© Kirk Feral 2009-2015, All Rights Reserved. These materials may be duplicated for educational purposes only. No part of this website may be duplicated or distributed for profit, for commercial purposes, or for posting to another website, without the expressed written consent of the copyright holder.
The intent of this website is to introduce the magnetic wand and testing method to gem hobbyists, professionals and researchers, and to demonstrate how enjoyable, rewarding and effective magnetic testing can be. The information in this website can be used as supplemental course material for gem identification classes. Gem ID course instructors may freely print and share the materials copyrighted by this author.
All reference charts and research results provided in this website have not been published elsewhere. These materials were developed entirely by this author/researcher using results of magnetic testing on private gem collections. The Magnetic Susceptibility Index that we have developed through years of testing is the only published index that provides both qualitative and quantitative measurements of the magnetic susceptibilities of most gemstones. All photos, except where noted, were taken by this author for this website.
The idea of using a hand-held magnet as a gem identification tool is not new. Renowned British gemologist Basil Anderson proposed it in 1953. More recently, a few researchers have published information about using stronger rare earth magnets for gem testing (see Resources and Links). But for the most part, the practical value of magnetic testing has been overlooked or dramatically underestimated. As of 2015, the magnetic wand remains unknown to most gemologists, students, collectors, jewelers, and gem dealers.
This website provides information to help you get started using this tool, including: 1) an overview of magnetism in gemstones 2) how to use a magnet for gem identification, and where to buy magnets 3) an index of magnetic responses for over 250 gemstone species and color varieties, and 4) a reference chart for separating look-alike gems. Individual sections about Diamond, Sapphire & Ruby, Tourmaline, and Garnet provide an in-depth look at the magnetism of these gems and how magnetic responses and measurements can help us identify them.
If you collect, sell, or work with gems and need to know how to identify them, a magnet belongs in your set of standard testing tools, alongside your refractometer, specific gravity tester, microscope, polariscope and spectroscope. Once you start working with a magnet, you'll find magnetic testing quickly becomes an essential part of the identification process for all colored stones, as well as Diamonds.
A magnetic wand made from the rare earth element neodymium is one of the most useful, and least known, tools for basic gem identification. Because every type of gem shows characteristic responses to a strong magnet, we can use the magnetic responses of a gem to help us identify it. A magnetic wand is an extremely sensitive instrument that can detect very slight magnetism. Wands are small and portable, and simple to use. Unlike many other gemology tools, neodymium magnets are accessible to everyone. Wands can be easily assembled for just a few dollars.
3 Examples of Magnetic Responses
How is it Useful?
The Forgotten Tool
Aquamarine is Weakly to Moderately Attracted to a Magnet
Show Magnetic Attraction
Topaz of any color is Not Attracted to a Magnet
Synthetic Spinel is Not Attracted to a Magnet
"Magnetic testing as Feral describes should be in the tool kit of all practicing gemologists."
Dr. D. B. Hoover FGA
Among its multiple uses, a magnetic wand provides the quickest means for identifying Garnet. Garnets pick up. Differences in magnetic response can also be used to distinguish some natural gems from synthetics and imitations. For example, natural blue Spinel can in most cases be distinguished from synthetic blue Spinel, and natural Diamonds can often be separated from lab-created Diamonds. A magnet can be used to separate many types of gems that look alike, such as Aquamarine (Beryl) from blue Topaz, or Chrome Tourmaline from all other green Tourmalines of similar color. And magnetic testing can serve as an important method to corroborate the test results of your other gemology tools. Many more uses are presented on the page titled 10 Practical Uses for Gem Identification.
Magnetism in Gemstones
An Effective Tool and Method for Gem Identification
© Kirk Feral 2009-2015
Magnetism is a measurable physical property of minerals. The study of magnetic properties is a long-established discipline of geology and mineralogy, but its relevance to gemology has largely been ignored. The method of testing described in this website is missing from the curriculum of gemology classes taught by gemology institutes, universities and gem & mineral societies. Research on this method and its practical applications is scarce, and the importance of magnetism is not recognized in gemology books, journals or online resources. Discussion of the magnetic properties of gemstones is conspicuously absent from most compendiums and indexes of gems.
Peridot is Dragged
by a Magnet