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Fakes & FraudsHave the reverse-skeletal Madan galenas been faked?

26th Oct 2009 12:37 GMTPatrick Haynes (2) Expert

I have always suspected that the reverse-skeletal galenas we have been seeing from Madan, Bulgaria had been manufactured by "sandblasting" existing specimens. I expected to see only an initial few, but now they seem to be at every show. Other opinions?

26th Oct 2009 13:27 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

I think they're highly suspicious. Just to clarify, we're talking about skeletal galenas where the forms look irregular and rounded, as if the insides of the crystal are dissolved, and not those where they have clearly crystallized in a sharp skeletal form.

I have had dealers tell me that they trust their sources and believe they are genuine, but Rock Currier was able to replicate one of these specimens by taking a Michigan Galena and 'sandblasting' the centers of each cube. I'll let him explain more about what he did.

The eastern european mineral suppliers aren't short of a trick or two - we've had fake realgars and of course the fake smoky quartzes from Romania, so it doesn't surprise me one bit that some enterprising miner could have been fabricating these things in a hut somewhere and selling them on to unsuspecting mineral dealers.

Proper analysis should be able to determine whether the structures are caused by physical abrasion or chemical etching.

One does wonder what chemical conditions could etch the insides of DIFFERENT SIZED galena crystals on the same specimen at the rates required to leave just the perfect outside shell!!!


26th Oct 2009 16:00 GMTJasun D. McAvoy Expert

For what its worth, I have wondered the same thing. A good friend and someone who has been very active in the hobby for decades told me that he actually witnessed one being created. It was not the total creation of a fine specimen, but rather a demonstration to simply show that indeed it could be done and how it could be done. I was told that the results were very similar to the specimens being sold. That being said, I have seen a few specimens that really impressed me in that, if they were created, they would have had to been done with a VERY skilled hand in a way that seemed nearly impossible to do because of multiple crystals/clusters/orientations etc.

When I spoke to one dealer from Bulgaria a few years ago in Tucson he told me that they were from an old, one time find and had been stowed away for years and that this was the ONLY source of this material known. This to me, would be the kind of story you'd need for faked specimens. Otherwise we should know about its exact source, who is producing the material and see examples of it in situ. Does anyone know more about the story behind these pieces?

26th Oct 2009 19:02 GMTJoseph Polityka Expert


I have had suspicions from the day I first saw these specimens. They are just too symmetrical and too clean to be natural. I was offered some of these specimens and turned them down because they seemed questionable and, frankly, are way overpriced for what they are.



26th Oct 2009 19:17 GMTRock Currier Expert

I was one of several people that were instantly suspicious of these cavernous galenas when I first saw them. As soon as I got the chance I made one on a small air abrasive unit I had. They are simple to make if you have a small air abrasive tool and a galena cube. Use glass beads and about 80 psi air and in about ten or 15 minutes you can make one of your own. Other friends of mine also were able to duplicate these types of specimens. One made a very attractive one using octahedral galena from Sweetwater, Missouri. Another, only as a lark, using carborundum grit made a nice one out of fluorite. I suspect that we will see these coming to market soon from eastern Europe as soon as the idea occurs to them. Use diamond powder and I suspect you could make them out of spinel octahedrons if you wished. There are a lot of possibilities. But like the new spectacular wire silvers from Germany, it is not easy to prove that they are definitely fakes. I for myself, would not want one in my collection except as a joke to show friends. For specimens like this shown on Mindat, at the very least there should be inserted a comment that some knowledgeable people suggest that you take into consideration that they might be fakes at least until such time that they can definitely be proved to be natural.

26th Oct 2009 19:49 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

I agree with Rock's implication that, in cases like this, the burden of proof is on the suppliers. As Jolyon sometimes says, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". (Hope I'm not misquoting you, Jolyon.) It's not up to us to prove fakery, the suppliers should prove natural origin. (Samples before cleaning? Samples in situ? Samples with secondary minerals growing on the etched parts?)

26th Oct 2009 19:59 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

The "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" statement was from Carl Sagan (and possibly others before him). He used it when discussing things such as UFOs. These odd galenas may not quite be in the same category of incredulity as UFOs but I don't think they're far off.


26th Oct 2009 20:36 GMTBri Dragonne

Is this : what we are talking about? (I am not stating that this is person's Galena is a fake, just asking a question...)

I do gem carving and I personally (Given the right blasting equipment) could make something similar.

One thing that strikes me as odd is that it seems that the whole exposed surface of the material is the exact same texture and lustre.

It also seems odd that the weathering shows the Galena 'layers',.

'One does wonder what chemical conditions could etch the insides of DIFFERENT SIZED galena crystals on the same specimen at the rates required to leave just the perfect outside shell!!! '

This also is probably the best point that has been made.

I too wondered about this...

If one has a crystal that is quite large and 65% of the inside of the crystal is removed, how does it happen that a crystal that would fill this 65% of space inside this larger crystal also has about 65% of the inside removed...?


26th Oct 2009 20:39 GMTBri Dragonne

I would also like to point out that one can mask whatever it is that they do not want sand blasted or chemically etched.

So, with a good imagination and patience, you could achieve some remarkable things... :D

26th Oct 2009 21:34 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

Yes, Bri.

That's the sort of thing we're talking about.

Here's a better example:

This shows what i'm talking about with smaller and larger cubes, all etched to a relatively constant amount, I'm not sure how that can be explained through any natural phenomena!

And another...

I hope that Rob won't feel I'm singling him out here. MANY other dealers have had these, it's just unfortunate that his photos were handy here.


26th Oct 2009 21:44 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

As for the galena 'layers' in the 'weathering', it's because of the good cleavage of galena, and another excellent pointer that the cause of this effect was mechanical rather than chemical etching.


26th Oct 2009 21:46 GMTRoger Lang Manager


please show a photo of those mentioned air abrasive fakes ... IMHO it would be VERY difficult to create a specimen like Bri referred to. The Madan area is known for very interesting and in great parts VERY skeletal galena habits .. most may be treated with phosphoric or anything else to get lustre back but i have a specimen in my collection which i wouldn´t have thought of being man-made as it seems very hard for me to achieve clean crystallographic features with an air gun. I have to admit that my specimen is a cluster of highly lustrous skeletal gonderbach twins on highly lustrous quartz (which should be affected with glass bead air abrasive) and this may be different to the specs you mention but this may be a similar discussion to the Imiter silver.

And i am more convinced that Imiter silver can be faked more easily .... show me a definitely man made galena of this kind pls,



26th Oct 2009 21:57 GMTKnut Eldjarn Manager

Hi Jolyon,

I am glad you state that you only use Rob`s photos because he has been so generous in uploading photos to Mindat. I know Rob is very particular with the identity and background of the specimens he is selling, but as you have stated these specimens have been handled by a number of dealers also before being offered by Rob Lavinsky.

The idea of them being manmade is very intriguing and can explain why they do not have any alteration which would be expected if found in clay as the story goes. I believe the water in the clay would react with the galena forming secondary minerals in the outer layers of the crystals. Such alterations are quite common on chuncks of galena left in clay and soil on dumps of old mines proving that they form quite fast. IOf later removed by cleaning the specimens these secondary minerals would leave corroded and pitted surfaces on the galena. Another suspicious thing is the fact that at first they seemed to be quite rare - then suddenly more of them turn up. There are similarities to the way native wire silver specimens from Germany and Marrocco emerged on the market. And just like these silvers, the Bulgarian specimens show great uniformity in associated minerals. This is unlike i.e. native silver specimens from China or Kongsberg where habits and associates are much more variable. It would be very interesting if somebody could throw more light on this subject.


26th Oct 2009 22:05 GMTRoger Lang Manager

Perhaps we should ask some conoisseurs like Tomek (Tomasz Praszkier, he´s a mindater also) from Spirifer Geological Society ... he knows the area quite well i think,



26th Oct 2009 22:08 GMTBri Dragonne

Knut also makes a good point a good point about the weathering mechanism producing secondary minerals.

You would expect to see that if these secondary minerals were dissolved, we would see some pocked-marked surfaces.

26th Oct 2009 22:18 GMTRoger Lang Manager

I disagree

the skeletal growth may be due to changes in the composition/saturation, etc of the hydrothermal solutions ... secondaries are formed later by far in most cases

26th Oct 2009 22:30 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

Roger - I do hope you're not just trying to believe something because you have a specimen!

The only way to be sure is to do some research. Someone needs to come up with a credible natural explanation that covers the formation of these, I'm sure it should be pretty easy to telll abraded galena from naturally deposited stuff.

I really hope they are natural. But it seems too suspicious right now to just be a happy believer.

Innocent until proven guilty doesn't count in science. The only proper way to approach it is to assume it's a suspicious unless proven natural.


26th Oct 2009 22:49 GMTAnonymous User

Why not look at it under SEM? Would natural etching be differentiable from a mechanically abraded specimen?

Also, how would such a natural etching mechanism occur? Is it not easier for chemicals to attack the exterior (especially corners) where there is more contact surface for the volume?

26th Oct 2009 22:53 GMTRoger Lang Manager


nope i do not .. my specimen is way different (will post it when done photos and you will see why ;-) ).. but i did some research on hydrothermal deposits before (during my long time gone university career as an ore geologist) and until now here was no clue/evidence etc given to be those fakes .. i have seen many formations by changing of hydrotherms so in dubio pro reo for me .. until Rock doesn´t show me a photo of a man made galena like this i am more into the natural origin. And you know that i am aware of fakes. I definitely won´t rule out a man made origin .. but for me hard to achieve (not mentioned the possible chemical treatment to regain lustre which is common).



26th Oct 2009 23:05 GMTRoger Lang Manager

I missed some posts while typing :-) ... the fact that the galena mentioned is that lustrous may be very likely due to a chemical treatment ... just saw Jolyons example links of Rob.

27th Oct 2009 00:22 GMTBri Dragonne

I think a way to settle this would be so take one of these specimens and give it a good, thorough wash in a clean ultrasonic cleaner.

Then, pour out the water or whatnot and see what residue is left.

Take the residue and examine it under a microscope and see if we get any micro-abrasive material

I sincerely doubt that they could do this with a blaster and not leave at least a few particles of micro-abrasive.

If none was found at all, it would be interesting.

But the evidence, even if the specimen was previously cleaned, should still come out if cleaned and the residue examined.

Just an idea.

27th Oct 2009 10:14 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

It's an interesting idea Bri, but assumes no-one else has cleaned it in an ultrasonic before. It also doesn't rule out the possibility that they were genuine natural skeletal crystals encased in a hard clay where an abrasive tool was used to clean it out.

The only way I think its to examine the surfaces at high magnification looking for signs of abrasive damage as opposed to either chemical etching or natural growth patterns. They should all be fairly easy to differentiate.


27th Oct 2009 11:09 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

Here are a couple of articles regarding natural skeletal galena from Bulgaria. Note that none of the forms in these articles in any way resemble the hollowed cubes we see in the photos before.

As I said in my very first message in this thread, we need to be careful to distinguish between what are clearly genuine galena forms (such as those shown in the PDF) and those hollowed-out cubes we're discussing.


27th Oct 2009 16:50 GMTEvan M. Johnson

Does anyone have access to this paper?

Transition from Isometric to Skeletal Crystal Shapes

V. Tonchev, Prof. Dr. Chr. N. Nanev

Institute of Physical Chemistry Bulgarian Academy of Sciences acad. G. Bonchev, bl. 11 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria

Of all the places the authors could have been from....


27th Oct 2009 17:26 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Let's be clear that these features are etch or erosion features (artificial or not), not skeletal growth. You can't have skeletal growth only on edges, without a center. So the fact that very skeletal galenas exist in Bulgaria is irrelevant to this discussion.

27th Oct 2009 17:43 GMTEvan M. Johnson

I actually meant it somewhat jokingly. Still, a funny coincidence.

As for the differential etching of large versus small crystals, wouldn't that be because it's the surface area that's the relevant feature in determining the rate of etching? So, a big cavity would also tend to etch outward more quickly?


27th Oct 2009 19:00 GMTBarry Miller

Helpful info. or irrelevant?

27th Oct 2009 20:51 GMTDominik Schläfli Expert

dissolution of a hoppered crystal could produce unexpected forms

photos of pristine galena from the same location show some hollows in crystals

this sample

could be some intermediary stage of dissolution. while still manufacturable, the inclusion of the large steps in the hoppered face is more complicated to realise and hints at a certain level of sophistication. The galena on the left looks quite natural.

Stepped faces are found there:

2nd Nov 2009 00:56 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

I've just come back from Munich where I haad an opportunity to look at a lot of specimens close-up, including some of these skeletal galenas and also a lot more pieces of different forms of galena from the same deposit.

I also got to talk to a few people about these unusual shapes to get opinions on whether they could have a natural origin, and between us we were able to postulate some vague yet plausible reason that could explain why small cubes and large cubes both ended up with frameworks of a similar thickness, seemingly impossible. Basically, imagine galena cubes growing, and during final growth phase, chemistry changes a little (maybe a little more/less Ag, or something else). Then conditions change and the galena is etched away, but the final stage which would be a layer of similar thickness on all cubes, is more resistant. If the crystals were hopper crystals to begin with, it could explain very easily how these skeletal cubes came about.

