Lapis stone has a rich, deep blue color with trace amounts of gold-colored flecks running throughout it. During the 19th century, painters ground the stones into powder, which they mixed with clear or white paint to make a brilliant blue paint color. Faux lapis stones are essentially cheaper imitations of the real stone, made from clay or another stone.
Real lapis stones have traces of pyrite, or fool's gold, running through the blue color. Lower-quality lapis has white flecks, rather than gold, mixed with the blue. The lower-quality stones are often broken into smaller pieces and sold as "chips," which are then used to accent different stones in jewelry. Fake lapis often has a uniform blue color and lacks any gold or white flecks. Desiree's Desired Creations offers a step-by-step guide for home jeweler designers on making faux lapis with polymer clay and composition gold leaf. You combine different shades of blue clay with torn pieces of gold leaf, making beads and other items that resemble real lapis.
Fake lapis is sometimes made by dyeing or coloring a different stone to look like lapis. If you're not sure if your lapis is real or fake, then test it with hot water. Use water that is hot to the touch, but not boiling water. Dip the stone in the water, or rub a small amount of water over the surface. Dyed stones lose color when they come in contact with hot water.
Fake lapis is sometimes covered with a clear resin or protective coating that gives the stone a polished look. Real lapis is covered with either resin or clear wax. Designers may paint the faux lapis to match the color of the real stone and then add the clear coat for a more impressive look. The only way to tell for certain if your stone is real or fake is by rubbing off the clear coat and testing the stone underneath.
Faux lapis is specifically designed to resemble the look and feel of the real stone. The fake stone pairs nicely with both gold and silver settings in jewelry design. Fake lapis is often less expensive than the real thing and also easier to find than the real stone. Real lapis is more commonly found in parts of the Middle East, where the stone was used during ancient times, according to the International Colored Gemstone Association.