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What is Faux Jewelry?

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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Had poor Mathilde in the Guy de Maupassant story "The Diamond Necklace" known anything about faux jewelry, she might have saved herself a great deal of trouble. Faux is a French word meaning "false," so of course, "faux jewelry" refers to jewelry not made of genuine gems.

Humans have been fascinated with jewels and jewelry for thousands of years. Even the gates of Heaven, according to the Bible, are made from pearl. Since genuine gemstones have always been something of a rarity, it follows that enterprising jewelers would have come up with attractive counterfeits for those who could not afford "the real thing."

Faux jewelry can be made to imitate almost every natural gemstone. It may be made of glass, crystal or other substances that mimic the real composition of the natural gems. Often called "glass" or "paste," faux jewelry has improved to the point where an untrained eye has difficulty distinguishing good "paste" from the real thing. In fact, some designers have made their fortunes designing elaborate faux jewelry that looks as good as the real thing.

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Cubic zirconia is probably one of the most popular synthetic stones on the market. It is made from zirconium oxide and when finished, has a hardness of about 8.5 on the Moh Scale of Hardness. A diamond is a 10 on the scale. Cubic zirconia is also heavier than a diamond, but a well-cut stone may temporarily fool even a gemologist. Zirconium oxide is heated and a stabilizer added, then oxides are added to produce various colors. The stones are then cut and set. To the untrained eye, they are indistinguishable from the gemstones they are imitating.

One advantage of faux jewelry is that the stones in it do not come from nature, and thus are not depleting natural resources. It also does not contribute to impoverished people being exploited to supply the market with natural gemstones.

Faux jewelry runs the gamut where prices are concerned. A nice piece of jewelry may start at US$10 and the price goes up from there, depending on designer and quality. Good faux jewelry is available in department stores and online.

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