Having spent quite some time on this during the Munich show, I have to say I am changing my view now, and I'm more convinced now that they are genuinely natural phenomena. They are certainly worthy of some decent research however to identify the method of formation, because they're unusual!

I also spoke to one of the main bulgarian dealers who handles these things, who wants to send photos that will help convince people they are natural. I also took some photos myself of galenas at the show, on some of the pieces normal galena shows some of the strange stepped patterns we saw in the skeletal cubes and we thought might be because of abrasion loosening particles along lines of cleavage. On closer examination it looks very much more like a growth feature (or an etching/recrystallization feature) than anything physical.

So... if you were about to throw out your skeletal galenas in disgust, wait a moment, they're probably fine after all!


ps. of course, the story is far from over. More research is needed, they are fascinating things.

2nd Nov 2009 02:55 GMTAndrew Tuma Expert

Jolyon, really good investigative comments,

I didn't want to say too much during the early discussion as I have not had the opportunity to see one in real life - one of the pleasures of living at the ends of the earth, but I am always careful to discredit an occurrence without investigation. Lets accept that one of geological/mineralogical situations do occur, how many minerals are currently found only in one location??

Sadly, we now live in a world where there are many people trying to fraudulently remove money from the pockets of naive "rich" people from economically developed nations. Fakes, being of natural history, cultural, atistic etc are one of the many methods used by occupants in underdeveloped countries to "fleece" the unsuspecting.

The result is that any specimen that has unusual color, habitat, associations etc tends to be immediately viewed as a fake, without extensive research to verify these claims. I always thought that we allowed innocence before proving guilt, appears not in these cases - though one has to admit to a fair bit of previous "form" from these countries.

A am sure that if Tasmania was in an eastern european, asian country, etc, some of the minerals specimens we see from the west of Tasmania would also be questioned...

Lets keep an open mind and do the investigations, otherwise we may miss the pleasure of something very rare or unusual due to our cynicism.

Andrew Tuma

4th Nov 2009 19:28 GMTMarcus Grossmann

Interesting discussion.

By all respect for Rock Currier I can definitely not agree with his arguments.

It is no argument if somebody claims that he knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody with a sandblasting machine and that is the fact that the galenas must be fakes.

I know nobody with a sandblasting machine, but I have several skelettal galenas in my private collection. And most of these specimens consist of several attached skelettal crystals, you can never cast by sandblasting. All the edges of my specimens do not have round faces, but stepped faces, which you also can never cast by sandblasting in my opinion.

And to the end, there are small tiny quartz crstals on some of these edges, which you destroy immediately by sandblasting.

To make a long story short - these facts convince me so far, that at least my skelettal galenas are not man made.

Best regards,

Marcus Grossmann

4th Nov 2009 20:20 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Marcus, Rock actually made one from a Tristate galena, so this is not hearsay. If you were more familar with airblasting, you would know that it can be very accurately directed thus preserving the edges and any quartz xls that might have grown there. Why are there none of these quartz xls on the cavernous parts of the galena? What I find troubling are the cleavage steps that are evident in the photos. If there were other species growing in the cavernous regions then you would have proof that these are not fabricated. As with the stringy Ag wires that can occur naturally or be lab grown, these galenas might be real or air blasted. I think the question hinges on whether the cavernous regions show cleavage steps or xl faces. A good photomicrograph should tell the tale.

4th Nov 2009 21:47 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder


As you know from my earlier messages I was pretty convinced before I went to Munich that these things must be fakes. But having looked more at samples of these and other specimens, I don't think the stepped effect was caused by cleavage but is a growth pattern. I think these things have had multiple periods of growth, selective dissolution and regrowth, which is why you see some other specimens from this area that look like 'melted' galenas. I saw a small 20 euro specimen of normal crystalline galena at Munich from the bulgarian mines, and on the back was an area that looked like it had been melted and showed the characteristic stepped effect you see in the skeletal crystals. Here's a photo of it

There's no way this piece was sandblasted, so I have to accept the stepped patterns in the galenas are almost certainly natural. And if that is natural, then it makes it far more likely that these skeletal galenas are also natural.


4th Nov 2009 22:00 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Thanks Jolyon. Not having any examples myself I should probably keep my mouth shut and my mind open. The only melted galena I'm familiar with are the rare Nanasivik pieces, none of which showed the cleavages or growth features. I hope you were able to afford that piece or at least get a photo of it. Until there is found some other mineral overgrowing the caverous regions or a photomicrograph shows xl faces from dissolution, I'll maintain my doubts. There is still the possibilty that some are real and some fabricated. It would be interesting to compare photomicrograghs of what Rock created and a purported real one.

4th Nov 2009 22:06 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Thanks for the photo. You added it while I was typing! You are right, that was not airblasted!!! However the growth lines are more ragged than in the usual cavernous areas. So some may be real and some improved?

4th Nov 2009 23:01 GMTRoger Lang Manager

Hi all,

glad that Jol posted his comment(s) .. and also glad that my old school understanding of precipitation/dissloution etc. in hydrothermal systems doesn´t seem to be that wrong - as i wrote earlier the composition of solutions/saturation/temperature etc may affect already crystallized individues in strange ways ... maybe our thermodynamic cracks here can explain the selective solution of faces and edges more sophisticated. But i am still waiting for Rock´s picture of a hand-crafted specimen of that kind. I would consider this very interesting although i am still convinced (and after Jols comments much more) that these Madan specs are natural. Regarding the sand-blasting: IMHO one could only save quartz etc. with baking soda or dolomite abrasive .. with glass (beads) or quartz it would be very hard to selectively blast such parageneses.

BTW Jol, hope you had a good time and good beer in Munich,



7th Nov 2009 14:51 GMTRyan L. Bowling


I saw in the Munich report, that because there are quartz crystals inside the galena crystals, you are leaning toward the fact that they are real. I am not a deposition expert, but the galenas were deposited secondary to the quartz crystals in the pocket.

With that said, it is really quite easy to remove galena, without damaging the quartz crystals inside. As Rock described in his air abrasion technique, this is quite a simple process.

This is a good discussion thread.



7th Nov 2009 15:12 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder


The quartz crystals are not the reason that I believe they are natural. It is a combination of other factors.


7th Nov 2009 16:41 GMTJames McGuire

I don't have one of these Madan "reverse-skeletal" form galenas, and they apparently do not exist from any other site in the world. I have only paid attention to pictures of them, but remain unconvinced. Are there any conclusively could not have been "manufactured" via air abrasion? This might include (1) minerals growing on top of the skeletal galena (not underneath the galena, as Ryan noted); (2) very small skeletal galenas that could not be the result of air abrasion techniques (there must be such a size limit); (3) galenas in small cavities where it would be impossible/impractical to air abrade them; or (4) galenas collected in situ in the "reverse skeletal" form. Others have hinted that they might have specimens that could not have been faked. I would be quite interested to see some of these.

Also, regarding the theory that these are partially dissolved hopper-growth crystals: is it not still a stretch to call upon what is described as a growth phenomenon (the "stepped" galena crystal) to explain a morphology which is theorized to be the result of dissolution processes?

7th Nov 2009 17:04 GMTJoseph Polityka Expert


This is another interesting discussion on MINDAT.

I think we should watch out for a continuing supply appearing on the market. If this is a one time find, not many will be coming on the market in the future unless they are being hoarded. Jolyon's photo of a specimen featured at the Munich show, which had quartz crystals growing inside a cavity, is positive evidence that these coud be real. If a specimen comes on the market with a fragile mineral like calcite, barite, etc. growing in a cavity, then that would be absolute proof that they are genuine.



7th Nov 2009 17:28 GMTMatt Neuzil Expert

well while there are ways to have "proof" I think any absolute proof would only come in a video of the discover. Without it we are only lead to believe that this old, one time find is real. There is proof and then there is proof.

7th Nov 2009 17:38 GMTRyan L. Bowling


I assure you this, as I can tell you it can be done. Here is a photo of a galena from the Blanchard Mine in New Mexico, great etching patterns, done in 10 minutes.

Joe, you make a good point about softer minerals inside the cavity, although I have yet to see this occurance.


Here is an example that I have an issue with, if there is solution etching in the pocket or distorted growth, why do some of these galena crystals on the piece have little distortion?



7th Nov 2009 18:06 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

Ok Ryan,

Thanks for taking the time to do the experiment - this is exactly what we needed to see - proof that similar material can be created artificially.

While it's impossible to say for certain right now, your experiment has swung things firmly back towards the possibility that they are faked.

What an exciting thread this is turning out to be.


7th Nov 2009 19:18 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Ryan, I love your first photo with the inserted quartz xl that proves these are real!!! The next step is to insert one with non fluorescent glue!!! Your observation of the paragenesis in your earlier post is quite telling. Now I am more puzzled by Joyon's photo than these cavernous Galenas, but I suspect the luck of a fracture produced it.

7th Nov 2009 19:20 GMTDominik Schläfli Expert

Other minerals within the cavities could have developed before the galena, and been subsequently freed by whatever process created the cavity.

7th Nov 2009 19:39 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Good point Dominik. Ryan please replace the quartz xl with a calcite crystal, then it will be real. As with my allusion to non flourescent glues, the danger here, as with any fakes, is that once the faker knows of an objection specimens will appear that meet the objection. I think these are great mineral art!!!

7th Nov 2009 20:15 GMTRyan L. Bowling


I did not insert any quartz crystal in any of the photos, I think that what you see is the hollowing out of the crystal, or your comment is in jest. The matrix is classic Blanchard Mine quartz crystals.


7th Nov 2009 20:47 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Sorry Ryan, I got the impression from your posting and photos that the quartz xl in the first had been inserted in a xl of your second photo. In the absence of any soft xl overgrowing the caverns, one has to look at photomicrographs to see if these are cleavages or dissolution features.

edit. The first two photos look like Banchard material and thinking the quartz was inserted the fakery seemed obvious and when that happens I get sarcastic. At least your experiment vitiated the claim than any quartz would be blown away in the cavities. Until something soft is found in the Bulgarian cavities, one could assume that the paragenesis was Galena, quartz, dissolution. Still the difference between cleavage and dissolution should be obvious under the scope.

7th Nov 2009 22:47 GMTJames McGuire

Very interesting, Ryan. Thanks for posting the pictures!

8th Nov 2009 13:28 GMTRobert Rothenberg

I have been following this thread with interest having seen some of these at Springfield. Jolyon's photo reminded me of some micro specimens I have in my collection. These are from Cornwall, England, and date back to at least the late 1800's (having been part of John Frederick Calvert's collection - he died in 1897). The crystals are about 3 mm, and the material associated is Sphalerite (no photo) and Baryte. In DSCN 6136, the Baryte is visible on the side. It is in perfect condition - no scratches, etc. I suppose something harder than Galens and softer than Baryte could have been used to abrade the crystals, but it seems bizarre to do so with micro material.


8th Nov 2009 14:13 GMTBri Dragonne


I think one of the differences between your specimens and the skeletal Galena is that there is a more rounded form to your specimens than what I have seen so far with the skeletal Galena.

Your specimens just look 'Right'.

I think if we got quite good shots of the stepping patterns in the skeletal Galena, it would show that the 'steps' are actually of a much more ragged appearance than your specimens.

8th Nov 2009 14:54 GMTDavid Von Bargen Manager

Bob, your crystals show growth hillocks and possible hopper development (these are growth features). The Mandan specimens would have had to develop by dissolution.

8th Nov 2009 20:23 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Thanks so much Robert. As Bri and David say these are honest growth features, quite different than the Bulgarian caverns. Could some please post photomicrographs of the Bulgarian material?

9th Nov 2009 18:19 GMTJohn Betts

I believe the faked galenas are easily identified with a good microscope. The skeletal crystals that have been microabraded very clearly show rounded, dull surfaces the result of abrasive action. The genuine (I believe) show distinct growth-layers that are sharp and well defined.

9th Nov 2009 18:27 GMTSteve Hardinger Expert

One idea that seems to be absent from this thread is this: just because the appearance of these galenas can be mimicked by man (or woman or air blaster) does not mean the Bulgarian specimens are or are not fakes. Metaphor: I can grow diamonds in the lab, so all 'natural' diamonds are fakes?

Because no one I know of has the photographic equipment (or lifetime) to actually observe the galena growth or etching it situ, I believe the most definitive evidence will be a photo of the specimens in question in situ.

Until such a photo surfaces, I'm inclined to believe these specimens to be fakes. And I suspect because we've shown the world how easily they can be made, they will appear in quantity at Tucson, perhaps with a Chinese locality label.

9th Nov 2009 19:28 GMTJoseph Polityka Expert


As I stated in an earlier post, when I see some calcite, dolomite, siderite, barite or other fragile minerals nesting in those voids, I will cast aside my doubts and accept that they are natural.



9th Nov 2009 21:00 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Steve, as I pointed out earlier in this thread some of these galenas may be real and some faked, like the stringy wire silvers. As I and others have pointed out, a good microscope will tell if the lines in the galena are due to growth or cleavage. An in situ photo can be easily faked by mere careful placement of well carved galenas. Air abrasion will not produce micros and the remnants of growth hillocks. The presence of bas relief or the presence of soft minerals in the caverns would prove reality as well as. The fact that none of the Bulgarian galenas show any bas relief should raise a lot of red flags.

I suspect the appearance of this thread will decrease the further appearance of such specimens giving credence to those who claimed this is an old one time find.

