Malachite, a vibrant green mineral, has been coveted by collectors and enthusiasts for centuries. Its rich green hues and unique patterns make it an ideal choice for jewelry and decorative items. Unfortunately, as with many precious stones, there are counterfeit malachite pieces on the market. The good news is that distinguishing between genuine and fake malachite is relatively simple once you know what to look for.
Table of Contents
What Is Malachite?
The first thing you need to know is that malachite is a copper carbonate mineral that develops naturally over time in caves and caverns. You’ve probably seen some form of it hanging from the inside of a cave, like a modern icicle. You likely just didn’t know what it was at the time. It usually develops in places where air, salt, and water mix. In some regions of the world, malachite can found in a crystal form on the ground. Once it is mined, it is then polished, and buffed .
While the exact origin of the green crystal is unknown, it has been suggested that the term malachite comes from the Greek word malache or malakee. These terms are used to describe the leaves of the common mallow bush, probably due to the plant’s intense green color.
Malachite can also form as a patina on various metals.
Take for example the Statue of Liberty. Although the statue is made out of copper, which usually boasts a dark golden tone, due to oxidation, the copper has developed several patinas, one of which being malachite. These patinas are the source of the statue’s iconic green color.
How Can You Tell If It’s Real Malachite?
When malachite is faked it is usually done so synthetically. Therefore, it can be produced at a lower cost. This should be one of your biggest identifiers, the price. Any honest dealer is going to charge less for imitation or reconstituted malachite. Unfortunately, not every dealer is honest, so, when you come across malachite that is priced right, but you are still unsure of the authenticity, you’ll have to examine the stone itself.
If you are shopping online this can bring about a whole host of problems, but an authentic dealer should be more than willing to provide pictures and a satisfaction guarantee along with their products.
Color and Pattern
Real malachite exhibits a rich, dark green color with bands or swirls of various shades of green. These patterns, which can be straight, wavy, or concentric, are formed by the mineral’s crystalline structure. In contrast, fake malachite tends to have a more uniform and less vibrant green color. Counterfeiters often use dyes or paints to mimic the appearance of malachite, but these imitations lack the depth and variation of authentic specimens.
Take especially close note of the patterns and colors of the stone. You should see a whole mess of swirls, waves, circles, and stripes within the surfaces.
Another thing to note is, fake malachite usually is done so with stripes because they are the easiest and quickest to recreate.
Natural malachite will give off softer greens and change throughout the surface. As you scan your eyes over the surface of the stone, you should see various soft greens, which will eventually change to what looks like black-greens.
Synthetic stone is much harsher in color and will gleam when placed under light.
Cold to the Touch
Genuine malachite is a dense and solid mineral, which means it should feel cold to the touch, even when held for an extended period. Fake malachite, on the other hand, may be made from materials such as plastic or resin, which are poor thermal conductors and will not feel cold. When shopping for malachite, take a moment to hold the piece in your hand to determine its temperature.
Tips for Buying Malachite
Buy from Reputable Dealers
When purchasing malachite, choose a reputable dealer with a proven track record of selling genuine stones. This can minimize the risk of purchasing counterfeit malachite. If possible, ask for documentation or certification of authenticity for the stone.
Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions about the malachite. A knowledgeable and trustworthy seller should be able to provide detailed information about the stone and its provenance.
Examine the Price
Authentic malachite can be expensive, especially for larger or higher-quality specimens. If the price of a malachite piece seems too good to be true, it may be a sign that it is not genuine. Be cautious of significantly discounted or unusually low-priced items, as they may be counterfeit.