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Exploration of the Hollowed Galenas

Last Updated: 16th May 2011

By Jessica Simonoff

I first saw the hollow Bulgarian galenas at the Springfield Mineral Show in 2009 and I was not initially suspicious. Shortly thereafter, I read the Mindat forum thread about these “reverse-skeletal Madan galenas” ( http://www.mindat.org/forum.php?read,55,157736,page=1 ). The posts to the topic made me curious and I wanted to explore the subject further. At the Houston Mineral Show, I was talking to Edward Rosenzweig of Edwards Minerals ( http://www.edwardsminerals.com ) about these galenas and the long discussion on Mindat. He said that he had several he had purchased in hopes of selling them, but stopped when he learned that they might not be natural. He also mentioned that he didn’t know what to do with them while the issue was still unresolved.

I said that I would be willing to try to get some that are known to be manmade and do some experiments, comparing the manmade pieces with the ones from Edward’s stock in hopes of being able to observe something which might lead to a conclusion. Edward agreed and loaned me two pieces for the experiment. Another person kindly gave me two pieces that had been made through microabrasion.

In this article, I will share my observations and pictures of the four pieces. First, here are some general observations I have with respect to all of the pieces:

- I exposed these pieces to shortwave UV light in hopes of being able to spot any glue that might be present. There was no fluorescence.
- I examined them with a hand lens and under my microscope in search of glue and found none. The primary observation is the stepped lines that occur in all 4 specimens.
- None of the crystals -natural or man-made- have a hole in the face that attaches to the matrix, yet all other faces seem hollowed out.
- On the man-made pieces, the faces of the crystals that would be hard to get to with a microabrasion tool are not hollow. On the pieces we got from Edward, faces of the crystals which are attached to another crystal or would be similarly hard to reach are not hollow either.

One of the galenas not known to be fake



I will start with photos of one of the pieces that is not known to be man-made. Here is a picture of the whole piece:

Galena


The largest hollow galena crystal on this piece has a small (3 x 1.5 mm) quartz crystal inside it. Originally, we thought it was calcite, but three different acid tests using HCl showed no reaction. However, there is chlorite inside the crystal - this time we are almost sure of the identification. I have no evidence that the crystal is or is not glued to the specimen, but soaking the specimen in acetone overnight did not affect it. Here are some photos:

Quartz crystal in galena
Quartz
Quartz
Quartz crystal in galena
Quartz
Quartz
Quartz crystal in galena
Quartz
Quartz


I looked closer at the quartz crystal under the microscope, and noticed this. The first photo shows the whole crystal. The second is a close up, and the last is an extreme close-up. There are specks of galena on the quartz, but not crystals. As far as I can see with the microscope, there are none of these specks included in the quartz.

Whole crystal
Galena specks
Close up on galena specks
Whole crystal
Galena specks
Close up on galena specks
Whole crystal
Galena specks
Close up on galena specks


I also took some close-up photos on the end of the quartz crystal which attaches to the matrix. It looks like it is damaged at the end that attaches to the galena but not the other one.

Quartz
Quartz
Quartz


Another interesting feature of this piece are lines on the surfaces of the galena crystals. The lines tend to be roughly parallel but curve. Photos:

Lines on galena
More lines
Lines on galena
More lines
Lines on galena
More lines



The other piece not known to be fake



Now I will show some photos of the other piece that is not known to be man-made. It is different because instead of having hollow cubes, the galena's shape is more like a loop. Here are some photos of the whole piece:

Second galena
Galena
Second galena
Galena
Second galena
Galena


I also took some close-up photos. The photo on the left shows shows a small quartz crystal growing out of the inside of the galena "loop" and the one on the right shows that there is some galena in or on a quartz crystal. This piece does not show the curved pattern of lines in the same way as the other piece. These line appear more random in their path. Another observation about this specimen is that the galenas have small shiny spots in seemingly random places.

Quartz crystal in galena
Galena in/on quartz
Quartz crystal in galena
Galena in/on quartz
Quartz crystal in galena
Galena in/on quartz



The first man-made galena



Both of the galenas I have that are known to be man-made were created through microabrasion. Here is a full photo of the first one:

Man-made galena


I also took a close-up of the inner bottom surface of the piece. Interestingly, the microabraded surfaces of the galenas displays a pattern of curved, parallel lines extremely similar to those shown on the first galena we received from Edward Rosenzweig:

Lines on microabraded galena


The second man-made galena



Here are some photos of the other galena I have which is known to be man-made.
A full view photo:

Man-made galena crystals - full view


I also took some close up photos. These show that this galena, which was created with microabrasion, also has the pattern of curved lines that the other two pieces show. But the lines are not as well defined as in the other pieces.

Galena close-up showing lines
Lines
More lines
Galena close-up showing lines
Lines
More lines
Galena close-up showing lines
Lines
More lines


SEM photos/Conclusion


Lance Kearns offered to examine these specimens with the SEM at James Madison University. He let me stay in the SEM room while he was looking at them so I could see the images also. Because of a time limit, I selected three specimens to examine: one that was definitely man-made and two unknowns.