11th Nov 2009 18:22 GMTReiner Mielke Expert

I find it odd that dissolution would favour the center of the cube faces. Seems to me that dissolution would be more rapid at the edges and corners resulting in a round crystal rather than a hollow one.

12th Nov 2009 03:02 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

I agree, Reiner. That's one of the reasons I was first suspicious too. But Jolyon has come up with a possible mechanism to explain it: Imagine a hopper-faced galena that changed composition as it grew, with the older growth (the center of the crystal) being less resistant to dissolution than the younger growth (the skeletal edges). This might be theoretically possible, but personally I'm still skeptical. I'll believe in the natural origin when I see one that has its "tunnel" entrances blocked by quartz or other minerals making it difficult to point a microabrasive pen through it, or a specimen with younger and softer minerals growing in the cavities, but I'm trying to keep an open mind (although a friend told me our brains will fall out if our minds are too open). :)

12th Nov 2009 15:42 GMTReiner Mielke Expert

I cannot understand the concept of "older" and "younger" when it comes to skeltal growth, only slower and faster. Seems to me that the more rapidly growing edges would also be the least stable and more likely to dissolve than the slower growing centre.

12th Nov 2009 16:39 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

The crystal starts growing from a point, so that's the oldest part, now in the center (currently vanished on the Madan specimens). Material added to the exterior is of necessity later (younger). This is complicated if different stages of growth had different compositions. Although theoretically the composition is just PbS, traces of other elements can distort the structure - like Sb, Ag, Tl, etc. - and that might result in different rates of dissolution in a compositionally zoned hopper crystal. Hypothetical. Maybe there are already studies of trace element variation during growth of Madan galenas? (Note that I'm not suggesting this is what actually happened, just presenting one possibility about how the observed crystal habit could have come about naturally if these things ever get shown to be natural, for which no evidence has yet been presented.)

12th Nov 2009 17:25 GMTKen Doxsee

Throwing another thought into the fray --- might not screw dislocations, evidenced by spiral features on crystal surfaces, lead to preferential dissolution of material from the spirals rather than the edges of the cube. If we look at "normal" galena crystals from the area, are screw dislocations common?? --Ken

12th Nov 2009 17:33 GMTJames McGuire

Alfredo Petrov Wrote:


> The crystal starts growing from a point, so that's

> the oldest part, now in the center (currently

> vanished on the Madan specimens). Material added

> to the exterior is of necessity later (younger).

> This is complicated if different stages of growth

> had different compositions. Although theoretically

> the composition is just PbS, traces of other

> elements can distort the structure - like Sb, Ag,

> Tl, etc. - and that might result in different

> rates of dissolution in a compositionally zoned

> hopper crystal. Hypothetical. Maybe there are

> already studies of trace element variation during

> growth of Madan galenas? (Note that I'm not

> suggesting this is what actually happened, just

> presenting one possibility about how the observed

> crystal habit could have come about naturally if

> these things ever get shown to be natural, for

> which no evidence has yet been presented.)

The Madan galenas linked earlier in this thread all have voids at the center. Wouldn't the oldest part of the crystal need to nucleate on something? It seems very unlikely that the center represents the oldest part of these galena crystals.

12th Nov 2009 18:37 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Ken, I'm not sure what sprial features you are referring to. Dislocations can usually only be seen on the atomic level.

So James, since "It seems very unlikely that the center represents the oldest part of these galena crystals", how do you think these xls started, independently at the same time exactly a whole number of atoms apart, from 8 corners or 12 edges or some combination, all cm apart???

12th Nov 2009 18:45 GMTJames McGuire

Rob, I suspect that the crystals would have nucleated on a pre-existing surface.

12th Nov 2009 19:01 GMTRob Woodside Manager

From edges or corners with no jackstrawing or parallel growth???

12th Nov 2009 19:16 GMTJames McGuire

Rob, I'm not sure I could tell you that (especially without having examined any of the these pieces in person). I merely expressed an opinion that the voids in the center of the Madan galenas do not seem to be the oldest part.

12th Nov 2009 19:18 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Fair enough, I haven't seen one either. Crystal growth is still a black art. I find the skeletal mm sized gold octos from Eagles Nest puzzling. Occasionally one is quite equant, but there is a lot of associated parallel growth. When galena grows fast (presumably) there is usually herring bone dendrites and these skeletel things are only known from Medan.

12th Nov 2009 19:29 GMTReiner Mielke Expert

I still see no reason why older parts should be more easily dissolved than younger parts, unless there was some compositional variation with time that made the older parts more soluble, which I guess is possible. Seems to me that one assumption is that the younger stuff is insoluble rather than just less soluble. That to me seems unlikely since experiments on solubility of Galena do not indicate that impurities are an important factor in solubility ( at least that aspect seems to have been ignored by researchers so I am assuming it is not significant).

As such, I would expect to at least see some rounding of the corners and edges, which I do not see in the samples in question. Of course I guess one could argue that the situation then reversed itself and the sharp edges and corners represent a new period of hopper growth. These crystals would ceratinly make an interesting study for some graduate student. However, it wouldn't surprise me if we started to see similiar stuff coming out of China or Poland soon, or is this stuff already coming out of Poland? 8-) Come to think of it, the possibilities are endless, hollow calcite crystals would be cool! How about hollow apophyllite crystals from India ( damn now I've given them an idea on what to do with all their apophyllite).:D

12th Nov 2009 19:32 GMTKen Doxsee

Rob - I was referring to growth spirals like this one on graphite. (Scroll down to the 10-3 m photo in this link.)

Growth Spiral


12th Nov 2009 20:02 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Thanks Ken, The 10-3 and even the 10-6 m ones pictured there are unusual. I haven't yet seen any such evidence on these Medan pieces. Photomicrographs would be welcome.

Reiner, now we'll know who to blame if such mineral art starts showing up!!! I think it was Steno's second law from the 17th century that surfaces with the largest area grew the slowest. The exsolved fluorite corners I think are supposed to reflect a time dependant compositional growth, that might indicate the cube faces filled in last. However I think your suggestion that impurities to inhibited the dissolution preferentially attached to the corners makes more sense.My objection was that all xls start from a single pointlike region so the central material is the earliest. If the central material is absent then it was either carved or dissolved out. The skeletal gold octos all have a central region.

12th Nov 2009 21:31 GMTDominik Schläfli Expert

Instead of positing compositional variations, the absence of center could be explained if the skeletal growth resulted in the final layers on the cube edges reaching a much greater thickness than the centers. Undissolved skeletal galena from the area shows some candidates:

some appear to have deep hollows:

This one is intriguing

the back side shows a hollow cube not far from a pristine cuboctahedron. This is almost like double crossing in espionnage:

- a naive diligent manufacturer would not have left a single crystal untreated

- a naive careless manufacturer could have let it slip

- a smart manufacturer would have left the cuboctahedron there, as it is not unusual in nature for conditions to vary across short distances, as evidenced by the difference in habit.

12th Nov 2009 21:36 GMTReiner Mielke Expert

Got this from Wikipedia so not sure how correct it is but:

Rate of dissolution

The rate of dissolution depends on:

• nature of the solvent and solute

• temperature (and to a small degree pressure)

• degree of undersaturation

• presence of mixing

• interfacial surface area

• presence of inhibitors (e.g., a substance absorbed on the surface).

The rate of dissolution can be often expressed by the equation of the form:

where: dm/dt = A*D/d *( Cs - Cb )

m - amount of dissolved material, kg

t - time, seconds
A - surface area of the interface between the dissolving substance and the solvent, m2

D - diffusion coefficient, m2/s

d - thickness of the boundary layer of the solvent at the surface of the dissolving substance, m

Cs - concentration of the substance on the surface, kg/m3

Cb - concentration of the substance in the bulk of the solvent, kg/m3

For dissolution limited by diffusion, Cs is equal to the solubility of the substance.

The dissolution rate vary by orders of magnitude between different systems. Usually, substances exhibiting low solubility exhibit also low dissolution rates.

Seems to me that the surface of the edges and corners of a hopper crystal are greater than the center of the crystal, thus according to the equation the rate of dissolution should be greatest at the corners and edges shouldn't it?

12th Nov 2009 21:41 GMTKen Doxsee

Reiner - This is why I raised the issue of spiral growth features (or, more generally, defect-type structures on the surfaces) - these types of growth features and/or defect sites can represent relatively unstable sites of a crystal, and could potentially be more subject to dissolution than the more obvious corners and edges. The jury's still clearly out on these particular galenas, though, so don't assume I am convinced they are natural! --Ken

12th Nov 2009 21:47 GMTDominik Schläfli Expert

Reiner, it's even worse than A) that if you consider the geometry and diffusion . The edges and vertices see a much larger portion of the solid angle, and transfer to and from the edges to the solvent occurs at a higher rate than for large flat surfaces or cavities. Thats also the driver for skeletal growth.

to illustrate:

But if under certain conditions you can get pronounced skeletal growth, and under other conditions you can get more "spherical" growth, you could also imagine the same for dissolution: dissolution that would be the reverse of skeletal growth, and dissolution conditions that would be the reverse of spherical growth. If the crystal grew skeletal and dissolved spherical, you would not return neatly to the initial conditions.

This is just my intuition, nothing more.

12th Nov 2009 21:48 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

James wrote: "...the voids in the center of the Madan galenas do not seem to be the oldest part."

That's precisely the point of suspicion here, James. A cubic crystal would (generally) grow at similar speeds in all directions; fast growth on the edges leads to hopper-faced or skeletal crystals. The center, or close to it, was where growth started and that part is now missing. The remaining cavity is not a growth feature, it's a dissolution feature or a mechanical removal feature, depending on whether you follow the natural etching theory or the human fabrication theory. Either way, they most certainly didn't grow in the shape you see them today!

12th Nov 2009 23:34 GMTBri Dragonne

It would seem to be that the answer is likely 'And' :

I believe that there is natural material of this like AND fabricated ones.

One of the examples shown by Jolyon (Though it was later edited out with a different photo) looks right.

It may be that a few natural ones were found, sold for quite a lot of money and then came the 'Eureka!' moment where people saw the huge prices (Relative to the average Galena specimens from there) and decided that if a few natural ones were good, many more fabricated ones to sell at that price are even better.

When I look at the amounts being asked for ones that I still believe are fabricated (In terms of having the right look to them visually), it certainly does make it worth the time to make good forgeries of the original material.

This of course is just a scenario but one that I am thinking could be the correct one.

When relatively large amounts of money are involved, people can get awfully creative.


13th Nov 2009 01:09 GMTReiner Mielke Expert

Hello Dominik,

If dissolution where simply the opposite of growth then one would have to say that a face would dissolve faster than the corners and edges. However, this is not reflected in the dissolution equation which suggests that such a simple relationship is not the case.

13th Nov 2009 05:24 GMTDominik Schläfli Expert

It sure gets a bit more complicated with crystals because of the anisotropy but look at the following:

a crystal in equilibrium with the surrounding solution sees on average the same number of constituents entering the solution as depositing on the surface. Leaving the equilibrium, in one direction thereis growth, in the other there is dissolution.

Due to geometric and crystalographical effects, you could have an isolated crystal seeing net gain on some faces and net loss on others.

17th Nov 2009 17:46 GMTKen Doxsee

OK, check out this specimen. I find it hard to believe that someone other than Mother Nature would deign to make such bizarre alterations! The link is to an auction site that will close in about 6 hours, so look quickly! --Ken

Skeletal Galena

18th Nov 2009 03:32 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

You're right, Ken, those are bizarre; but I don't see any similarity to the "hollow" skeletons this thread is about.

18th Nov 2009 20:02 GMTDominik Schläfli Expert

Alfredo, there are dimples in the center of some of the cube faces. That could show an early stage of a development leading to hollowed out cubes.

18th Nov 2009 22:09 GMTKen Doxsee

Yes, as Dominik notes, seeing the dimples and other surface defects made me think these could represent early stages of the dissolution process. --Ken

1st Mar 2010 01:26 GMTRob Woodside Manager

I recently had the oportunity to loop some of these cavernous galenas at Tucson. The pock marking from the air abrasive is quite noticeable at 10x!!! I'm told that Mike Rumsey is going to get some backscatter SEM photos of this material that should put this matter to rest.

1st Mar 2010 02:02 GMTLyla J. Tracy

Thank you Rob, I have been wondering what was going on with these galenas. Lyla

1st Mar 2010 03:26 GMTRobert Simonoff

Jessica found this in Tucson this year. She photographed it specifically for this discussion. It shows one of these galenas with quartz poking through the hole. I am not saying this solves the mystery.

4th Mar 2010 19:00 GMTAriel S Wall

Im new to the debate, but these specemines look highly etched with some type of acid. Could someone have"painted" on a sealant to protect the galena edges early before etching,with the purpose of cleaning them up and removing the oxides and such. In doing this they possibly inadvertantly dissovled away the centers of the galena cubes and just went with it. It does look like a byproduct of acid cleaning. What sealant would protect the edges of the galena to acid but later be able to be removed after with another chemical?


4th Mar 2010 21:17 GMTJorge Muñoz

If it looks like a fake...then it is a fake.

4th Mar 2010 21:42 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Thanks for the photo, Jessica!

