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Synthetic Malachite?

Posted by Russ Nobbs  
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Russ Nobbs September 24, 2008 12:43PM
Has any one had experience with "Synthetic Malachite?"

We received samples of well oriented beads that the Chinese vendor admitted were synthetic malachite coming out of Hubei China. The banding is very similar to real malachite, the beads have the heft of malachite but the price is too cheap for this quality of banded malachite.

I'm very familiar with totally imitation "block" plastic made by swirling or layering several colors of dyes into plastic that is made in the US and in China. These beads do not look or feel like the plastic block. The banding is not straight lines as in one form of plastic block. Nor does it look like the compressed nugget type of material that is so common as "azurite/malachite" made from crushed lapis and malachite held together with resin and dye. I have pictures of those products posted on my Flicker pages http://flickr.com/photos/51181878@N00/

I don't have proper equipment for testing stones but tried some basic field tests. The bead does not feel like plastic when tapped on the tooth. When hit with a hammer, a bead breaks into 3 sections. The sections do not have the conchoidal look of glass. The bead did not break along banding lines.

I'll try to get a good close up photo of broken beads to post with whole beads but I thought I'd ask about it in case someone is already familiar with the material or can suggest some other basic tests I can use.

Thanks for any suggestions!

Russ Nobbs (www.rings-things.com)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/24/2008 12:44PM by Russ Nobbs.
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Claus Hedegaard September 29, 2008 08:18AM
Russ,

Malachite will fizz in dilute muriatic acid - say 5% HCl(aq). Crush a little, add a drop of acid and then a few drops of ammonium hydroxide - it should turn blue. If positive on both, you will just know that you have something containing carbonate and copper.
No experience with synthetic Malachite as such - only the plastic beads you mention. Could it be a by-product from a chemical plant?

Claus

____________________________________________________________________________
Claus Hedegaard
Google me to find me!
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Rock Currier October 03, 2008 01:22AM
Rus,
Hubei, specifically Diya is the home of 2000 plus year old bronze culture and I visited several lapidary factories there that were working with chips and pieces of malachite/azurite "rock" that was being used to make chip necklaces and other items. It would not surprise me considering the low quality of their feed stock if they were somehow using some of the local low grade malachite and making some sort of plastisized material out of it. Sorry I can't be of more help.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Russ Nobbs October 10, 2008 03:02AM
Thanks for the simple tests to try. I've got nitric and H2O2 but not hydrochloric on hand. I'll post back with results.
In the mean time here are a couple of pictures under flash and available fluorescent light of 14mm beads of this material. I'll post a close up of a split open bead shortly.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3079/2926901619_495ea641d0.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3213/2926901565_f77e40b52e.jpg

Here is a shot of typical blocks of plastic material imitating Malachite followed by a close up of a sample card of malachite. Both are from a recent trip to China.
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3229/2928534568_8a3f1ab5f7.jpghttp://farm4.static.flickr.com/3230/2928534502_87dc4eb54a.jpg

The new material sold to me as synthetic malachite is much better looking than the plastic material. I'll post what I Iearn after testing a crushed bead.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/10/2008 05:31AM by Russ Nobbs.
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Dario Cericola October 10, 2008 05:29AM
Hi,

If it is plastic or contain any kind of polimer, you should be able to burn it. Try to put a fragment on a "clean" flame, you could see smoke and it should smell like burned plastic. the remained solid part should be composed by the inorganic power. On the other hand, you can put fragments into some organic solvents, like acetone, or paint solvent, or dimethyl cloride, or whatever you can use. It is difficult to suggest the correct solvent, it depends by the plastic. (some plastics are inert but I don't expect this kind of precius materials). In this case you should see some "degradation" of the material.

