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Fake fluorites - how abundant are they?

Posted by Niels Brouwer  
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Niels Brouwer October 02, 2018 11:09AM
In a recent discussion on another forum, someone was expressing his suspicions about how fluorite often seemed 'too good to be true', especially regarding Chinese fluorites with nice colour zoning or beautiful stepped crystal growth that are often offered for sale. He argued that given the increasingly exorbitant prices these go for, chances are someone has figured out how to turn an ordinary quartz specimen into the matrix for lab-grown fluorites. He said that the exact locality of specimens is often shrouded in mystery for this reason, and that we should be suspicious about all specimens until proven they are 100% natural. If unnatural crystals such as chalcanthite can be grown, then why not fluorites as well?

Personally, I suggested that fluorite is found very abundantly all across the globe, and continues to be mined in very large quantities for its industrial applications. Mineral deposits that are mined for other purposes such as metal ores can also provide attractive fluorite specimens, even when fluorite isn't the main ore. Given this abundance and fluorite's natural tendency to occur in a vast array of different colours and shapes, I feel nature provides ample material to make lab-grown ones unnecessary. I know for certain specific applications fluorite is artificially grown, such as very high end camera lenses. However the enormous required costs and the chemicals involved would most likely prevent any DIY mineral producers from being able to grow these fluorite specimens at competitive prices. It would an operation at a very different scale compared to the simple water-soluble minerals, which simply can't compete with the naturally available specimens.

Therefore I am curious to hear your thoughts on this topic: how abundant are fake fluorites? Should we beware of fakes? Should we assume they might be fake until proven otherwise? Or would there no reason to doubt the genuineness of the majority of fluorites?
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Keith Compton October 02, 2018 11:59AM
Niels

My experience with Fluorite is only that there are quite a few oiled specimens on the market - especially those etched out of quartz.

I've seen both Chinese and Irish flourites that have been oiled.

I am not aware of any lab grown fluorites on the market, but then I'm a long way from most dealers and shows.

I have certainly seen some "reconstituted" mineral specimens - bits glued on that shouldn't be there as distinct from a straight repair.

I am aware of "improved" specimens such as sweethome rhodochrosites.

I guess with 3D printers and new materials being "made" with them it may lead to more fakes of some sort.

By and large I think most fluorites are natural - albeit that many are etched out of quartz (e.g.: De'an Co. and Riemvasmaak to name but two localities).

Fake quartz has been around a long time - including of course the enhanced/irradiated smoky quartzes, and "citrine" (ie heated amethyst).

I think that with Fluorites, you can assume that they are real - best to view as many as you can from as many localities as you can to get a feel for them - even if that is via Mindat and / or various dealer sites. Try to get to shows to touch and feel and examine closely.

I think if you stick with the dealers that promote through this site you should be safe. Be wary of "bargains" on ebay and the like (not saying that you shouldn't use ebay - there are some good deals to be had - just be wary.

Cheers
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Doug Daniels October 02, 2018 07:39PM
As far as artificial fluorite goes, likely easy to produce in the lab. The main problem would be the coloration - can you get the trace elements in there at the right amounts to create it? And the zoned crystals..... Not saying it can't be done, but as both above have noted, there's enough natural material out there, why bother with trying to create it in the lab?
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Ken Doxsee October 02, 2018 10:32PM
About 12 years ago, on a boat going upriver from Guilin, vendors on small boats came alongside offering specimens that looked very suspicious to me. My feeling was that they would have dissolved if they were dropped into the water. Maybe I missed a bargain, but they looked very wrong to me. --Ken
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todd Van Duren October 05, 2018 05:11AM
Ken Doxsee Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>My feeling was that they would have dissolved
> if they were dropped into the water.

I've noticed some Chinese fluorites that look suspiciously like alum. Those indeed would dissolve in water, but then again, they're not fluorite. There's a uniformity about the specimens, always a lack of any associates and an odd matrix, (looks like concrete). I haven't handled one of those pieces, only seen them on ebay.

If some/many Chinese fluorites are being lab grown, they are certainly doing an excellent job making them look natural, (the above alum-looking specimens excepted). The synthetic quartz clusters, in comparison, look entirely unreal. I suspect most if not all Chinese fluorite is genuine and not lab grown.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2018 05:17AM by todd Van Duren.
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Bob Harman October 05, 2018 06:11AM
I have never seen a laboratory grown fluorite (CaF2). Maybe something else, but never a fluorite.

Furthermore, pure CaF2 should be clear and colorless so lab grown crystals should be likewise, like hi quality lab grown quartz. Natural fluorite owes its many colors to atoms of other elements occurring thru out the growing fluorite crystal. What color(s) would a fake be and how to make it of interest to collectors?


Would someone please post a picture of a true lab grown fluorite. CHEERS.....BOB



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2018 09:10AM by Bob Harman.
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Frank K. Mazdab October 05, 2018 10:04AM
Although one should never underestimate the industriousness of the Chinese fake mineral industry, fake fluorites on matrix are probably unlikely. Although fluorite can be grown from aqueous solution (for example, by diffusing a CaCl2 solution into a solution of NH4F, crystals grown this way are tiny and would be of little interest to collectors. To get big "specimen quality" crystals, fluorite would have to be grown from a melt (either a melt of fluorite or through a flux). But a fluoride-rich melt would be pretty corrosive to quartz, so I doubt the quartz would survive long enough to end up with big fluorite crystals on it, and even if it did, it would probably look awful.

On the other hand, I could imagine masses of matrix-free crystalline fluorite grown from melt potentially being offered as natural (although I have no idea if this would cost-effective). Simulating zoning wouldn't be a problem... add a chromophore impurity (one that would either color the fluorite itself, or that could be activated by radiation), and the zoning would occur simply because the cooling rates in these artificial systems tend to be so fast that growth is disequilibrium. I suspect the challenge under these conditions would be to grow crystals that were not zoned.

To assemble a fake I suppose it could be possible to compromise on these methods... grow the crystals alone, and then cleverly affix them to some matrix. But in this case, all the usual precautions for identifying glued specimens would apply, and I think it would be tough to fool an experienced collector. The idea that chrome alum or similar material could be grown on quartz and offered as fluorite strikes me as an easier fake to make, but probably also one fairly easily detected.
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Luca Baralis October 05, 2018 10:49AM
I'm doubtfull about artificial fluorite (as a mineral fake specimen) but I'm wondering about color "improvements" ... somethig more deep than oiling or waxing.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2018 10:50AM by Luca Baralis.
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