What the quartz shows us is that the galena is younger, in other words the galena grew over the quartz crystals, which were then hidden inside the galena as inclusions, to be revealed again after the galena was etched away. Whatever etched away the galena, whether mechanical or chemical, natural or artificial, did not attack the quartz. So, unfortunately, the quartz doesn't help to answer the question of whether the peculiar holes in the galena are natural or artificial. If you can find a less tough mineral inside the galena, like calcite or sphalerite, that would pretty much destroy the "manufactured by microabrasive" theory. Keep looking!

5th Mar 2010 18:13 GMTRob Woodside Manager

There could well be damage to the quartz from the air abrasion, if they used anything hard like glass beads.. What has been frustrating about this thread is that there are no photo micrographs of this material. They would clearly show the pitting I saw with a 10x loup on the several specimens I saw at Tucson.

5th Mar 2010 21:00 GMTKnut Eldjarn Manager

When we met in Tucson Alfredo mentioned seeing a specimen of these Bulgarian galenas with remnants of "clay" inside the hollow galena-cubes. A SEM-picture should be able to tell if there was remnants of a abrasive material in the "clay". Any news on this, Alfredo ?


7th Mar 2010 05:42 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

No, Knut, no analyses done yet on the white residue, as far as I'm aware.

And Rob, I've seen lots of quartz crystals cleaned with glass beads and they don't show any damage. The 5 - 7 hardness difference is significant. Perhaps impact by glass beads would leave marks visible by SEM?

7th Mar 2010 07:40 GMTAlan Hart

att: Jolyon - if you have some suitable material I suggest you can bring them up here to the NHM and ill book some time on the SEM to take a look.....

7th Mar 2010 09:55 GMTMarcus Voigt


The last 10 years I specialized in collecting bulgarian Minerals.

I saw a lot of interesting Specimen,mostly from the Madan-Laki Region in the Rhodopi Mountain.

"Mother Nature" is the best artist on this Planet, but in my opinion ,in this case we have a good hand-made job!

A "normal" salary in Bulgaria is between 200-400€. Its too much to die and too little for Life.

Maybe this year I have the chance to meet the artists of this ......and here goes my respect to this very talented bulgarian people.!



10th Mar 2010 22:02 GMTAriel S Wall

So it seems that some pictures or a video of these being found in the mine from which they came from would lay to rest any uncertanty about these being naturally formed or not.


10th Mar 2010 22:17 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

Not really, Ariel. It would help, of course, but it's not impossible to fake.

The real test will be microscopic examination of the surfaces to see if it shows abrasive marks.


10th Mar 2010 22:19 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

....then we'd be discussing digital alteration of video instead of alterations of minerals ;-))

And as for SEM analysis of surfaces to check for abrasive marks, I'd think it would be easy to remove those by etching with HNO3 after the mechanical treatment. There really isn't much that Nature can do that humans can't duplicate. (Although the reverse is not true, at least not on this planet.)

11th Mar 2010 05:40 GMTAriel S Wall

Well like I asked before is, could someone paint on some type of selant to protect the edges of the galenas then chemicaly etch them? Then remove the sealant off later with something else preserving the terminated edges? No mechanical just chemical etching.


11th Mar 2010 15:45 GMTJeff Weissman Expert

Take a look at for an example of a naturally etched mineral, albeit in this case pyromorphite microcrystals. Clearly these crystals are chemically zoned as revealed by distinct variations in color, with a layered structure, better seen in It is my belief that slight differences in solubility, due to this chemical zoning, resulted in selective etching of these pyromorphite crystals, resulting in the unusual shell/tubular morphology due to the outermost layer, by chance, being the least soluble. (btw, softness of images due to just getting acclimated to using image stacking, may remake these images in the future). Same behavior in vanadinite, from the same locality:

As suggested in prior posts, selective etching of chemically differing zones, in the galena, could result in the observed morphology. However, subsequent cleaning of these specimens have unfortunately removed any indications of a natural origin.

Or, someone with too much time on their hands, and access to a portfolio of M. C. Escher prints for inspiration, has made these. You can etch with sand blasting, or using a microsyringe, apply liquid drop-by-drop, on each face, with a suitable liquid with wax coatings in areas to be protected.

I have read nothing in any of the prior posts that is conclusive one way or the other. I would prefer that the source supplier bear the burdon of proof - show us one that has not been cleaned and clearly indicates its natural origin.

24th Apr 2010 07:23 BSTAndrew Tuma Expert

Just to keep this discussion rolling, I have a little more information to add.

I was able to purchase the specimen highlighted by Ken Doxsee earlier in this thread with the galena crystals with the dimples shown in the centre of the crystals.

Even though most of the crystals showed dimples, one was hollow as the photographs show. Interestingly the hollow crystal continues under a solid galena crystal. This would be very difficult to produce mechanically and why only do one when the rest are dimpled. It can be noted that in one point a crystal has a small hole that opens into a larger cavity within the centre of the crystal. I think that the dimples are the last stage of growth not the first stage.

Closer investigation does not show any mechanical making under magnification. Another interesting aspect are the growth layers on the galena crystals, also shown on the photographs. Similar growth structure is noticeable on the chalcopyrite and Sphalerite crystals on the same specimen.

I can not speak for the other skeletal examples discussed but I would strongly suggest this specimen has naturally developed.

I am surprised at some comments that imply that when a specimen looks like a fake then it must be a fake, sorry but nature does not work that way. I have spent enough time field collecting to know when unusual elements combine with out of the ordinary environments then very unusual mineralogical outcomes sometimes occur. I suspect this is the situation at Madan ore field with some of these galenas'.

24th Apr 2010 09:24 BSTMatteo Chinellato Expert

this is a good example seen from near

24th Apr 2010 09:42 BSTPeter Haas Expert

Has anybody thought about the possibility of fabricating these with a dentist's drill ?

Very precise and would allow for modifying numerous crystals on a specimen from different directions without taking too much time ...

24th Apr 2010 11:21 BSTMatteo Chinellato Expert

to much work for a drill, the price come to much high for a fake

24th Apr 2010 13:34 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

I'm not sure what you mean Matteo, but at the prices these specimens are selling for it should be very economical for someone to use a small drill (such as a Dremel) and spend some time sculpting them.

Maybe someone can do an experiment to try this?


24th Apr 2010 15:41 BSTMatteo Chinellato Expert

the piece I have take the photo its sale for 400 euro, few if a person lost time with a drill for build a fake

24th Apr 2010 16:14 BSTJonathan Woolley

I agree, 400 euros would not be worth the time of someone in Western Europe of North America, but there are plenty of places on earth where that price (or half of it) is well worth a solid week of someone's time.

24th Apr 2010 23:41 BSTStuart Mills Manager

I still think they are not fake.

25th Apr 2010 00:16 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

If they're genuine why hasn't someone done an article somewhere about their unique form? I'm not using that as evidence that they're fake, but it would really go some great way to convincing me that they aren't.

I'm not convinced they are fake, but I would like to be convinced they are genuine, and nothing I've seen so far has done this.

Unfortunately nowdays you have to learn to be VERY suspicious. I just saw some photos that show a tourmaline crystal in albite matrix, the hole for the crystal was carved based on laser measurements of the crystal so it's a near-perfect fit. From the photos you could never tell it was faked. When there is serious money involved the temptation for criminal activities is sometimes too strong.


25th Apr 2010 02:52 BSTAndrew Tuma Expert

I do not have any doubt that the one I featured is natural but it does also not show the extreme skeletal structures noted in some photos.

So likely scenario is that naturally forming hollow/skeletal growth was noted within the deposit and an opportunity to enhance the financial returns for the specimens available was understood and a faking procedure was implemented that ended with highly enhanced skeletal galena specimens. This likely means that that there will be both natural and enhanced (fake) specimens from the same deposit within the marketplace. A real problem for buyers which really means that extra care must be applied before purchase due to very acceptable levels of suspicion.

For interest, I also ask the question is it a true fake ( mineralogy not from a location) or an enhancement similar to polishing the face of quartz crystal or cutting a new termination to remove an imperfection. The Galena crystals clearly occur naturally on the matrix provided with associated Quartz, Chalcopyrite and or Sphalerite but are provided with man made changes.

This might be the very problematic issue for the future, where specimens are "touched up" to maximise the level of perfection to obtain the highest financial return rather than blatant fakes of manufactured specimens. This might mean we have to carefully look at every termination for damage if the specimen is too perfect. With improved technology and increased mineral prices, the chances of "enhanced" specimens being in our collections increases in the future.

The result this situation is that we again appreciate and will accept a few chips and marks as this level of "imperfection" may guarantee authenticity as it is not perfect a perfect specimen. (Food for thought and another thread!!!).

The enhancement issue may become a bigger problem and provide a greater level of fraudulent activity that the obvious faking we see now.

Andrew T

25th Apr 2010 05:37 BSTMatteo Chinellato Expert

fo build a fake tourmaline you have to take few time, a hole in the matrix, some glue et voilà, I have seen many Elba tourmaline sell for original when the crystal its from pakistan and the matrix from Elba or viceversa, nicest is you find this material actual in the Elba mineral shops if you go in the island.

25th Apr 2010 05:47 BSTStuart Mills Manager

Jolyon Ralph Wrote:


> If they're genuine why hasn't someone done an

> article somewhere about their unique form? I'm not

> using that as evidence that they're fake, but it

> would really go some great way to convincing me

> that they aren't.


Radostina Atanassova (2005) PhD Thesis: Hydrothermal minerals in highly non-equilibrium conditions: Morphology and crystal growth of hydrothermal sulphides far from the equilibrium. Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Geological Institute.

25th Apr 2010 13:24 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

Stuart - Does this PhD thesis SPECIFICALLY discuss the hollow cube forms we are talking about? I checked previously papers from her and others in Bulgaria relating to galena forms and although there are many disucssions about the other weird forms of Galena, there was no specific mention of these holllowed cubes.

Carl Sagan was fond of saying extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. These hollowed cubes are certainly extraordinary. It's just scientifically WRONG for us to assume these are natural until proven false. Aren't we meant to be sceptical in science?


25th Apr 2010 17:23 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

And of course PhD theses have been faked, as well. Several famous cases here in the US.

26th Apr 2010 06:36 BSTStuart Mills Manager

All I have heard from Bulgarian academia is that these galenas are OK and one chapter of the thesis deals with it.

26th Apr 2010 09:35 BSTAndrew Tuma Expert

Thanks Stuart for that info,

This might be one of the most anticipated pieces of mineral literature for some time.

Stuart, are you able to ask your contact if this PHD thesis will be released in an english version and when it will be available.

I get very interested when the unusual mineralogical environment produces weird specimens, must be from having a few oddities in my backyard of Western Tasmania.

Andrew t

26th Apr 2010 16:17 BSTStuart Mills Manager

It was done 5 years ago so I'm guessing it won't be.

26th Apr 2010 16:43 BSTAnatoly Kasatkin

I agree with Stuart. As well as many russians who saw these samples in person - we are pretty sure they are true.

At Munich show last year I saw several samples with tiny quartz clusters attached to a hollow galena

cubes in their interior walls. Apart that they looked absolutely natural (we carefully studied them under the scope), I can also hardly

imagine someone who would need to fabricate the hollow and then glue quartz on the walls. I discussed this with many bulgarians at

the show whom (this is important) were not so friendly towards Ivan Pojarevski who was the only dealer to sell these so their

opinion is certainly not prejudiced. Nevertheless, they were sure these are not fakes though the real locality of these samples

was a real enigma for them either.

Yesterday we looked at these again with Igor Pekov and he is sure they are natural either.

Weird, unusual and (often) very aesthetic doesn't necessarily mean a fake.

Also I don't see any direct relation between the existence of something mineralogically interesting and the absence (maybe temporary) of its description in the scientific litterature. Zvyagintsevite at Kondyor is unique, not really described so far but it's not a fake (even if Pavel successfully built one in his lab!).

26th Apr 2010 18:44 BSTLyla J. Tracy

I have followed this thread with great interest and have some questions.

Is a specimen considered fake until proven natural?

If a specimen has an unusual morphology does that place it in a category of suspicion?

If a specimen can be created by human hands does that prove similar specimens to be fake?

Does the stated country of origin, the price or quantity on the market, and or the dealer/seller's origin have a bearing on the "validity" of a specimen?


26th Apr 2010 18:58 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

Hi lyla, I'll give you my answers

> Is a specimen considered fake until proven natural?

Everything should be considered fake until you have convinced yourself otherwise. In many cases a cursory glance will tell you that it's genuine. But even then first looks can be deceptive. Should we regard everything uploaded to mindat as a fake unless we've personally examined them? No, probably not. But it's healthy to have a certain level of distrust, especially with specimens of value.

> If a specimen has an unusual morphology does that place it in a category of suspicion?

Not on it's own, but it can lead to doubt and the need to investigate things a little more thoroughly.

> If a specimen can be created by human hands does that prove similar specimens to be fake?

No, it doesn't. Human processes can replicate natural processes (hydrothermal quartz crystals, for example). But we do have to use common sense. Most copper sulphate ("chalcanthite") crystalline specimens are artificially made. That doesn't mean that every chalcanthite crystal out there is fake, but when you are examining these crystals you are automatically assuming they are fake and needing to convince yourself otherwise.

> Does the stated country of origin, the price or quantity on the market,

> and or the dealer/seller's origin have a bearing on the "validity" of a specimen?