Dario

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dario Cericola
My Mindat page http://www.mindat.org/user-7365.html#0
Periodic Table of Minerals http://www.mindat.org/blog.php/1612/Periodic+Table+of+Minerals
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David Von Bargen October 10, 2008 02:57PM
I certainly hope they aren't selling the pink material as "red malachite" ;)
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Chester S. Lemanski, Jr. October 10, 2008 03:45PM
They may not market it as "pink malachite" but you could probably make a safe bet that the finest banded "rhodochrosite" is about to hit the market! The Argentinian military, which controls the source of the "Inca Rose," cut off the Chinese from buying their scrap grade material because the Chinese were buying it cheap and dying it. Perhaps they are ow "manufacturing" it.
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Mark Mauthner October 10, 2008 05:10PM
Hi,

We have synthetic malachite in our (GIA) collection that I still find hard to believe are synthetic. They look like typical botryoidal malachite from the Dem. Rep. of Congo! I have yet to find out more about their origin and nature, but I shall endeavor to do so because of this thread.

Cheers,
Mark

Assistant Curator
GIA Museum
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Russ Nobbs October 10, 2008 11:15PM
No, David, it's more likely to be sold as "laser enhanced rhodo something or other." I just didn't crop the right part out of the card. Here's the whole sample card.
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2028/2433839147_03662a8b32.jpg

Mark: Are the samples in the GIA collection beads, cabs, slabs or what shape? I'm also impressed by the look of these. As usual we had to ask a lot of questions of our vendor to get him to add he word "synthetic."
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Russ Nobbs October 11, 2008 04:12AM
Here is the inside of one bead cracked open with a hammer. It broke into 3 large pieces. Very little was lost as the bead can be reassembled into a round bead.
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3229/2930069203_164c734566.jpghttp://farm4.static.flickr.com/3039/2930927460_d3dd83f981.jpg
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NH October 11, 2008 06:31AM
Fracture looks more like plastic than malachite - seems a little bit translucent as well. I would say that they are synthetic. As others have mentioned, do they burn or melt in a flame?
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Russ Nobbs November 21, 2008 03:57AM
I found time to test the beads a few weeks ago. (Sorry I took so long to post the results!)

It IS a resin based imitation material. It failed the acid and hydrogen peroxide tests. No reactions at all.

It softened up in the flame. It didn't exactly puddle and run but it smoked and burned as long as I kept it in the torch flame.

We've changed our description and no longer call it "synthetic." Instead we are describing it as man made malachite which is an imitation material.

One of the reasons we decided to carry a cheaper man made stone in our beads is that we can rarely find real malachite of any quality. Do any of you know it the scarcity of good malachite is due to political problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) or if it’s just that the stone is running out?
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Uwe Kolitsch November 21, 2008 04:45PM
"Instead we are describing it as man made malachite ..."
That's not correct then. It's a (resin-based) malachite imitation (if you are reluctant to call it fake).
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Russ Nobbs November 24, 2008 05:37AM
"fake" when used by a seller is usually spelled "faux."

I'd rather just call it "man made imitation malachite" or just "imitation malachite."
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Alfredo Petrov December 03, 2008 10:05PM
Russ, you mentioned you have nitric acid but not hydrochloric - Nitric acid will work equally well.
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Knut Eldjarn December 03, 2008 10:58PM
Russ,
if the synthetic material is a resin it may also dissolve in acetone (nail polish remover) which could be a quick test.
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Rock Currier December 08, 2008 12:17PM
.....Do any of you know it the scarcity of good malachite is due to political problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) or if it’s just that the stone is running out?.....

