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Fakes & FraudsImiter native silver

28th Mar 2009 11:29 UTCAnonymous User

Hi there,

What would people's opinion of the following be?|66%3A2|65%3A12|39%3A1|240%3A1318|301%3A1|293%3A1|294%3A50

It looks like it's been cleaned to have such a sheen, but is it natural?

28th Mar 2009 11:48 UTCJolyon Ralph Founder

*probably* artificial (the silver, not just the sheen).


28th Mar 2009 13:12 UTCTomasz Praszkier Manager

Silver can be easily cleaned from oxides, and after it has lustre like this one.


28th Mar 2009 14:01 UTCMichael Hopkins

I almost bought one of these for about 800.00. I am happy we did not, I believe they are fakes.


28th Mar 2009 14:07 UTCDavid Von Bargen Manager

Also looks suspiciously like a Cornish silver the seller sold earlier.

28th Mar 2009 14:32 UTCWoodrow Thompson

Good point, David. I was likewise reminded of the "Cornish" silver that people had questioned, and from the very same seller! That one was said to have more provenance, but it looked very delicate to have survived intact since 1835!

28th Mar 2009 15:15 UTCSteve Hardinger Expert

Similar silvers have appeared on ebay with Chinese localities. In some cases the glue is readily visible on the photos.

28th Mar 2009 18:53 UTCRoger Lang Manager

Hi all,

this is a typical Imiter specimen (no Chinese, Cornish or whatsoever) - may it be natural or not. But it is extremely hard to tell by a photo if a specimen is natural or atrificially grown. @Steve .. these are normally not glued - seen a lot of Imiter silver but never a glued one .. chinese may do with their silver. The pictured specimen is certainly cleaned .. a normal silver cleaner will do this really fine ... or just treat it with sodium hydrogen carbonate solution on aluminium foil. I do not think that t is a fraud or dubious if a silver specimen is cleaned. The discussion about the artificially grown silver specimens is very controversial and until now nobody has shown me a specimen where there is any clear evidence of the fake (and according to the reports there should be .. iron oxide surface coatings and traces of heat influence at the specimens base). I bought a lot of Imiter silver specimens a few years ago .. they aren´t that lustrous as the specimen discussed and they are a bit different in habit - and i checked them thoroughly - no indication of unnatural growing. So one should be careful to rule by the picture ..

Just 2 cents



28th Mar 2009 22:57 UTCFrancis X Dzubeck


I agree with Roger. Cleaning is not the issue. Cleaning although disliked in certain circles is quite normal especially in humid localities that naturally create an Acanthite tarnish on the wires. The cleaning in Morocco and China is unfortunately not a humidity issue but aesthetically required to make the Silver wires standout against the black Acanthite matrix. It sells the specimen at a higher value. The real issue is the question of "naturality." I believe the key is testing the Silver wires for impurities. At Imiter there should be a reasonable Mercury content as there exists a large number of Kongsbergite specimens from the locality. No impurities or no Mercury content should indicate a questionable natural specimen. The same was true of the German questionable wire silvers and most likely the Chinese Silvers nests on Acanthite. In addition, noting the iridescent coating of the matrix next to the Silver wires in this specimen it has all the symptoms of unnatural heat-induced growth. I find it very disconcerting that the research on the impurity levels in Silver specimens as an identification methodology has never been examined in depth and published. With respect to the Cornish Silver mentioned in the thread, it is an obvious rename of a Moroccan "fabrication." I have a major Cornish wire Silver (over 8 cm) from Wheal Herland with pedigree that dates from 1803-9 that bears no relationship (structure or associated matrix) to this specimen and a second Cornish cubic crystal Silver (over 7 cm) from Wheal Herland of the same time period where the matrix although containing Acanthite also contains a significant amount of Galena crystals.


28th Mar 2009 23:23 UTCMark Hammond

Hello people

Well, this is my first posting here and it could be a sad start!

I have to confess to being the person who bought the "Cornish" silver. At the time, I had no reason to be suspicious, other than I had never seen a Cornish silver of anything like this quality. Having said that I am no Cornish expert and the quoted provenance seemed fairly believable. I might say that it does not resemble the Moroccan silvers he's selling, in so far as the wires are very short, but they are very clean (too clean?).