As with everything criminal it comes down to a motive. Most of the time it will be financial, but not always, the great Kingsbury frauds in the UK last century were not financially motivated at all, the best we can guess is that he was after respect, either that or he just enjoyed the fact that he was deceiving so many people. But for financial motivations then yes, it's going to be higher value specimens that are affected primarily. Everyone has been caught out by frauds in the past - collectors, dealers, it's not just a matter of only buying from "honest" dealers or not, because we all make mistakes. I've bought things that have proven to be fake even though I've examined them and convinced myself they were genuine. Dealers who deal with hundreds of new specimens a day really shouldn't be blamed when something slips past them.


26th Apr 2010 22:39 BSTLyla J. Tracy

Hi Jolyon, thanks for your opinion.

In my opinion, these beautiful Madan galenas, if proven to be fake, would require a high degree of skill to construct. However, where money is involved and time is cheap, anything can happen.

Off topic here, through the years I have seen my share of faked gold specimens, and am typically quite skeptical at first glance. Last year I deliberately purchased a fake gold specimen so I could take it apart and prove that it was shown here on mindat. Unfortunately the manufacturer is still in business, and likely still selling his "wares", though I haven't heard of them showing up at any more major shows.


27th Apr 2010 21:18 BSTRob Woodside Manager

There are natural hoppered and dendritic galenas. There are also skeletal galena cubes with abrasion impacts visible at 10 power. Without photomicrographs how do you know what respected mineralogists are looking at and making pronouncements about??? So a great mineralogist pronounces them real. Does that mean the ones people have made are real? Let's get real with some photos, surely the visible abrasion impacts will sort this out!!!

28th Apr 2010 02:02 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Me neither, Rob. I don't attach much weight to the pronouncements of experts unless accompanied by the reasons which lead them to their conclusion, which so far no one has presented. This level of discussion is more appropriate in the field of theology.... "My authority is more respected than your authority", with no proof presented by either side.

This may be one of the longest threads ever on Mindat, but on reviewing it I find little reason for it to be this long, considering the paucity of hard data presented - just lots of opinions, and irrelevant comparisons to photos of galenas with hopper-faced crystal growths. Things I'd like to see are: photos of the minerals in situ, photos of the minerals being worked out, close ups before cleaning, SEM photos of the interior surfaces, analyses of the white powder residue inside the cavities, etc, etc. In the meantime, I'll just consider them "suspicious, but not proven either way".

28th Apr 2010 10:27 BSTAndrew Tuma Expert

Alfredo, I am so sorry that I have with my recent post and photos, I extended this thread to a point that has caused you so much pain. However I thought that a photo of the galena that was hollow that and had another solid crystal sitting over the hollow section would be of interest, without doubt this was not the case and you have treated it with a level of indifference because your mind appears to be made up - they are all fakes unless proven otherwise.

So can I take it that without a expert opinion and/or a respected authority's blessing, you must doubt all specimens and their locations. If this is the case you then must doubt the Stolzites from Tasmania because there are no photos of them insitu, or being removed, no respected authority noted their occurrence insitu, (Ralph may have but not told me), the area where they were found has been removed by mining. I am sorry but I can not provide you with any of the information you have asked for, so you and all other people will have to accept the locality information that was provided to the mineral world by a bunch of amateurs.

Sometimes one must take a "leap of faith" because solid evidence of proof is not available, otherwise we may miss the pleasure and enjoyment of something that can not be explained.

And my opinion piece is naturally formed.

Andrew T

28th Apr 2010 11:13 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

We are right to be suspicious and to discuss things.

Remember what happened with the Himmelsfurst silver specimens? One major journal did its very best to cover up the whole thing in order to protect its advertisers, and a similar thing happened with the yellow 'Tajik' Beryl

I have had some of my main advertisers talk to me about these skeletal galenas, obviously desperate that this problem will disappear - I cannot say any of them have given me pressure to remove things because it certainly wasn't like that, but it was clear that they are unhappy. I dislike them being unhappy, and I wish there was a quick and easy answer to prove one way or the other, but I'm not going to stifle a debate because of commercial interests, even those affecting mindat directly. Thankfully all the dealers involved understand my issue entirely (and they also, like me, want to know the truth).


ps. If anyone does want to buy one now is probably the best time - with the uncertainty the dealers can't price them as high as they probably are worth. But it's a gamble, if they're proven genuine, value will skyrocket for sure.

28th Apr 2010 11:56 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Andrew, your posts have caused me no pain, and I do find the photos of weird galenas to be interesting and informative, and I certainly do enjoy looking at them. I just don't believe they solve the mystery of the disputed galena crystals, because they show mostly depositional (growth) features rather than etch features. And my mind isn't made up, I clearly stated that I consider them suspicious but not proven either way, fake or natural. And that does not mean I have to doubt all specimens and all localities, only the suspicious-looking ones, which is just common sense. Most minerals don't look suspicious at all, and on other posts on this forum I have stated I believed specimens to be natural that other collectors were suspicious about. So it works both ways. And, as Jolyon pointed out, we are right to be suspicious and discuss things. Without suspicion, there would be no discussion, and without discussion no learning.

4th May 2010 14:21 BSTRobert Simonoff

This discussion is getting more and more interesting. So now I am wondering what would constitute proof that these are natural

One could look for indications of mechanical means of material removal through an SEM. However, this approach was discredited as proof, since an acid bath afterward could act to hide these patterns. Nature could have also provided an acid bath, so presence of etching via acid doesn’t seem to prove anything.

There have been thoughts of looking for acid etch patterns in order to determine if acid was "painted" on the faces to get these patterns. Again, nature could have provided acid, so evidence of acid etching wouldn't prove anything.

If tests could determine that acid had indeed been present ONLY on the etched portions of the crystal and not the outsides of the same crystal, that would be suspicious I assume.

John Rakovan did a wonderful talk at the Rochester Symposium on determining if gold crystals were real or faked. He used xrays on some pieces and determined them to be faked because the resulting pattern showed multiple crystals (polycrystalline) instead of a single crystal. He realized however, that xrays on gold could not penetrate very deep, so he did a deeper scan using neutrons (at a military collider). The deeper scan conclusively showed the pieces to be a single crystal. The multiple crystal effect was only a surface effect – probably caused during a beating, as would happen if it tumbled down a river or stream For more information, look at the article in Rocks & Minerals (January/February 2009). I wonder if microabrasion would cause the same effect. Since galena is also malleable, maybe the same tests could be used. Unfortunately, I think John’s opportunity to use a military neutron collider was a once in a lifetime experience.

So is there anything we could look at to be conclusive about this from the acid/mechanical perspective?

Another idea has been proposed by Jolyon in an earlier post. This idea is that as the crystals formed, the solution changed composition. This change afforded something (a different metal ion? other impurities?) that were incorporated in the crystal structure that made the outer portions of the crystal more stable than the inner portions. If these crystals were forming as hoppered, maybe, just maybe you could get these patterns. If this were the route, possibly a microprobe analysis of the features could tell us if the composition were slightly different? I am not sure that microprobe would tell the whole story though ... do we know enough about how galena dissolves in different solutions and the rate of dissolution to be able to do a useful analysis?

Another thought had been offered relating to other minerals involved in the specimen. Quarts growing through the holes, for example. We could remove the quartz and look for glue. If the quartz goes through the holes in the galena AND it is not glued in place, does that help prove anything? There are also pieces that seem to have some kaolinite on the galena. So how is that attached and how did it get there? Maybe that would afford us something to research.

Another "proof" would be photos of the pieces in sito. However, it seems to me that this is the easiest falsify. Photoshop or staging of the already prepared pieces in a mine would be the counter claim.

So what tests could be used to prove or disprove that these were made by nature. It has been said many times that what nature can do to these pieces, man can do as well. So is there any conclusive tests short of shipping a bunch of mineralogists to Bulgaria to study them in suto - and pay them enough so they could be bought by unscrupulous miners?



4th May 2010 18:39 BSTRob Woodside Manager

Spherical impressions visible at 10 power could be significant!!! Could they arise from anything other than an air blown abrasive??? Pictures please!!!!

4th May 2010 21:23 BSTRobert Simonoff

I don't have any pieces yet, but I have access to some if we can come up with some tests worth doing on them. I could do a microscopic examination and post pictures. Certainly is there are the indentations that would be indicative, but lack of spherical indentations would prove nothing right?


4th May 2010 22:00 BSTRob Woodside Manager

The stepped CLEAVAGES and not dissolution features was what I was looking for in Tucson. The spherical abrasion impacts were just icing on the cake. I didn't realize that Galena was that malleable to leave them!!! Pictures of the sharp cleavage steps should be sufficient to debunk these. So please make some photomicrographs, then others can judge.

4th May 2010 23:58 BSTPeter Lyckberg Expert

A simple way is to go to the mine and recover material in situ! - not put back in situ though ;)

5th May 2010 08:37 BSTKnut Eldjarn Manager

I have like Alfredo been very open-minded as to the authenticity of the reverse skeletal galenas from Bulgaria. But since this thread has been public of Mindat for nearly half a year now - with NO evidence of their natural origin forthcoming, I am becoming more sceptical. Specimens seem to be trickling out, so it was probaboly not a stash from a log-time-ago find. Therefore I am sure that there are people out there who know the answer to the question and they are probably also aware of this discussion. It should have been in their interest to present some additional information -i.e. pictures of the specimens in situ or at least before cleaning etc. Such "proof" may of course also be faked, buit as long as there seems to be a complete silence along the chain of supply for these specimens, I have become very sceptical about their origin.


5th May 2010 21:12 BSTRobert Simonoff

I think I have been able to confirm that I have access to specimens and a mineraligy lab in which to do tests. The only tests I have seen mentioned that could be performed are microscopic and possibly SEM examination. And if I am understanding correctly, these wouldn't convince people of anything.

So all I can do is get magnified pictures which may prove it is fake,


5th May 2010 21:27 BSTRob Woodside Manager

That should be enough. Although it would be good to have one known to be made by air blasting for comparison. Perhaps someone who made one could send you it for photographing.

7th May 2010 11:41 BSTRock Currier Expert

The best way way to convince yourself that these are most likely fakes is to find some little natural cubic galena crystals on or off of matrix, or even a cubic cleavage of galena or both, get access to a micro abrasive tool, load it up with glass beads and go to work on the thing and see how easy or difficult it is to create these. Then you won't have to rely on what other people tell you. This is not rocket science. If you don't have a microabrasive tool, find one you can borrow time on. Most museums or universities with Paleo departments, fossil dealers and many serious mineral dealers have these machines. If you are in the Los Angeles area, Ill even let you use one of mine.

8th May 2010 04:18 BSTJohn Betts

Would you accept as proof a quartz crystal inside a hoppered galena?

I have seen them, but don't have any at this time to take a photo.

8th May 2010 07:08 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Yes, I've seen those too, but unfortunately they don't prove the issue either way, because the quartz predates the galena. I.e. the quartz was an inclusion in the (younger) galena, and the quartz xl is exposed in the cavity when the cavity formed. Being much harder than the galena, and chemically more resistant, it is left standing in the cavity either way, whether mechanically abraded or naturally chemically etched. Now if you could find a calcite xl standing in the cavity, that would indeed prove natural origin.

8th May 2010 12:53 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

I think it's interesting that there hasn't been a stronger defence of these specimens - if I had been finding these and trying to sell them I would be very upset with these allegations that they are faked and I'd want to make sure I could prove to everyone that they were natural, and go out of my way to do so.

The response has been somewhat muted, to say the least. I still hope they are natural, but without proof they are still far to suspicious to accept in my opinion.

It's an interesting debate because there are several people who's opinions I trust very much (including mindat managers) who are convinced they are genuine. And several others who thing exactly the opposite. I'm really looking forward to a conclusion to this.


8th May 2010 15:22 BSTRobert Simonoff

Well, we are willing to give it a go. We have access to specimens for sale. Some of quartz inside, some have kaolinite. We have some labs that are willing to help out with equipment (SEM, single crystal XRD) and we have a rock scope. We am not going into this with an assumption one way or the other.

The plan is to ask mindatters for samples they have made. Make your best ones. Send us a PM and we will send our address. We will return them unharmed once the experiment is done. We will ask permission from the owner before doing any destructive tests. Also, please send a brief description of how you made them.

Then we will get the samples from the dealer who is donating some to this cause.

We will start with visual and loupe inspections to make observations and take photos.

Then we will use a scope and take pictures of each in order to determine if it is trivial to tell the difference between the known manmade specimens and the unknowns.

If necessary we will go down to the SEM level to try to see differences. We may also try to do some microprobe work to see if there is anything interesting about the composition of the galenas.

Finally, based on work that John Rakovan did, we will try to see if the galena crystals too a beating on their interior surfaces using the single crystal XRD machine (Rigaku). Based on the work he did with gold, we may be able to tell if these were exposed to repeated impacts from abrasion.

If people have thoughts on what else should be done, I'd love to hear it. If people have specs they'd like to donate to this experiment (as per the above) PM us.

We understand this will not convince everyone, nothing will. We also understand there is no way to prove these are natural - that point has been made abundantly clear. But, maybe, if the pieces that are known to be manmade means can be easily distinguished from the other specimens, the debate will be reset somewhat. Ideally we would have a team of mineralogists who are so rich they couldn't be bought off and who have no families that could be threatened by unscrupulous gangster miners, see them in situ. But lacking that, this is the only idea we have come up with.