Most people that have been to the copper mines around Likasi and Kolwezi in the DRC know that there is plenty of malachite left to dig. During the last ten years or so the mining activity in Katanga has become moribund because of the political instability and corruption in the country. Before the collapse of commodity prices there was a fair amount of interest in trying to mine old and new copper deposits in the region. If copper prices had remained high various companies would probably started operating some of the deposits there in a big way but with the recent financial melt down I don't think anyone wants to lend money to sink into mines in such an unstable place. During the last few years, all or most of the malachite that has reached the market, and there have been hundreds of tons of it, has been dug by local villagers going into the old abandoned open pit mines and digging down on certain benches till they hit the layer that is rich in malachite. The problem is that they have ratholed these places to death, and it keeps getting harder and harder to find good cutting grade malachite. If full scale mining is resumed in some of these deposits, tons of malachite would be found. It is one of the main ores at these mines. When this will happen will be anyones guess. In lock step with the increased difficulty in mining lapidary grade malachite, the political instability and corruption has increased, and the cost of exporting such malachite from the DRC has gotten more difficult and more expensive.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Russ Nobbs February 23, 2009 07:25AM
Knute: The imitation malachite did not dissolve in acetone.

Thanks, RC, for the comments on DRC and malachite. I did notice at Tucson this year that a few dealers had large irregular chunks of semi polished malachite for sale. One at TEP in particular had some nice material selling more as curios than as cutting rough. (Maybe this is still because the DRC wants malachite to be exported as "finished goods?" That was the excuse given for the giant "ash trays" a few years back.)

In any event, one of my Chinese cutters who specializes in natural amethyst did manage to find and cut some malachite beads for Tucson this year.
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Udo Behner March 05, 2009 05:56PM
I remember having bought some specimen of synthetic malachite made in Russia a few years ago.
They had the typical botryoidal shape and a little bit darker green color.
There had been a wire in the middle so some sort of electrochemical process might be possible.
As the Russians are one of the industry leaders in synthetics its likely that they tried something as their own deposits (think about the huge malachite columns or vases in the Erimitage St. Petersburg) may have been vanished already.
I also have lab grown calcite from Russia in my collection made to replace natural optical calcite in optical instruments.
So I know they tried almost everything and its likely that there exists "true synthetic" malachite and not just plastic imitations
or "reconstructed" material.

Udo J.A. Behner alias "mr.bismuth"
www.spectrum-of-stones.com
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Rock Currier March 06, 2009 09:51AM
Udo,
The malachite columns and vases that were the products of the great Russian malachite deposit in the Urals and the lapidary shops during the time of the Czars are, I am sure still in St Petersburg and Moscow and other places. All these items were forms covered with a covering of thin slabs of malachite and not made from big pieces of massive malachite. The slabs are carefully fitted together to preserve as much continuous banding as possible. When I was in the Winter Palace we had a Russian lady English teacher who was picking up extra income by offering to take tourists around and explain the things in the Hermitage. She was quite good, but didn't know much about malachite and was under the impression that the malachite items were made from solid malachite. At that point I became the guide and instructor and told her about Russian malachite. At the end of the tour she tried to sell us some malachite beads that were from Zaire. I told her they were from Zaire and pointed out how terrible the workmanship was because they were not very round or very well polished. She didn't believe they were Zaire because to her the bad manufacturing was proof to her that they were made with the usual low standards that many of the factories in Russia have. I had to then tell her about the Fabergé, and how that the lapidaries of Russia had high standards that continued right through Communist times. I am still not sure that she believed me.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Udo Behner March 06, 2009 11:04AM
Rock,