Since then, this seller has not only produced a constant stream of Moroccan silvers from his "uncles" collection (seems unlikely his uncle would have so many???), but has refused to reply to numerous emails from me, requesting the Bottley label, a copy of his "uncles" notes or indeed, just his uncles name! I intend showing it to a Cornish expert (Nick Carruth maybe), but failing that I guess I may have wasted money that I can ill afford.

Can anyone tell me if I have any recourse through eBay or PayPal to get my money back should it prove to be a fake? (or am I living in cloud cuckoo land). Any other comments/suggestions will be gratefully received.

If you're reading this Roger, how are you doing? and can I interest you in an 1835 Cornish silver? ;)


29th Mar 2009 00:09 UTCJolyon Ralph Founder

Depending on how long ago you purchased it, if the seller is not responding to communication you're entirely within your rights to issue a paypal refund request on the basis that the goods are not what they claim to be. He'd then be forced into fighting it, which hopefully would simply result in him proving to you that the specimen is genuine.

I suspect it isn't, of course.

I personally wouldn't touch ANY wire-silvers from anywhere at the moment.


29th Mar 2009 00:22 UTCWoodrow Thompson

Hello Mark,

Sorry to hear you may have been burned on the silver specimen. It's best to be wary of eBay sellers like this one who say "No returns accepted". However, I think you can lodge a complaint through PayPal if the seller refuses to acknowledge your complaint or doesn't answer your e-mails. I've done this in the past when a "perfect" item had major old damage (it didn't happen in the mail), and I was able to return the item for a refund.

And if all else fails, and you haven't posted feedback yet, you can give the seller a very negative rating.

In many cases "If the specimen looks and sounds too good to be Cornish, it probably isn't". I've learned the hard way that there are lots of bogus "Cornish" minerals in the marketplace. Some of them were accompanied by elaborate phony histories, including those sold by a well known Cornish dealer, and others were simply mislabeled in the past for various reasons (probably wishful thinking by a previous owner). :(

Good luck with the silver! :)-D

29th Mar 2009 00:34 UTCAnonymous User

Mark, I wouldn't beat yourself up too much over paying US$118 for that specimen. Even fake specimens still have some intrinsic value, just for their curiosity if nothing else.

I've asked the seller also if he can provide some sort of verification or assurance that the silver is real at least, even if the specimen is man-made. I probably won't get a reply!

As Mark says, this is not the first specimen of this type by the seller. If I recall correctly, the first few he sold went for exorbitantly high prices; I think I saw one go for roughly US$900. The last few have sold for around the $100 mark, which would suggest potential buyers have woken up that they are probably fakes, and paying only for their curiosity value.

EDIT: Another post jogged my memory - it may have been another seller with almost identical looking specimens that sold for around US$900.... the link below shows a couple that look very similar which have gone for big $.

29th Mar 2009 02:32 UTCFrancis X Dzubeck


As Leigh stated US$118 is not bad for the specimen even as a "fake." My first thought is that the rarity of the specimen and the locality versus the cost should always be used to analyze a specimen purchase on ebay. Too low a cost for a rarity or an excellent specimen means that the bidders question its authenticity. But that said, every once in a while the risk is worth the reward. Creativity by dealers and collectors will always be an issue. Analysis and research will always "trump" a label. I constantly look for fake Gold and Silver specimens to purchase at a reasonable price to add to my reference collection of fakes. Do not feel bad about the purchase. Not one museum in the world can claim to be "fake" free whether it be paintings, sculpture, furniture, minerals, coins or stamps. Every visit to a Mineral Show or a Museum is an experience on creative labeling no matter the age of the specimen. In the end, we all want to believe what we want to believe. Caveat emptor!