I looked at the man-made one first so that I could see what to look for in the other two. It had spherical indentations in the surface:
indentations - man-made

We looked a little more at the same sample and noticed a glass sphere, which was left-over abrasive material. That wasn't really a discovery because we always knew that piece was man-made, but it did help show us what to look for!
glass sphere - manmade


The next specimen was one of the unknowns (A)
Soon we noticed a glass sphere partially embedded in the surface of the galena, with craters and cracks around it.
sphere - unknown A


Last, we looked at another unknown (B)
Like the other two, this one had craters in the surface:
craters

There were also aluminum silicate crystals. We used the computer in the same room as the SEM to research and learned that aluminum silicate is widely used as an abrasive. The cracks coming from behind the aluminum silicate crystals (especially obvious on the third crystal from the left) are also evidence that the crystals are left over abrasive material.
abrasives B


Ending Notes



This is also published in Mineral News magazine December 2010.

Because of the time limit we were not able to look at more than 2 unknown pieces, and the fact that these 2 were fakes DOES NOT mean that all similar pieces are!! The only test that was able to tell the difference was the SEM and without a much larger sample size it is unfair to draw any conclusion about all hollow galenas - only about the 2 that were tested.

It might be easiest if discussion about this article continue to occur in the following thread http://www.mindat.org/forum.php?read,55,157736,page=1 rather than in this article, where the posts may become unmanageable.




Article has been viewed at least 30877 times.

Comments

Hello Jessica

You have done another wonderfull Article ! Congradulations on being able to have use of the SEM at James Madison University ! You have done a verry through job on the specimens that you had access to. I'd love to see many more examined with the SEM !
Maybe some day you or others will finally figure it out.
Maybe some day you or others will finally actually SEE these being mined and still in place ?
Guess time will tell !
Keep up the great work Jess ! ! !

Wayne Corwin


Wayne Corwin
23rd Dec 2010 3:36pm
Well done Jessica!!! I don't think people realized there were lingering abrasives in abraided specimens, but having seen the process it makes perfect sense. Were they hard to find? I also admire your logical restraint. Instead of trumpeting that 100% tested were fake, you give the data and refuse comment on the unexamined. You are a paragon of scientific virtue! Thanks so much for your hard work.

Rob Woodside
23rd Dec 2010 6:07pm
thanks!
they were actually pretty easy to find. we decided not to gold-plate the pieces because we saw no real reason to since galena is conductive. so there were charged shadows around the glass beads that really made them stand out.
Jessica

Robert Simonoff
23rd Dec 2010 8:52pm
Tell you what impresses me, and this is entirely unrelated to the Galena, but the glass beads used as the abrasive even at 13 microns are almost perfectly spherical. You've got to love physics.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
23rd Dec 2010 11:50pm
yes that is amazing!! I wonder how they are shaped, do you know?

Robert Simonoff
23rd Dec 2010 11:57pm
There blown into the air and surface tension make them spheres.
Like the ones found on the moon.

Wayne Corwin
24th Dec 2010 12:39pm
Dear Jessica and Robert,

As a collector of Bulgarian minerals I thank you for the effort you have put into trying to solve the problem and to broadening the knowledge of the collecting community.

Paul Siegel

Paul Siegel
25th Dec 2010 12:31am
you're welcome :-) thanks!

Jessica

Robert Simonoff
25th Dec 2010 12:42am
Jessica,
I am impressed. A thorough and convincing study. The only thing you did not find was the signature of the artist. I am sure your report will contribute to preventing other deceptors putting faked specimens on the market.
Knut

Knut Eldjarn
25th Dec 2010 9:47pm
Thanks, Knut! I hope so!

Robert Simonoff
27th Dec 2010 12:28pm
Thanks much, Jessica. Know anyone who wants a nice small specimen on pyrite? Sigh -- if you want to do more testing I will bring it to Tucson.
Bill Dameron

Bill Dameron
18th Jan 2011 6:04pm
Just to clarify here - not all hoppered/skeletal galenas are fakes. The only ones I tested are hollow ALL THE WAY through each axis.
If you would like to bring it to Tucson I will definitely take a look Bill. It would be neat to meet you anyways!
Jessica

Robert Simonoff
18th Jan 2011 8:31pm
Thanks. It is from Bulgaria and except for a tiny pyrite stuck in one of the cubes could fit your description. The tiny piece could have been glued on.
I'll be at Graeber and Himes throughout the main show; before that I check in with the folks in UK Mining Ventures (#144 Inn Suites or whatever it is now)

Bill Dameron
18th Jan 2011 11:21pm
Children are fascinated by fakes because they tend to believe everything they hear. I suggest that whoever has one that MAY be a fake should keep it to show to children and explain the research that has been done, how it is that we think we know about the fakes, but that it is still uncertain about each untested indiviual. Who knows - you may help create a thinking adult.

Linda Rizzo
8th Feb 2011 8:29pm
I find it fascinating that nobody seems outraged by revelation that many of the hoppered galenas are fake. Thankfully I've never sold one and don't own any personally. But if I did, I be demanding my money back from whoever sold one to me. I guess in a world full of misidentified, misrepresented, enhanced minerals, these galenas are simply chalked up as a curiosity.

John Betts
10th Mar 2011 11:56pm

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