As we get pictures and information mindat will be where we post everything. Would an article would be the best vehicle? There will be LOTs of pictures if we can get this experiment off the ground (which depends largely on obtaining a variety of known manmade specimens).

Note: We do not have permission to use a Rigaku or similar device yet, we am working on that. We do have permission to take advantage of an SEM, however.



8th May 2010 15:48 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

An article would be the best way to present this! Unlike magazine articles, people can comment to them!

8th May 2010 19:18 BSTKnut Eldjarn Manager


you mention having access to specimens with "kaolinite" inside. A SEM-picture of such material from the cavities would be highly interesting. They might turn out to be a natural clay mineral - or possibly remnants of an abrasive material... ?

10th May 2010 04:32 BSTRobert Simonoff

Rock, could you please post closeup pictures?



Rock Currier Wrote:


> I was one of several people that were instantly

> suspicious of these cavernous galenas when I first

> saw them. As soon as I got the chance I made one

> on a small air abrasive unit I had. They are

> simple to make if you have a small air abrasive

> tool and a galena cube. Use glass beads and about

> 80 psi air and in about ten or 15 minutes you can

> make one of your own. Other friends of mine also

> were able to duplicate these types of specimens.

> One made a very attractive one using octahedral

> galena from Sweetwater, Missouri. Another, only as

> a lark, using carborundum grit made a nice one out

> of fluorite. I suspect that we will see these

> coming to market soon from eastern Europe as soon

> as the idea occurs to them. Use diamond powder and

> I suspect you could make them out of spinel

> octahedrons if you wished. There are a lot of

> possibilities. But like the new spectacular wire

> silvers from Germany, it is not easy to prove that

> they are definitely fakes. I for myself, would not

> want one in my collection except as a joke to show

> friends. For specimens like this shown on Mindat,

> at the very least there should be inserted a

> comment that some knowledgeable people suggest

> that you take into consideration that they might

> be fakes at least until such time that they can

> definitely be proved to be natural.

10th May 2010 11:08 BSTPeter Lyckberg Expert

The past year new"man made "fluorite scepters"are beeing sold from Erongo mad eby the locals by sanding away parts of the specimens! I ahve seen western dealers selling such for raher big money! SO beware!!!

10th May 2010 18:37 BSTHarris Mason

Hello everyone,

As just a casual observer of this discussion I have been pretty interested in the discussion taking place. In my own research I have made in my lab completely hollow mm sized pyromorphite crystals and it is possible to make the same with chlorapatite as well. But that is a different system with different issues. Mainly I saw Jolyon post "ps. If anyone does want to buy one now is probably the best time - with the uncertainty the dealers can't price them as high as they probably are worth. But it's a gamble, if they're proven genuine, value will skyrocket for sure. " So I said heck I will search for some on google and stumbled across a paper on Madan Galenas with fluid inclusions from 1977.

I.K. Bonev Mineral Deposita (Berl.) 12, 64 - 76 (1977)


In it they have detailed SEM investigation of the surfaces of galenas where reverse crystal impressions are observed forming from fluid inclusions. They state these can be casually observed by the unaided eye. These could be the "abrasion pits" mentioned in earlier posts.There is also description of the parallel lined curved surface sculpture. I am not taking a side on this. I have no vested interest in one way or the other. Just a mineralogical curiosity for me. I do however think this paper could aid significantly in this discussion since they have a detailed study of how these reverse crystal structures form.


10th May 2010 19:59 BSTRob Woodside Manager

Thanks Harris, that is an interesting paper. Could you please email me a copy of the full article?

13th May 2010 04:33 BSTMike Keim

Here are pictures of my example from this find. In the first picture you can see bits of chalcopyrite along some ridges and other mineralization along an inner ridge. This could only occur by either A) being artfully placed there after sandblasting (but why, and I see no evidence of glue), B. grew there naturally after natural skeletal growth of the galena, or C) the minerals were included within the Galena and exposed after sandblasting. I think the best answer is B, the minerals are on different "contour lines" of the Galena and would have had to be random inclusions within the Galena, which I think is unlikely.

The second photo shows small pyrite lined vugs exposed within the Galena - if the crystal was sandblasted, those vugs would also show abrasion, and they do not.

Last photo shows some quartz crystals. They do not show abrasion, but sandblasting could have been done by softer material than Quartz. For reference, Galena is 3cm across in size.


13th May 2010 04:34 BSTMike Keim

Some more photos of specimen

13th May 2010 07:38 BSTKnut Eldjarn Manager


thanks for posting the pictures. Based on those the specimens could be natural - or manmade. Pyrite is so much harder than galena so one could imagine that a softer abrasive would not affect those. One might also ask why a natural process creating the dissolution patterns in the galena did not affect the pyrites...

13th May 2010 08:03 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Thanks for the clear photos!

Air abrasive units commonly use microscopic glass beads (hardness 5), looks like powder to the unaided eye, not quartz sand, so "sandblasting" is a bit misleading. Glass microbeads do not abrade pyrite or quartz. The photos show what one would expect if air abrasive had been used: galena deeply eroded; chalcopyrite abraded but slightly protruding from the galena surface because it's a bit harder than the galena; pyrite and quartz unaffected. This is not to say that your piece was made that way, Mike, merely that it could have been done that way.

13th May 2010 12:48 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

Very interesting photos!

On the one hand, photo G2 is very interesting, it seems to show two depressions on one surface of the crystal and one on the other. Any previous theories that I could just about accept about how these could have formed are somewhat blown out of the water by this, And it looks sculpted, it very much looks air-abraded.


Photo G7 shows a very sharp edge to the depression in the top left corner, not a rounded blob depression as you see in other photos, I find it much harder to see how this particular depression could have been made by an air-abrader.

I love the fact these are so confusing. Perhaps there are some natural depressions in these crystals and they have been "improved" with an air-abrader to make them more valuable?


13th May 2010 15:00 BSTMike Keim


How do you explain the minerals at different "depths" on the surface of the Galena (i.e. on the right central ridge in photo G5)? Inclusions within the Galena that were exposed from air abrasion?

13th May 2010 16:28 BSTJoseph Polityka Expert


My two cents worth: they might be real, and if they are, they are not worth the high prices being asked. These are not cavernous gold crystals, are they? Contemporary specimens of galena are galena, period. If they were high quality specimens from a defunct, classic locality then the price would be no object.

I would be interested in hearing from the miner or person that was closest to the source when the specimens were found. Who are those people?

By the way, I hope they are genuine.

Best wishes,


13th May 2010 18:29 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Yes, if you look at polished ore sections, you more often than not see complex networks of inclusions. Metallic inclusions at different depths in other metallic minerals are just as common as nonmetallic minerals included in quartz, etc. Not a surprise; you just don't see them normally because of the opacity.

13th May 2010 18:53 BSTDonald Slater

This is getting interesting. There seems to be a few more people on the man-enhanced side that the real though. I tend to believe they are man-enhanced over all but could it be possible that there were some natural crystal at one time but because of the high prices some creative soul decided "I can make these". Money does bring out the creative process. The ones that seem the most likely to be fakes are the ones that are etched all the way through. I just can't imagine a natural process that could leave the outside almost untouched and eat all the way through. Ones that are more of an indentation remind me of a hopper growth and have then under gone some sort of natural etching. I am leery of that but it is and idea. The main point of suspicion for me is that they have not been seen insitu and their origin seems to be vague. Oh well more fuel to the fire.

14th May 2010 03:51 BSTMike Keim

Thanks for the information Alfredo,


14th May 2010 14:54 BSTAnonymous User

Very interesting thread.

I don't have any dog in this fight - I neither collect nor sell any kind of galena.

However, as one who used to operate a glass bead blaster in a small factory, I believe that it is somewhat misleading to simply state that glass beads have a hardness of 5, and therefore would not abrade anything with a hardness over that number. Because of the velocity of the beads, there is wiggle room. This is just based on my feeling from my limited experience with the equipment. I believe a similar effect is used in lapidary when an abrasive powder that is softer than the stone being cut is used for the final polish. In this case, I believe it is the pressure on the lap that allows softer powder to abrade. Anyone agree or disagree?

I'd like to see someone test the bead blaster on some of the associated minerals - to see if they are indeed untouched when the rate and time required to abrade the holes in the galena is applied.

14th May 2010 15:38 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

You can have a variety of different abrasive powders and you can of course vary the pressure - I have no doubt there are combinations that can successfully abrade the galena without touching quartz.


14th May 2010 15:54 BSTAnonymous User

Certainly without touching quartz - but without touching pyrite or especially chalcopyrite? I'm picturing the product, pressure, volume, and time required to significantly abrade galena. I'm just wondering if this operation would affect the associated minerals. I don't think it's a simple as saying "the abrasive medium is softer than mineral X, so it won't be abraded."

I've never seen any of these specimens in person. I'm highly skeptical that they are natural. I'm just pointing out that further investigation into the effects of abrasion on associated minerals may be warranted.

14th May 2010 22:42 BSTRock Currier Expert

Certainly there is plenty of "wiggle" room for glass beads to effect and abrade harder materials. A lot depends on the velocity with the glass beads impact the surface of the material. Although glass beads at about 60 psi entrained in an gas stream will usually not produce any visible change to Quartz, it will have some effect on the Quartz. After subjecting the quartz to glass beads at 60 psi. and placing the quartz in HF for a while, it is evident that the bead blasted surface will etch much more quickly than the unblasted surfaces. Glass beads at 60 psi will also not produce visible effects on the surfaces of shiny pyrite crystals but will eat up similar chalcopyrite crystals very quickly. Glass beads are commonly used to remove chalcopyrite from around Russian Sperrylite crystals. Also frequently the glass beads used to clean minerals are used many times over and often contains quartz fragments and fragments of other minerals that were removed from other minerals cleaned previously. This kind of "impure" glass beads can abrade quartz and tourmaline etc if you are not careful.

High pressure water is a very effective cutting media for concrete and granite. Diamond photographic needles are certainly worn away by soft plastic records over time. There is a lot about "hardness" that is not well known.

15th May 2010 06:22 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

No one claimed that the chalcopyrite was not affected by glass beads, it would certainly be abraded, but less rapidly than the surrounding galena, which leaves the chalcopyrite standing out a bit. Yes, the surfaces of hard minerals can be damaged by percussion of softer objects (Yes, you can knock flakes of flint off with a piece of bone too), so it is up to the operator to choose a pressure and medium which will remove the undesired material and keep the desired material undamaged - easy enough when the hardness difference is as striking as galena and quartz.

Don't forget that these tools are more frequently used by fossil preparers than by mineral folk, and the fossil people are working on tiny details and materials of much smaller hardness difference - It is by no means the brutal clumsy tool that some of us seem to think.

But Rock's comment about etching after blasting brings up an interesting potential experimental procedure: Check the relative speed of etching (with ammonium bifluoride?) of a quartz crystal from inside a galena cavity with a (presumably unabraded) quartz from outside a galena cavity, on the same specimen. If sufficient blasting pressure had been used, one would expect the quartz from inside a cavity to get more etched. (Might not be definitive though if blasted at low enough pressure?)

15th May 2010 09:20 BSTPeter Haas Expert

This is NOT skeletal growth. Alfredo pointed this out earlier. Skeletal growth, like normal growth, starts from a nucleus and proceeds in all three dimensions (although the rate of growth may be different in each dimension, depending on the mineral studied and anisotropy effects of the medium in which they grow). Skeletela growth of galena is well known, but produces entirely different shapes. There is an article on the web showing this:

What we see here are forms with a missing core. Name them as you like ("frames" seems to be appropriate), but don't call them skeletal. If they were grown like this, where did it start ? Irrespective of where the nuclei were initially located, a convincing mechanism needs to be found that alters the growth rate along the two directions of the three spatial axes. Otherwise, the growth would not have stopped at the corners !

The only way they could have formed naturally is by an etching mechanism.

28th Jul 2010 17:00 BSTVan King Manager

Does anyone know good solvents for galena? I would think the the "terraces" seen on the galenas represent very slow etching. Rock, have you tried abrading a galena, then slow etching to remove the roughness and possibly produce terraces? From research with my co-author Bob Morgan looking at carrollite from Kamoya and pyrite from Huanzala and elsewhere, terraces seem to be slow etch features. terraces seem to be formed according the PBC (Periodic Bond Chain) growth/dissolution models. To make a fake look better, the air abrasion would be done first and chemical treatment could follow that process to restore the luster and introduce etch features such as terraces. The choice of solvent would probably produce different effects, so much experimentation would be necessary. On the photos shown, the smallest crystals do not seem to be skeletal. There are, of course, many etch features which seem to be naturally present on Magadan galena.

28th Jul 2010 17:39 BSTRob Woodside Manager

I have been holding my tongue on this, but that would be the next stage of fakery. Once the abrasions and indentations are obvious, one merely washes them away. How's Jessica's experiment coming?

28th Jul 2010 23:31 BSTJonathan Woolley

It seems to me that the "terraces" could easily be exposed growth layers rather than a feature caused by etching. Refer to Ryan Bowling's post on page 3 of this discussion for photos of a hollow galena cube he created. His photos show a similar step or terrace pattern from his 10-minute air abrasive carving work, which implies no etching is necessary to create this pattern. For me, his post was the most convincing that these galenas could be produced artificially.