29th Mar 2009 12:20 UTCRoger Lang Manager

Hi again,

just checked the "cornish" silver picture again (i confess that i only took a short glimpse before as it wasn´t the first focus of the topic and i am far from being an expert of cornish stuff): This looks VERY much like the Imiter stuff and the iridescent coatings are really suspiciuos. So Mark, sry to tell but i agree with my pre-posters that this is very likely a mislabeling - albeit intentional or not (i am careful with seller-bashing if there is no absolute proof). The fact that this seller is coming up with lots of wire silver specimens from Imiter also isn´t the problem of course .. this is possible as the mine produced (genuine) quite a few good samples some years ago. But recently there was quite a flood of highly lustrous wire silver which one should treat with suspicion. Particularly the specimens with very thin wires should be checked thoroughly. As Francis pointed out a (quite sophisticated) chemical test could yield a hint on natural or unnatural growth.

I will post a picture of an Imiter silver from my collection (tomorrow when back at my appartment) and i would be really interested in your opinion on that one ....

@ Jolyon ... the "german" discussion also went on Freiberg wire silver being possibly faked ...

And back to the cleaning topic .. it depends on the point of view: either the puristic view to preserve the actual paragenesis completely with no focus on the display of a minerals characteristic features that may be hidden by coatings etc. or one may want to reveal a minerals beauty which may include cleaning either mechanically or chemically to remove rust, stainings, clay, carbonates etc.

I think both views have their eligibility. If you look at Erongo, Namibia aquamarines for example... almost no specimen from there comes out of the pockets as you see them at the shows or museums, they are almost all treated with chemicals. Same with Okoruso fluorites etc etc. It depends on what you want: a good and typical aqua on white feldspar matrix (as it probably looked immediately after its formation) or a combo with limonite covered feldspar and some coated aquas on it.

This list could be continued almost endlessly ..

So if one is accepting the removal of limonite coatings from quartz or whatever crystals then one shouldn´t judge upon silver cleaning as being dishonest ... (and BTW the silver will most probably turn dull and blackish again after some time :D)

I know this is a bit of "black and white" exaggeration but without cleaning quite a big lot of some of the most beautiful specimens shown in museums would be far from being that attractive as they are now ...



29th Mar 2009 13:30 UTCJolyon Ralph Founder

If you search back on mindat messages you'll find various threads about fake silvers - the debate was started in the early 2000s when a large number of suspiciously good "classic" Himmelsfurst silvers came onto the market at once. Of course these things do happen (when someone's secret stockpile gets sold), but there were various suspicions as to the validity of them. The 'smoking gun' in this case was analysis of the silver which, on at least one sample, revealed it to be .9999 silver ("four nines") - which was apparently unheard of, at least in samples from the region.

Further work by Don Edwards in the UK (see MinRec letters around that time) showed how it was possible to grow silver wires artificially. The samples that Don created artificially at this time remind me very much of the material now labelled as Imiter.

The suspicion now is that material from Himmelsfurst was either artificially grown or (possibly) a smelter artifact (similar to the Polish 'zincite'). But I'm not an expert in this, I haven't tested this material myself, and as far as I know there's been no conclusive work carried out on this.

China and Morocco both have long and proud traditions in mineral fakery - if the moroccans can carve trilobites out of nothing then growing a few silver hairs is hardly beyond them. Could they be genuine? Possibly. But you and I can't tell. And for me that means it stays on the dealers shelf and not on mine.


29th Mar 2009 15:17 UTCRoger Lang Manager


i certainly do not deny that homegrown 8-) silver is on the market - of course i followed the discussions that rose up in the last years - and i agree with you that being prudent is essential. But my point is another one: to rule by a picture if sth. is fake or not - unless you see obviously dyed okenite etc. - seems to be very problematic for me as it may kind a "ruin" the reputation of a seller which he MAY not deserve (although his behaviour in this particular case doesn´t count for him).

I remember a Stiepelmann mine, Namibia specimen i offered a few years ago - got it with some others in a lot for not much money when i was in Namibia 2005 and at first sight had no reason to doubt anything about it. I was lucky that Ernst Schnaitmann, undoubtedly connoisseur of Namibian stuff, warned me by mail that the specimen could be faked as the paragenesis did not fit perfectly. So i soaked it with my all purpose glue dissolvant mixture: within 15 minutes it disintegrated to 4 (four!) parts that had been glued together. And believe me i always check minerals especially those for sale for any fakes, repairs or else - i hadn´t seen it before.