thanks a lot for sharing this first hand impressions with us. I did not have the privilege yet to visit St. Petersburg in person.
I only know pictures. I have been in Yalta several times but never made it to the Livadia palace where that famous conference was held to decide about Germanys faith after the final defeat in World war II .
Regarding this malachite vases etc. I realy had been under the impression they had been made from massive blocks of malachite. So that speaks a lot for the quality of the Russian workmanship of these times that you have to examine this items closely to find out that they are made from smaller pieces.
They are still working great today if you think about the restauration of the famous "amber room" which got lost during the end phase of World War II. Some people believe it burnt to ashes in Königsberg others still believe its hiding in some secret mine tunnels in East Germany, burried on the shores of the Baltic or sunk in a deep lake in Austria.
I hope my piece of synthetic malachite will emerge sooner or later so that I can take a picture.
BTW I remember that there have been manufactured malachite specimens from the Congo. Nice stalagmite, stalactite specimen but which had been manufactered arround some wire framework.
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Rock Currier March 06, 2009 11:54AM
Udo,
Your comments about malachite, synthetic and otherwise should eventually be captured and placed in the Best Minerals forums and thread entries that will shortly be opened to the general membership of mindat. There will be a thread for malachite and all good information about malachite should be placed there. Perhaps you will find the time to help create the content for the Malachite thread.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Dmitriy Belakovskiy March 06, 2009 01:28PM
The synthetic malachite was produced in Russia in a several places mostly as an experiment. One of those places is Alexandrov city famous for it's synthetic quartz.. I saw rather big specimens which looks exactly like natural. I was told that it is not difficult to produce it. However I also was told that even in Soviet Union (where to the time malachite from Ural was completely mined out) it was cheeper to buy malachite from Zair.
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Rock Currier March 06, 2009 07:26PM
Dimitriy,
I bet this is something that is not generally known in the West. I doubt that for instance anyone in the GIA knows about it. Would it be possible for you to track down someone who worked on making the synthetic malachite so we could ask them some questions about it?

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Rock Doc March 11, 2009 08:00AM
We have grown malachite and azurite in our laboratory. This was part of a project to grow these minerals under specific conditions (including temperature). We then analyzed them to develop an isotope thermometer that we can use to tell us what temperature natural malachite formed at. We have analyzed about a hundred malachites from around the world and the temperatures of formation average about 25C, with lows of 10C (Flambeu, WI) and highs of 38C (Ok-Tedi, PNG). We can tell Russian Urals malachite from Zaire banded malachite with one measurement in my lab.
But the point is, you can make the stuff really easily. Basically, you place calcite in a strong copper nitrate solution in a sealed plastic bottle and wait a few weeks.Open slowly, and don't use too much calcite at a time or you will get a surprise! My students were taking Mexican Calcite carvings and turning them into malachite. Or rather, a malachite encrusted calcite. This process only replaces a few mm of the outside at most.
A few years back there was a guy selling malachite after glauberite. I tested one and found that at room temperature, the isotope signal was equal to Phoenix tap water... Never followed up on it, but probably should have reported it (where?).
So buyer beware, especially of pseudomorphs of malachite after any other carbonate.
For more reading, check the article at:
http://econgeol.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/94/2/245
or in print Economic Geology; April 1999; v. 94; no. 2; p. 245-259
Cheers,
--Erik Melchiorre (Rock Doc)
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Harvey Singer December 20, 2010 05:07AM
Would be interested in finding source(s) for Malachite for a fireplace facing and hearth -- approx. 25 square feet total, either as pieces from a slab (probably 2 cm thick, maybe 3) or from tiles, the bigger the better (for example, 24 x 24 inch tiles better than 12 x 12 inch). Prefer banded rather than "bulls-eye" pattern. For my purpose, natural stone is better but "synthetic" (as long as not plastic that will burn) may be satisfactory.

Anyone have advice about where I should search for source(s) ? Thank you.
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Alfredo Petrov December 20, 2010 05:27AM
If you're worried about it getting hot enough to burn plastic, you probably shouldn't use malachite either, at least not anywhere in the hearth that will be directly exposed to fire. Outside facing might be OK. Malachite will alter to black copper oxide if it gets too hot.
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Rock Currier December 20, 2010 09:59AM
Harvey,
The only possible source for the tiles you seek might be the Peoples republic of the Congo, but I have never seen them able to produce tiles larger than about 6x6 inches and then only about a cm or less thick. Your request for 12x12 inch tiles & larger, two to three cm thick is a pipe dream unrelated to any reality known to man. I am not sure that a piece of malachite has ever been found that would produce one of those. Even the Tzar's of Russia were never able to pull that off. If you are thinking of the big Russian Objects made from malachite, know that these objects were made from malachite, most of which is less than a cm thick and were pieced carefully together in small pieces to cover forums of other materials to make the grand imperial columns, giant vases and bowls and fire place facings.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Mirabelle January 02, 2013 06:23PM
Amazing what the Chinese come up with. I just bought imitation malachite (the seller forgot to mention the "imitation" part) but it's pretty obvious that it's not malachite, rather some kind of resin. I bought it for the kitsch factor. It reminds me of a line in Almodovar's film "Volver" : "This is first class plastic" :D