I am also wondering how the Simonoff's experiments are going - any updates?

29th Jul 2010 11:07 BSTerik fertner

Here is the galena in the "A.G. Werner collection, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Saxony". You can see this specimen in the display showcase of new acquisitions. For me it is hard to believe, that they exhibit anything faked in this magnificent historic collection. Although i would say it is maybe from Madan district and not from Laki.

Whats about the SEM investigations and things like that, which were held in prospect?

Meanwhile we can discuss and philosophize further on if they are "faked....semi faked.....natural.....etched......and so on....."

It is a very interesting discussion for me, also from the mineralogical aspect ;-))

Regards from austria,


29th Jul 2010 11:30 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

I don't think anyone doubts that features such as this can be created naturally.

But the question is, are some of the specimens created to look as if they are naturally etched galena when they are not?

29th Jul 2010 12:58 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Again, we are comparing apples and oranges here. The depicted Bergakademie specimens are not the centre-less galena "frames" that this discussion is about.

29th Jul 2010 14:06 BSTRock Currier Expert

If you want features that look more etched than broken, just use a smaller glass beads.

29th Jul 2010 15:14 BSTVan King Manager

Exposed growth layers are part of the Periodic Bond Chain growth/dissolution models and these models also relate to the origin of striations (growth layers) which are generally many thousands of unit cells high. Terraces such as striations are generally growth features, while terraces that are asymmetric are usually dissolution features. The wavy pattern seen on many Madan galenas are certainly the result of relatively slow dissolution whether natural of artificial. I saw Ryan Bowling's photos originally before posting and they do show the possibility of creating the skeletal appearance, in general character. The terraces are exposed abraded cleavages. Rob's specimen shows the subtleties of rounding and smoothness not present in Ryan's photos. The subtleties are key to whether abrasion alone can duplicate the process in detail. Of course, being able to exactly duplicate the specimens seen is not proof that the specimens are faked; merely that they can be faked.

30th Jul 2010 03:25 BSTRobert Simonoff


I just finished writing the article. I will update it when I get new information and photos. I will get micro-photos and, if it will be helpful, I have permission to use a SEM and XRD machine. You can see the article here: Galena article

I am looking forward to your comments and thoughts about what might help!


30th Jul 2010 04:12 BSTRob Woodside Manager

What a great article!!! Excellent observations. The point about galena's symmetry, so all symmetry related faces should etch similarly, is new. One could plead that the contact faces were not accessible and so not exsolved, but the pleading gets a little special when hard to get at faces are involved. I look forward to the SEM images. I doubt that the surface recrystallizes as Gold does, but electron diffraction off an abraided surface ought to be very diffuse.

If these are fakes as some suspect, they are truly great fakes and should certainly hold their value. There was a great Min Rec issue on fakes years ago and I would have thought that would have created an interest in these as mineral ephemera.

30th Jul 2010 04:34 BSTJonathan Woolley

Fantastic - looking forward to your further analyses! Very interesting that an obviously undamaged calcite crystal is within the hollow of one of these...

30th Jul 2010 04:47 BSTRob Woodside Manager

That calcite does have extremely minor damage, far less than I would have thought abrasion would have done. With Galena at 2.5 Mohs and Calcite at 3 Mohs, there is not much room to pick an abrasive that would leave the calcite virtually untouched.The calcite is a lovely surprise.

30th Jul 2010 04:48 BSTRobert Simonoff

We will be posting microphotos of that calcite as its shape is very interesting once you get close up :-)

30th Jul 2010 11:49 BSTAndy Givens

what a fantastic thread, and article...... captivating as much as the specimens in wich we r talking about.


30th Jul 2010 13:43 BSTJohn Lichtenberger

might want to google electropolishing... if I can find some apprpriate samples and electrolytes. I might devise some testing to produce similar effects, not just in galena but perhaps pyrites and/or chalcopyrites, since all three are semiconductors and should pass current.

Electropolishing amd/or EDM/ECM could conceivably produce some unique specimens that may be exceedingly difficult to tell from natural etching. I've worked in metals for decades, and have seen similar localized structures in various alloys when electropolished.

stay tuned...


30th Jul 2010 14:15 BSTRobert Simonoff

Thanks everyone!! :)


30th Jul 2010 17:40 BSTDean Allum Expert

I am highly biased to believe the majority of the skeletal galenas are a natural phenomenon. This is because the only galena I have ever found had portions with this skeletal effect:


As you can see in this UNTREATED SPECIMEN, the corners of the galena cube form a thicker cerussite/angelsite alteration coating than the cube faces. This alteration coating then acts as a protective mask for the corner edges while some fluid dissolves the rest of the cube, starting in the center of the faces, but producing curved etch surfaces as any isotropic etchant would. If the etchant chemistry sometimes etches the alteration coating, but at a different rate, you would expect the galena etch surfaces to have a scalloped effect (curved ridges).

I suspect that any remaining alteration coating has been removed from the skeletal galenas in question because it would not look as pretty as bright gleaming specimens. Wouldn't it be great to see pictures of these galenas in situ?

-Dean Allum

30th Jul 2010 18:31 BSTDenise Bicknell

Great article Jessica! I haven't formed an opinion either way, just waiting for all work to be completed first. However, I want to believe they are not faked. They definately are fun to look at regardless. The calcite sure brings an interesting twist. Keep up the good work Jessica! -D

30th Jul 2010 19:14 BSTJames McGuire


I can't be certain, but your photo appears to show the "boxwork" texture that is common in weathered sulfides. Secondary minerals grow in between crystals and along cleavage planes as the sulfide breaks down/oxidizes during the weathering process. When the sulfide is gone, you are left with the "boxwork" of secondary minerals. I'm not sure this phenomenon could be called upon as an explanation for the "skeletal" features displayed in the Madan galenas in this thread.

30th Jul 2010 20:09 BSTRob Woodside Manager

James is right. If you could get the secondaries off the box work, you would find it quite pitted unlike the skeletal forms in question here.

30th Jul 2010 21:39 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Jessica, you're becoming a good mineral photographer - How much easier our lives would be on the Identity Help forum if everyone's pix were as clear as yours!

It might be a good idea to do some tests to see whether that clear crystal inside the hollow galena crystal is a calcite or a quartz. Check whether it bubbles in a weak acid. One minute in lemon juice or white vinegar should be enough to tell, which won't hurt the galena.

30th Jul 2010 21:57 BSTRobert Simonoff

Thank you Alfredo!

The acid tests are a good idea. We don't currently have permission to do any more potentially destructive tests, but we can ask of course. Also, it might be better to wait until later (after I have taken micro photos and anything else I need of the crystal) to do the acid tests if we do get permission since they could harm the crystal. Good idea, I will keep that in mind!


30th Jul 2010 22:18 BSTTomasz Praszkier Manager


that is already very long topic... I never did not written here my opinion because I was not sure, and I am still not sure. But I would like to share with you my observations.

I am visiting Madan frequently and I have access to majority of new pockets etc. And during my all trips I never saw any small, even broken specimen from this "find" in Madan. I asked all miners working in this business there and local dealers - nobody did not herd about this specimens. In every other "found" it is easy to track, to see some samples etc - but not this time.

Skeletal and heavily etched galenas are very frequent in Madan but it does not mean that THIS ONES are not faked. We collect all strange, unusual shapes, varieties etc of minerals, and we have huge selection of galenas also. All them looks completely different than THIS specimens. Some of them are almost hollow - but still you can easily see that they are natural.

As I mentioned I am not 100% sure but I think that it were skeletal galenas and later somebody "help" them to be more hollow and more showy. If my opinion is true they can be called "faked".


31st Jul 2010 09:30 BSTerik fertner

The second specimen "not known to be fake" in the galena article looks like a typical krushev dol specimen, for me. Because of the quartz crystalls and the shape of the hollowed out galena, wich was maybe the typical tabular spinell law twin type before etching (natural or man made).

It was said, that all the specimen were from a unique find in deveti septemvri. Deveti septemvri and krushev dol are different locations and deposits

producing optical different specimen.

31st Jul 2010 23:22 BSTRobert Simonoff

Hi everyone

Thanks for pointing that out, Erik! I looked through the Mindat gallery of galena from that location and the habit on the outside of the crystals look like most of the other ones. On the inside of the crystal, though, it shows the same lines as the other ones. Do you think it could be a galena from Krushev Dol that was enhanced or faked in the same way as the ones from Deveti Septemvri?

At the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines show, we met a Bulgarian dealer who was selling galena from the same location. We asked him about the hollow crystals and he said, "Oh, you mean the drilled ones?" According to him, nobody has ever seen one come out of the mine.

The other day I was able to look at the galena under the microscope and take some micro-photos. I noticed that the calcite crystal in the galena has small specks of galena on it. The specks are not crystals and under the microscope it does not seem that there are any under the surface of the calcite. I took some pictures of those, and I also got some pictures of significant damage at the base of the calcite where it is attached to the matrix. I updated the article to include these photos, you can read the new version here: new galena article


1st Aug 2010 09:03 BSTerik fertner

The quartz habit on the second specimen is, as i think definitely more like krushev dol. It is also different to the depicted R.L. specimen for me.

I didn´t see Deveti septemvri quartz like this in the local collections, but there was a wide range of different quartz over the last decades.

The last time i have been in Madan was in april and i asked local collectors and dealers what they think about this galenas. There was no one who believed that they are natural and as Thomas mentioned nobody heard about this find, even miners who were working in mogila and osikovo for a long time. Some of them are surprised about the high prices people pay for this galenas and there is gosip about that.

But this is all no argument if they are natural or not, sorry!


1st Aug 2010 18:48 BSTRob Woodside Manager

While the comments of locals can be useful indicators and often true, some who sell specimens will tell you outright that something they don't have is faked or stolen or whatever, hoping you would buy what they have instead. However it is the specimens themselves that will tell the tale.

19th Aug 2010 03:20 BSTRobert Simonoff

Agree completely Rob, if we can find the right tests.

At the Springfield show we found a dealer who had one which he claims was found 6 years before the find everyone is selling from.We had the chance to loupe it and even microscope it. You could easily see the impact craters on the cleavage planes. They were very obvious. We didn't remember seeing these on Ed's pieces. When we get home we need to look at them again, take pictures, and see what can be learned. Maybe, just maybe the microabraded galenas show this cratering if you look in just the right paces.

The Man Made Hollowed Galena from Jessica's article shows the cratering, but not very clearly. We will get better pics when we are home.


19th Sep 2010 21:34 BSTRobert Simonoff

Hi everyone,

I have updated the article with some new information.

Three different acid tests (hydrochloric) revealed that the "calcite" crystal inside the first unknown specimen is in fact quartz - so not as relevant because of the huge hardness difference. However, we also found that in the same crystal as the quartz crystal, there is some chlorite. We are almost sure of this identification because of a hardness test and microscopic examination. Chlorite is found at the locality according to Mindat.

Here is the link for the article:
Newest galena article


27th Sep 2010 09:37 BSTRob Woodside Manager

Good work!!! At the main show last Tucson the specimens I saw clearly showed the inpact craters and the dealer was positive they were natural !!! Using smaller or softer abrasives might minimize the cratering. I strongly doubt there would be any recrystallization, but an SEM might show the cratering more clearly.

23rd Dec 2010 01:01 GMTRobert Simonoff

Hi everyone

Lance Kearns offered to let me use the SEM at James Madison University to look at the specimens.

We had a time limit, so I chose three to examine: one definitely man-made and two unknowns.

Both unknown pieces are definitely fakes.

They had spherical indentations, and all three had remnants of the abrasive material used partially embedded in the surface of the galena.

Glass sphere on previously unknown

I was only able to test two samples! The fact that these two were proven fake DOES NOT mean that all similar pieces are. The only test that was able to tell the difference was the SEM, and it would be impossible to test every hollow galena in existence that way. Many more would have to be proven fakes before I (personally) would feel comfortable drawing a conclusion about all of them.

For more information and photos (including more SEM photos) please read the Mindat article I wrote --


23rd Dec 2010 01:48 GMTJames Christopher

Great article Jessica!!

23rd Dec 2010 09:31 GMTTomasz Praszkier Manager

Very interesting article.

During my last trip to Madan (maybe 4 weeks ago) I conformed at 100% that all them are faked, I know people who did that even.


23rd Dec 2010 14:32 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

The conclusion that is fair to draw at this time is that at least some of these Madan hollow galenas are fake.

What I would like to see in addition to this in the future would be:

a) a reference SEM of a fresh Galena surface to compare with the pitted/cratered one

b) an examination of some of the dissolution/odd surface texture features on some of the Dal'negorsk galenas (for example), which are assumed to be natural, but bear some resemblance to the textures seen on the Madan hollow galenas.


23rd Dec 2010 14:41 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

Also, look at this photo:

I know Jessica says it was placed in acetone overnight, but doesn't it look to you like it's glued on the bottom? There are glues that acetone won't touch.


23rd Dec 2010 15:00 GMTPaul Brandes Manager

Do I smell a potential senior thesis or MS project here??

23rd Dec 2010 15:13 GMTTomasz Praszkier Manager

In Madan there are also natural "hollow" galenas but looks completely different than this ones. When I will find a time I will post some of this.


23rd Dec 2010 15:49 GMTRobert Simonoff

thanks everyone.