And as it was pointed out before: anyone of you who did not once get a fake or repair he did not recognize before buying it? Even old museum specimens are glued - just got a Stzregom smoky quartz with stilbite where the quartz was attached - it was an early 20th century specimen, from the 1930s probably or earlier. So one must not blame Chinese and Moroccans only - i have dealt with both chinese and moroccan sellers and it is like always in life .. there are such and such. First thing in mineral business is trust - it has to be earned. But also very reputable sellers are not immune against such things ...

So all i suggest is a very calm, objective commenting on such questions (except if it is against that Azeztulite scammers :(, bashing them is ok for me >:D<).



30th Mar 2009 17:47 UTCRoger Lang Manager

as announced my Imiter collection silver (at least one of them (:P) )

your opinions please .. i am quite convinced that this is a natural one.




30th Mar 2009 17:58 UTCMark Hammond

Looks like the real deal to me :)-D and very different to our eBay friends offerings

30th Mar 2009 19:02 UTCAlfredo Petrov Manager

Roger, that is a very beautiful specimen - perhaps the most aesthetic of all the native silvers from Imiter pictured on Mindat.

But, at the risk of sounding like a "wet blanket", I'm curious why you say you're "quite convinced this is a natural one"? What characteristics of form, or properties, convinced you?

30th Mar 2009 19:41 UTCFrank deWit Manager

A topic on how to make silver wires etc on the Fabre forum...

Cheers! Frank

30th Mar 2009 19:51 UTCRoger Lang Manager


i was under the impression of the actual discussion of course .... this specimen is not really an old one which are less suspected to be artificial, i got it in 2007 from a morocco specialist (no moroccan dealer). What i think is different to the most suspected specimens is

a) quite thick curls instead of thin pointy wires,

b) lack of extreme high lustre (but this is a cleaning issue i know)

c) silver all over the specimen in cavities and on front and back

d) no irridescent coatings at the curls base, no hint to thermal influence at all

and finally this one just does look genuine .. hard to tell why i say this but if you had it in your hands you would know what i mean.

Meanwhile i suspect at least one of the specimens i bought in another lot (this one was a single one) to maybe of artificial origin.

I´ll try to get pictures later and post if i find the time.

It is an "on the edge" topic i know but if this specimen is a fake i would stop collecting any silver specs ;-)



30th Mar 2009 19:54 UTCRoger Lang Manager

Hoi Frank,

these are NO wires .. these are thicker curls ..

that´s IMHO a big difference regarding the thermally induced growing technique



30th Mar 2009 20:29 UTCAlfredo Petrov Manager

Roger, you are probably right that thick wires would be much more difficult to fake than thin ones. I was at a lecture on natural silver wires once where the speaker claimed that thick wires of the Kongsberg type grew slowly, but that thin wires like the ones typical of Peru and Bolivia grow quite quickly, and that the slow-growing ones tend to incorporate more impurities, while the quickly growing type are essentially pure silver. So I decided only to spend money on very thick silver wires (beyond my budget) or else on thin ones that had druses of younger minerals growing on the silver, which would be harder to fake (although not impossible).



30th Mar 2009 20:52 UTCRoger Lang Manager


we should only collect those silvers :D

harder to fake



30th Mar 2009 21:09 UTCAlfredo Petrov Manager

You are certainly right, Roger!

I can't think of any way to fake that piece.

6th Apr 2009 21:12 UTCjonathan dempsey

To be fair to everyone here. Why doesnt someone have one of their specimens tested if they suspect it to be a fake silver. I have access to an electron microsope if that can help anyone..( I dont know if it can be determined from close analysis) However whatever specimen is submitted will be ruined by the process.. Any takers....

7th Apr 2009 22:03 UTCAlfredo Petrov Manager

The question, Jonathan, is whether your analyses could provide an answer. In the absence of reliable published analyses for real native silvers from the same locality, what would you compare the results to?