Mirabelle

My pearl and stone stuff
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Owen Lewis (2) January 03, 2013 01:10AM
I have a cautionary note on Russian synthetic Malachite, to the effect that it cannot be distinguished from natural Malachite by the standard gemmological tests. Which is not to say that is what you are dealing with.

That said your broken bead does not look like broken natural Malachite to me. You could look for the following:

- Natural Malachite is quite soft and is easily shaved with a a good and properly sharp steel blade. The shavings come away as a green powder almost as fine as talcum. rather then splinters.

- As already advised, the natural is readily attacked by conc HCl.

- The fracture should be dull and uneven to splintery.

- The natural often shows a magnetic response to a rare-earth magnet (think N52).

- Malachite is quite dense. If you have the means to do so accurately, a SG test should throw up anything containing a substantial amount of resin or glass. Anything outside of the range 3.25-4.01 has to have a reason why. Around 3.95 is the most commonly found SG. Test three beads and note the spread of the results obtained results.
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Bart Cannon January 03, 2013 01:47AM
I think the simulated malachite is better looking than natural malachite, and probably more durable.

I want a coffee table top made out of the fake stuff. It would be better all around better than the real stuff.

Why is natural so much preferred over synthetic ? The synthetic is often prettier than the natural.

Get your fiance' a cubic zirconia, and give a big slap in the face to De Beers who promulgated the diamond craze.

My friend Mary Aylward makes a living at painting "trompe l'oel" at fancy eateries and rich people's homes.

Basically imitatioin verde antique, marble and sometimes beautiful malachite bar countertops.

My fiance' many years ago insisted upon the stone in her engagement ring be a facetted zektzerite.

I still have the stone in its setting. I'm very sentimental about gold and zektzerite.

What is the specific gravity of the simulated malachite? A quick non-destructive test.

Bart



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/03/2013 07:13AM by Bart Cannon.
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Rock Currier January 03, 2013 08:49AM
Why is natural so much preferred over synthetic ?

I suppose for the same reason men like a real woman rather than a plastic blow up one.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Rock Currier January 03, 2013 08:50AM
Why is natural so much preferred over synthetic ?

I suppose for the same reason men like a real woman rather than a plastic blow up ones even though real ones require much more attention than a plastic ones.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Udo Behner January 03, 2013 09:55AM
Well Rock,

but you may agree that the real ones also may cause much more trouble and there is always the possibilty that your business your house and everything else is gone after a while grinning smiley .
A table top made out of the plastic "malachite" might be much more durable if you realy want to use it and I guess 99,9 % of the regular people could not tell the difference, may be the do not even have an idea what malachite realy is.
As you may know I produce a lot of synthetic crystals and tell my customers exactly what it is.
They just want to have some good looking eye candy without paying the price an excellent nicely sized colorful natural crystal specimen would cost.
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Owen Lewis (2) January 03, 2013 01:13PM
Rock Currier Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why is natural so much preferred over synthetic ?
>
> I suppose for the same reason men like a real
> woman rather than a plastic blow up one.

No Rock. Plastic blowup ones are (very) poor fakes. Pyrite for Gold. Synthetic ones are the real thing; of the nature of a tailored clone rather that some random product of a series of chaotic matings.