Tomasz - how did you prove that they are all fake??

I completely agree with you on the conclusion Jolyon. obviously some are definitely fake. I'm not sure how it could be proven one way or another for all of the specimens (not saying it can't be done just that I don't know how).

i think that the quartz crystal in that photo is definitely glued. That specimen was one of the ones I looked at with the SEM, and it had the glass balls... i guess the quartz could have been an inclusion in the galena that was exposed as a result of the microabrasion but that doesn't seem too likely (especially because it is not actually touching the galena on the bottom, it is on chlorite, which I would have thought would be completely destroyed by then.)


23rd Dec 2010 15:58 GMTWayne Corwin

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

23rd Dec 2010 16:18 GMTPeter Ward

I've been reading this with interest - you may like to have a look at these - here are photos of hollowed galenas found last year in Burtree Pasture mine, Cowshill, Weardale. Crystals are around 5-8mm across. Found in a quartz lined cavity, with a layer of quartz slabs in the base of the cavity - with hollowed galenas on the reverse of the quartz. I have some specimens with the galenas still attached to quartz crystals.

23rd Dec 2010 16:54 GMTTomasz Praszkier Manager

How I prove it? very easy!

Only one dealer bring them to the market (I will not put name here). All other dealers have specimens from him. This dealer told that he bought whole pocket etc. But I know people who work with him, and were "producing" this specimens.

I do not know how many time you visited Madan, but I after tens of trips know that there is only very few people working with specimens and they know immediately about each pocket. Before dealer from far Sofia will buy anything local miners/dealers have all specimens. Some of them have netter ones, other not so good. But at least few crystals you can see in locals houses. But you will never find this galenas from Madan! What is more - this kind of skeletal/hollow galenas are only from 1 mine - 9th September. There is only 3 person working there for specimens (it is closed mine, entering there illegal, some they I will post photos of pockets). I was talking with all them showing photos of specimens - they all told me that this are faked specimens. To find something in this mine you have to go for 20 hours and you have to know "secret" roads. So, it is impossible that dealer from Sofia went there and found this pocket. He also didn't bought it from locals. What is more - each mine have some characteristic specimens. And as I have written before - there are skeletal crystals of galena - but never in this shape.

I work in Madan for many years, and well know all local dealers and majority of miners which collect. What is more I have so good contact with locals that if there is some important pocket I have call the same day.

Concluding: I am 100% sure that this are faked specimens.


PS In majority of cases galena is younger than quartz and chlorite, it is very common to have inclusions of "quartz" in galena.

23rd Dec 2010 18:11 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Thanks Tomek, Between your sleuthing and Jessica's discoveries I think we can put this to rest.

23rd Dec 2010 21:15 GMTJoseph Polityka Expert


Thank you for the detailed analysis and detective work.


I hope so; but don't bet on it. A fellow I know who owns several is still in denial. This thread is like the creature in the movie Alien.

Happy New Year,


23rd Dec 2010 22:13 GMTRobert Simonoff

Joseph - you could have that person take their pieces to Lance Kearns at JMU in Harrisonburg, VA to look at them with the SEM. Lance said that he would be willing to look at other hollow galenas that people brought in after the discovery was published.


24th Dec 2010 03:48 GMTGail Spann Manager

Hello Jessica and Rob. Despite the avatar, this is JIM Spann (last time I tried to register on Mindat, I blew up the system...long story.) Any way, Jessica, a truly wonderful piece of research. I had to come out of my lurking mode to compliment you.

As Rob knows from talking to Gail, we have one of the older skeletal galenas that we acquired from a highly reputable dealer in May 2006. (Paid about what it cost to send a young lady to university for a semester!) After reviewing your work, I looked at our catalog...just as Tomek said, came from Ninth September Mine, Madan. As Joe mentioned, I have been in the denial category for a long time. I pulled our piece out of the cabinet and studied it under our stereo microscope up to 45x.

All the characteristics that you described were one more: the quartz crystals were pitted just like your SEM photos, but only on faces near the etched galena...then I found it. An entire stack of spherical glass beads in a cavity that would not have been self cleaning. Dozens of them! They appear to be much larger than 13 microns. About 6-8 across to equal the width of my fine pick point.

I can only conclude that these have been manufactured for at least the last four years. For kickers, I was told that there were only a handful ever found! (groan) I started getting suspicious when more and more kept appearing. Classic lesson here: caveat emptor!

Great job! Keep it up young lady! (and Dad)


24th Dec 2010 04:55 GMTAndrew Tuma Expert

Jessica, Tomasz and all the others willing to maintain the interest to get to the bottom of the issue; congratulations on the effort to provide the information and allow for conclusion to this issue to be started.

The perverse part of this episode is that these galena's will likely take on an interesting status amongst the mineral community for ever more even as fakes because of all the discussion that we as a mineral group undertook.

Just think, their value will be in the future, where we may have collectors that specialize in the many faked minerals that have and will appear in the years to come, and the Madan Galena's will always be remembered as one of the leaders in trickery. Who knows, they might get more valuable than the untouched ones due to their "rarity" ...yep, its a mad mad world.

And to everyone, a warm and happy x-mas and new year from a crazy Tasmanian,:)-D

And to all peoples in snowy Europe....field collecting zeolites at the moment is not a good idea..(:P)

Andrew Tuma

24th Dec 2010 07:51 GMTWayne Corwin

Jim Spann

I remember taking a close look at your Madan Galena's while you were setting up at the East Coast Gem Show in Springfield Ma. for your 53 case display that I was videoing in 2009, I was almost certin at the time that they looked fake, the inside edges looked too rounded to me to be real natural.

But I was also thinking that someone, with alot of time, had done a pritty good job. ;)

Wayne Corwin

24th Dec 2010 11:21 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

Remember the dealers who handled these are as much the victims as the collectors. They have all been defrauded by the original suppliers.

I think however that dealers who lost out on this now have sufficient evidence to press for criminal proceedings against those who created/supplied them in the beginning.


24th Dec 2010 15:29 GMTWayne Corwin

Here is a video I did of Gail & Jim Spann's Specimen I mentioned earlyer.
Spann's Hoppered Galena's

Best viewed in full screan.

Wayne Corwin

24th Dec 2010 15:44 GMTRobert Simonoff

Thanks Jim and Andrew!

Sorry about your piece Jim... but look on the bright side, as Andrew said, it could even gain value! :-)

I was wondering where these were really made. Obviously the galena is from Bulgaria, but were they "enhanced" by local miners in Bulgaria or by dealers in other countries after they came out of Bulgaria? It could even be some of both - the original galenas were made in Bulgaria, and when dealers saw the high prices the Bulgarian pieces were selling for, they decided to copy the technique. That would at least explain the different types of abrasives used!

thanks for the video, Wayne!


24th Dec 2010 17:46 GMTRyan L. Bowling

Jessica and Bob,

Thanks for sticking with this.

From someone who has spent many years in a mineral prep lab, it was really obvious to me, how these were made.

In fact, I got a lot of grief for showing my simple example of how it is done, so I am glad to see the evidence of glass beads show up in your investigations.

Again, this shows what a wonderful resource we have today, communication through Mindat.

Best Regards,


25th Dec 2010 03:55 GMTDr. Paul Bordovsky

I first saw these skeletal galena specimens in Tucson, 2006, at the Executive Inn. The year before I had visited this dealer and purchased a nice calcite. So, in 2006, I asked the dealer what was new. He showed me these specimens. I seem to remember that he only had ten or so in total. He had set aside a few of the best ones for someone from some museum to have a look........although that person was supposed to have been there already.

I returned a day or two later to look again........the museum never came by, but the dealer was excited because he had sold a couple specimens to a well known American dealer. Although I really didn't know much about galena or Bulgaria, the lure of finding the "sleeper rock" was too much to pass purchased a nice one with greenish-yellow sphalerite, chalcopyrite, and quartz.

A couple of months later I was in Dallas for a MAD meeting, where I met Jim and Gail. While we were comparing notes on

recent acquisitions, we talked of our "birdcage" galenas. They told me they had purchased theirs from the American dealer, and how interesting that two of the very few of these now resided in Texas.

The story of the skeletal galenas at that time was that the Bulgarian dealer visited the area, and bought some uncleaned

specimens from local miners. It was only when he was cleaning the minerals that he discovered a few of the hollow cubes, and that the local miners didn't know what they had. He was going to return and see if he could get some more of the uncleaned bulk material.

When questions arose as to the authenticity of the galenas, I had a sinking feeling, because the dealer also sold mineral

preparation equipment.....water guns, clippers, trimmers, etc. I had hoped that these first ones were still authentic, and that maybe only the newer specimens were manufactured.......but if Jim and Gail's "one of the original ten" was faked, then mine probably was too. I guess I need to have a look under a good microscope.


29th Dec 2010 22:32 GMTJonathan Woolley

Jessica & Robert,

Thank you very much to a wonderful article and posting the results of your continued investigation. This thread has been quite the captivating discussion, and thanks again to everyone for keeping it alive with each new piece of the puzzle. Tomasz & Jim, thanks for your corroborative stories as well.

I was very hesitant about them previously, but now I am interested in getting one simply to have one of these very clever fakes!

31st Dec 2010 19:12 GMTJorge Muñoz

Once again, it is so simple (probably too simple for many): WHAT LOOKS LIKE A FAKE MUST BE A FAKE!

And now, let´s talk about all these "old German" wire silvers which appeared out of nowhere during the last couple of years.... Absolutely NO lawyers comments please....B)B)B)

31st Dec 2010 19:40 GMTIan Jones Expert

Jorge Muñoz Wrote:


> Once again, it is so simple (probably too simple



> And now, let´s talk about all these "old German"

> wire silvers which appeared out of nowhere during

> the last couple of years.... Absolutely NO lawyers

> comments please....B)B)B)

Probably a lot too much money involved to talk about those.

2nd Jan 2011 19:09 GMTRobert Simonoff

Thanks everyone.

Jorge - I don't think that's necessarily true. For example, the Mindat gallery of galena has a lot of pictures of galena that looks like the hollow fakes we discussed in this thread, but aren't exactly the same. Some are hollowed down only one axis, some aren't even completely hollow, and some just have unusual etching pattens. These pieces look like the fakes, but that doesn't mean they are.


2nd Jan 2011 21:06 GMTJolyon Ralph Founder

> Probably a lot too much money involved to talk about those.

The Himmelsfurst silvers?

With a 99.99% purity silver content, these have to be fake.

Lawyers for angry mineral dealers can contact me via the normal channels, and will receive the normal response :)


3rd Jan 2011 01:20 GMTRob Woodside Manager

At the risk of Hijacking another thread...

What is the composition of honest Himmelfurst Ag? There are localities that do produce near 100% Ag wires. In addition, the process used to grow the Imiter fakes and purportedly the Himmelfurst fakes does occur in nature at some localities that produce these stringy wires thickened at the base. A decade or so ago these Himmelfurst wires were selling for obscene amounts. Then with the controversy they disappeared from the market. Now they are making an occasional return at somewhat reduced prices, but with no comment about authenticity. I understand there was a problem with the provenance of the Himmelfurst wires that also needed addressing before accepting them as real specimens. When nature uses the same method as fakers, provenance is crucial.

6th Jan 2011 22:18 GMTAlfredo Petrov Manager

I disagree that 99.99% Ag purity indicates fakery; as Rob points out, Nature too makes surprisingly pure silver wires - The process just doesn't accomodate a lot of the other metals that are commonly present in such parageneses. Nevertheless, with the allegedly Himmelfurst wires no one seems concerned with the locality provenance, only with their natural origin. I would have liked to see matrix, in order to check the reality of the locality attribution. Their natural origin doesn't worry me nearly as much as those galena frames did, as we already know that Nature herself makes plenty of similar silver wires.

6th Jan 2011 22:29 GMTRob Woodside Manager

Alfredo, without matrix you can't tell if they are fake, so locality provenance is all you have left. That was questionable as I recall.

2nd Apr 2011 18:22 BSTJohn Betts

I recently photographed a galena from Madan that had many small cavities and uploaded two photos:

The small cavities in the galena are definitely not man-made as illustrated by the undercut in one cavity that was exposed when the galena crystal cleaved.

These small cavities are the precursor to more elaborate dissolution that would lead to natural skeletal galena crystals. I do not doubt the man-made conclusion for the large skeletal cubes. But clearly there is a natural process working here.

2nd Apr 2011 19:21 BSTTomasz Praszkier Manager


this are certainly natural etchings. It have to be told that etching of galena and also etching of skeletal growing galenas is very, very common in Madan area. Problem is only with one kind of man-made gales - kind of hollow cubes as illustrated here: and


2nd Apr 2011 21:09 BSTJim Robison


Agree with Thomasz. These features were also found at the Burgin Mine in Eureka, Utah back in the 60's and 70's. They just never received widespread distribution. We also found very nice small floater spinel law twins of galena, highly lustrous and mostly flattened with very smooth sides.

Our geology staff kept a particularly nice one in the display cabinet, with a tobacco can next to it punched full of small 'breathing holes.' When asked how the holes were formed, the response was 'plumbus voracious', the notorious lead worm. Upon opening the can a small fake animal popped out. It was the head of a toothbrush, with stained bristles, and two eyes painted on the rounded off piece of handle left on the head of the brush. There would be a longish pause, then a smile and a laugh as the joke played out.
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