6th May 2009 16:23 UTCMark Hammond

Just a footnote to my "Cornish Silver" purchase.....PayPal have refunded my money! (:D I have also been contacted by another purchaser of one his "Moroccan Silvers", who has also put in a claim with PayPal, I wish him good luck, hope they make this joker pay....

6th May 2009 19:14 UTCDavid K. Joyce Expert


I must protest your comment that you " personnally, wouldn't touch any wire silver from anywhere at the moment". There are some natural wire silvers around! I have some nice small ones for sale, from Cobalt, Ontario, that I exchanged with a prominent museum, years ago. There is no question that they are natural. It should be possible to purchase such minerals from reputable, established dealers, especially if one is careful. Buy such things from e-bay or unknown people at your peril. Would you pay full price for a Rolex from a street vendor?

7th May 2009 16:28 UTCRob Woodside Manager

Good for you Dave!!! The problem is that these thin wires can occur naturally. Less confident collectors will steer clear, but if you know what you are doing, including knowledge of the dealer and source, there should be no problem. Yes silver specimens are expensive, but if someone you don't know is offering you a silver at a knock down price, beware!! Too many collectors, even ones who should know better, are too proud of geting a deal. "Sure it's got a few dings and no locality, but I can probably figure out the locality- it really does look unique and the price is right!" From a trusted dealer you get what you pay for and they'll tell you the truth.

7th May 2009 18:24 UTCAlfredo Petrov Manager

Rob, the best dealers will tell you what they THINK is the truth! But often they can't be sure. And their own sources are often wrong.

OK, I'm going to make a heretical statement: I actually think the frequent uncertainty involved in minerals (species ID, locality, amount available, etc.), is part of what makes this passion for rocks so much fun. If everything were "black and white", with no detective work necessary, it would be a lot less fun, and I'd probably be chasing mushrooms and butterflies in the jungle instead of minerals.

7th May 2009 22:07 UTCJesse Fisher Expert

I agree with you 100%, Alfredo. It is the search for knowledge and information about a specimen that I find particularly rewarding. Hunting up new information in the literature or perhaps a museum collection about a specimen or locality that I am interested in just makes the specimens more valuable to me. I am constantly surprised at how many collectors couldn't care less about this sort of thing.

17th Jun 2009 16:22 UTCSimone Citon Expert

Alfredo and Jesse and all, in this case I should like to dwell on the problem. It's not only what is certain and uncertain or true and false in the mineral collection, but what is right and wrong in the world. It is right that I work and make sacrifices to buy a mineral of which I was fascinated, and somewhere in the world there is someone who is making it with a cotton candy machine type, and laugh at me? I speak to steal money, state lies, cheat trusting people ...

I recently bought this stupefying sample from a dealer that is part of our mindat community and is certainly a serious and honest person. But after reading all this on mindat, having documented and have made several considerations without naivety, frankly I think both he and I have been cheated. I think definitely the problem must be deepened, so that no one is more cheated, and no one gains (many) money so easily and fraudulently. Is so top-secret this silver mine? Nobody knows how the material is extracted?

18th Jun 2009 03:57 UTCAlfredo Petrov Manager

Simone, Why do you feel so cheated? Do you have any particular reason to suspect that your beautiful specimen is faked?

Nobody here on this thread is claiming that all silver wires are artificially grown - probably only a small minority are. The question here is rather about how to distinguish natural from artificial ones, and that can sometimes be difficult. But if I were the owner of your piece, I certainly would not throw it away just because some silvers can be grown artificially. Even if your specimen were fake (which nobody is claiming to be the case), it would still have intrinsic metal value and artistic value, and even scientific value as a model for silver wire growth. Gold crystals and gold nuggets are also sometimes faked - unfortunately I haven't found any of those in the trash yet either!

What I find interesting and challenging in all this controversy is the development of tests and clues for distinguishing natural from fake. Look at the world of multi-million dollar paintings and their collectors: A lot of effort goes into making fake reproductions of the work of famous masters, but that does not prevent people from collecting paintings! It does encourage research though.
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