Just think..... guaranteed sweet-natured and loving; shaped, sized and coloured to preference. Don't be surprised if the ladies come to prefer synthetic men too once they are able to give them a trygrinning smiley
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Bart Cannon January 03, 2013 04:09PM
Rock,

You are heading down a very sleazy road, and my following return commentary is mostly un-related to minerals.

I apologize, but I do see a business opportunity in the dregs of this thread.

A "blow up doll" is just a joke, but how about a perfect replica of Angelina Jolie cast in Dow Corning Silastic "E" silicone rubber ? That is the stuff that I use to create the mold perimeters for my polished section specimens.

It would be the younger Angelina. How about Anita Ekberg ? The very woman who woke up my first prurient thoughts back in 1958. There is no timeline limit except that I won't make an Elizabeth Taylor..

I can construct most any of them for $ 7,000. Cheaper than a "so so" tourmaline. Neither a "so so" tourmaline or a Silastic girlfriend will argue with you. Take your choice.

Oprah Winfrey would be $ 10,000 since I would need ten extra gallons of Silastic.

You can hang your ladies in your closet since you don't keep your mineral collection there anymore.

Jolyon, feel free to block this post !

Bart



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/03/2013 04:19PM by Bart Cannon.
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Steve Hardinger January 03, 2013 05:14PM
Rock, I suggest the mineral community adopt the word "blowup" to refer to any fake, especially when the fake is over lower quality than the original. For example, dyed Chinese howlite is "blowup turquoise". And all those alphabet cabs are "possible blowup chalcedonies".
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Udo Behner January 03, 2013 06:32PM
A "blown up" realgar from an undisclosed location in North Korea grinning smiley .

"Realgar on Ebay"

Beware when this specimen may pop up in Tucson with a P.O.R. price tag ( price out of range ) smiling smiley .
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Steve Hardinger January 03, 2013 09:49PM
Udo in this case it would be Aufblasbare realgar or Aufblasbarefrau realgar.
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Tim Jokela Jr January 05, 2013 06:24AM
Bart & Rock... the Japanese are one step ahead of you.

Incredibly realistic, superbly made life size female dolls are available, starting at about $10,000.

They are collected, and treated as genuine mates, by perfectly normal businessmen.

Don't ask me how I know this. All I will admit to is having a weakness for latenight TV of questionable quality.

To all in this thread... very interesting stuff.

Your contributions are appreciated!
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Felicia scott September 24, 2014 02:51AM
i am searching for this synthetic block slab to make jewelry from in all colors. Where do I find it to purchase?
open | download - image.jpg (240.5 KB)
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sava November 04, 2014 12:38AM
How much should malachite cost? I bought mine from china for $2.50 including shipping for a strand of faceted malachite it feels like rock when hit on tooth but it's cheapness makes me think???
open | download - mal.jpg (37.6 KB)
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Rock Currier November 04, 2014 05:40AM
It looks like real malachite. Its cost would depend on the diameter of the beads and how many of them were in each strand. No estimate can be made unless you supply this information.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
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Owen Melfyn Lewis November 08, 2014 07:55PM
Not real for me.

- Banding does not look 'right'. I've seen better looking fakes.

- Faceting malachite is a daft idea (its so soft) - but there are daft folk around.

- Try scraping it gently around a the edge of drill hole with a sharp blade of a good hard steel. Real malachite will come away as a fine powder in response to such gentle scraping. A resin-based composite will either produce shavings or possibly chip. A glass-based simulant will chip (if sufficient force is eventually applied).

- Then there is always the notorious SG determination that so few seem to use....

Then it is also known that synthetic malachite has been produced in Russia. Fortunately perhaps, its sale is not a commercial proposition smiling smiley

I speak with feeling as presently I have 50 beads sitting on my bench in 25 assorted (allegedly mineral) species/varieties to ID as a favour for a friend. Malachite is among them. Fake malachite abounds in th ebead trade, usually plastic and sometime silica glass-based. A flame test for high-content plastic is pretty conclusive smiling smiley
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