counterpart. Observing gem inclusions under a microscope is required to differentiate between natural and manufactured stones. In certain instances, this is straightforward. In other instances, this requires experience-based judgment. Microscopic details might be subtle!

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What Is Gemology?

Gemology is the study, cutting, and valuation of precious stones, but its essence is the identification of gemstones. A gemologist is someone who works in the field of gemology; jewelers and goldsmiths may also be gemologists.

Some collectors and investors may care about the monetary value of gems, but in order to discern one gemstone from another, they will need to see a gemologist. Gemologists evaluate both naturally occurring and laboratory-created gemstones using microscopes, computerized tools, and other grading gear.

Gemology is fundamentally about identifying gems. Gemologists define a gemstone based on its unique qualities and traits, such as its cut, color, quality, and clarity. Some rubies and garnets, for instance, are visually indistinguishable, yet their underlying physical qualities vary significantly. The 4Cs (color, clarity, cut, and carat) are a set of characteristics used in gemology to identify diamonds and are well-known by the general public.

Instruments Used by Professional Gemologists

Trained gemologists will use many of the following instruments listed. I have given at least one practical gemstone example for each instrument. All gemstones can be tested with all these instruments, each giving predictable results. In short, these instruments can help gemologists determine synthetic gemstones from genuine gemstones.


Gemologists can use this tool to distinguish between red glass and garnet or ruby and garnet. Light is transmitted through the gemstone, and the observer searches for one or two colors in squares (in a calcite dichroscope) or two distinct colors next to one another (in a London Dichroscope).


This tool can identify sapphires, emeralds, ruby, and numerous other gemstones. Light is transmitted through or reflected off of a gemstone, and the exhibited absorption spectrum is recorded and compared to previously recorded absorption spectra. This diagnostic instrument can identify a gemstone with an absorption spectrum.

Ultra-violent Lamp

A ruby is distinguishable from a garnet. The reactivity of the gemstone to UV radiation is evaluated using both short-wave and long-wave radiation.

One technique for gem identification is to examine the gem’s reaction to ultraviolet (UV) light. Natural and synthetic rubies both fluoresce in UV light. There are, however, some variances in fluorescence between natural and synthetic rubies and between stones sourced from various geographic regions.


A polariscope is capable of distinguishing between blue spinel and sapphire. Using the conoscope (a stress-free glass ball), we can differentiate between blue topaz and aquamarine. The polariscope can determine how light rays behave upon entering a gemstone. With the use of a conoscope, we can obtain even more information about the jewels’ light rays.


Many consider the gemological refractometer to be the most significant gem-testing device. The refractometer’s principal function is to measure the angle at which light passing through a stone is bent or refracted. The term for this is Refractive Index (R.I.)

The refractometer (using a liquid with a refractive index) will provide measurements that allow the gemologist to identify the majority of gemstones. Using a chart of known refractive index readings, we can identify the majority of gemstones.

Color Chelsea Filter

With the CCF, a gemologist can distinguish blue sapphire and other blue stones tinted by cobalt from one another. By shining light through or onto a gemstone, various gemstone parts will react differently to white light when viewed through the filter. Gemologists utilize more filters for particular gemstones.

Specific Gravity Measurement

Cubic zirconia is significantly heavier than a comparable-sized diamond. A gemologist can determine a gemstone’s relative density (specific gravity) using particular gravity liquids, direct measurement (Hanneman Balance), the water displacement method, a one-pan or two-pan balance, or specific gravity liquids.

Immersion Cell

This container contains a liquid into which I will place the gem. If I use a liquid that bends (refracts) light at the same rate as the gemstone being examined, then reflected and refracted light rays will be eliminated, and I will be able to identify inclusions more clearly. I may also determine the gemstone’s refractive index using liquids with a known refractive index. The refractive index is the degree to which light rays slow and bend while entering a gemstone or liquid.

The Importance of Gem Identification

Each gemstone in the world possesses a distinct beauty, rarity, and identity. Gem identification involves observing and testing a gemstone’s chemical attributes and distinctive structure. This treatment necessitates gemological techniques and a trained eye.

Identifying a gemstone is crucial in several circumstances to avoid financial loss and maintain a great reputation.

If you are a buyer or seller of gemstones, you must be able to accurately appraise the product’s value and establish whether the stones are natural or synthetic. To do this, you may consult a professional jewelry appraiser.

Appraisals for insurance value and trade-in value are required to disclose treatments and enhancements, and you must be able to identify the stone and its treatments to offer this information. The initial stage in recognizing a gemstone is general observation with the help of magnification, followed by instrumental testing with tools such as the refractometer.

Reach out to Willyn Villarica Jewelry

And there you have it! These are all the tools I use to identify colored stones. Willyn Villarica is your trusted partner for gemstone appraisal services, catering to clients around the globe. Our expertise and commitment to excellence ensure accurate and reliable assessments of your precious gemstones. It’s important to note that while we offer our services worldwide, clients are responsible for covering all travel expenses. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have your diamonds expertly graded by Willyn Villarica. So if you need a professional jewelry appraiser, Feel free to contact us via email at admin@willynvillaricajewelry.com for inquiries or to schedule appointments. You can also connect with us through our official Facebook (Willyn Villarica Jewelry) and Instagram (@willynvillarica_jewelry) accounts. If you require further assistance, we are also reachable directly at +63279497547.

  • Willyn Villarica

    Willyn Villarica, a third-generation jeweler from the Philippines, brings a wealth of expertise to the world of gemology and jewelry appraisal. As a licensed Graduate Gemologist, accredited by the prestigious Gemological Institute of America, she is not only a master of her craft but also holds the distinction of being the first Filipino member of the National Associ...

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