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Fake Colombian Emeralds
  
  Index -> Incorrect classification and fakes
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: Dec 06, 2015 12:04    Post subject: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

I have heard so often the same comment from many respectable dealers from all over the world “Colombian emeralds are the most commonly faked of all mineral specimens”.
And since I mostly cherish (and buy) Colombian emeralds in matrix, these comments also serve as a daunting reminder of the risks I take when I go on a hunting trip to Colombia.

I am by no means an expert in fake emerald specimens but I thought I could share some pictures from a recent trip I made down there.

One of the mineral dealers I met showed me a couple of fake specimens he had recently bought on the local market.
I have been doing business with this dealer for years now and he is known to openly sell fake specimens to some customers who do not mind buying man-made products as long as they are cheap and spectacular.
Not sure if these people, in turn, make a business by selling the fakes as natural… but that’s another story.
Wanted to double-check but I didn’t have a UV light at hand (as most glues fluoresce) and I certainly didn’t want to break my relationship with an honest dealer by soaking his specimens in acetone (which I didn’t have anyway!).

Some of these fakes are genuine pieces of art and one can be easily carried away when being offered such specimens in the mining areas or even in a nice and cozy office in Bogota.
In such situations there are a few common-sense tips that can help a bit
1) We all know how the old idiom goes – if it “looks too good to be true”, it probably is – The very nice specimens seldom reach the formal Bogota market. For sure, they never reach the informal markets in the various mining areas.
2) Look for improbable combination and settings. Much, much easier to say than to do. For that, one needs to know the expected matrix/mineral combinations for each mining district/area!! If you don’t have that niche experience, find somebody who has (Again here, much easier to say than to do!). This might help you saving lot of $$$$.
3) If naked-eye observation is not conclusive, look for glue using UV light. Of course the ultimate test is to soak the piece into acetone (or any powerful solvent) for a few days. Not something you can always afford to do before closing a deal :-(
4) Follow your intuition - If you doubt at first sight, don't rush. If you can't make any conclusive tests, don't buy.
No rock(et) science here...

Don’t get me wrong – most of the dealers I met in Bogota are honest.
But the vast majority simply don’t know if the material they have is fake or not. And they can’t really be blamed for that as their main business is by far faceted stones.
So even when in doubt, all specimens are natural and it’s up to the buyer to challenge them!

So yes, there are many, many fakes around, and not just in the Colombian market.
But with a bit of patience and some common sense rules, you can already avoid the easy mistakes.

Gérard

PS: Sorry for not providing the accurate dimensions - these specimens are about 10-15cm across.
Also I could not resist posting the most famous fake emerald specimen in the world. It's a very rough montage mixing crystals from the Eastern and the Western belts.



P1120569_T.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (Var. Emerald), Calcite or Dolomite?, Albite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
Fake specimen
 Viewed:  8643 Time(s)

P1120569_T.JPG



P1120572_T.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (Var. Emerald), Calcite or Dolomite?, Albite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
Fake specimen
 Viewed:  8631 Time(s)

P1120572_T.JPG



P1120575_T.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (Var. Emerald), Calcite, Pyrite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
Fake specimen
 Viewed:  8635 Time(s)

P1120575_T.JPG



P1120577_T.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (Var. Emerald), Calcite, Pyrite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 15cm across
 Description:
Fake specimen.
With such large pyrite crystals around, the emerald crystals tend to be much smaller than this one which is suspiciously too large.
 Viewed:  8640 Time(s)

P1120577_T.JPG



P1120580_T.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (Var. Emerald), Calcite, Pyrite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 15cm across
 Description:
Fake specimen.
With such large pyrite crystals around, the emerald crystals tend to be much smaller than this one which is suspiciously too large.
 Viewed:  8637 Time(s)

P1120580_T.JPG



P1120582_T.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (Var. Emerald), Calcite, Pyrite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 15cm across
 Description:
Fake specimen.
With such large pyrite crystals around, the emerald crystals tend to be much smaller than this one which is suspiciously too large.
 Viewed:  8643 Time(s)

P1120582_T.JPG



Montezuma.jpg
 Mineral: Beryl (Var. Emerald)
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 17x16cm
 Description:
Montezuma's emeralds given to Cortes on a gold base at Museum of Natural History, Vienna, Austria
 Viewed:  8706 Time(s)

Montezuma.jpg


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jorgedavid




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2015 13:57    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

In http://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/download.php?id=63083 Fiebre Verde wrote:
Beryl (Var. Emerald)
Locality: Colombia
Dimensions: 17x16cm
Description: Montezuma's emeralds given to Cortes on a gold base at Museum of Natural History, Vienna, Austria

Moctezuma, with "C", emerald is fake too or what is wrong?
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Bob Harman




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2015 14:51    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

FIEBRE, Thanks for posting your pictures of the faked specimens. It always helps to know what is real and what may be cleverly faked, especially when the $$$/EuEuEu changing hands may be big!
While I don't collect this stuff and personally need not worry, I do look at hi end mineral examples at all the shows I attend. One thing that I routinely see in these faked emeralds, aquamarines, tourmalines, beryls, etc is that the crystals usually sit a bit too perfectly into the surrounding matrix and too much into the center of the example, a bit too evenly displayed and too evenly surrounded by all the other crystals. If the whole specimen looks a bit too good to be natural, it usually is.....Your pictured examples all show these phony conditions with the attached emerald. Only then do I look carefully for any glueing of the crystal onto the matrix. CHEERS.....BOB
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2015 14:54    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Jorge, I think both spellings are accepted - no doubt Moctezuma is the preferred spelling in Mexico!

The Moctezuma emerald is a fake in the sense that it's a montage combining many crystals from different Colombian locations. These natural crystals were "glued" before even the glue existed.

I doubt it was meant to look "natural". It was just a symbolic piece among the incredible amount of wealth Moctezuma presented Cortes.

Gérard
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jorgedavid




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2015 15:15    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Fiebre Verde wrote:
Jorge, I think both spellings are accepted - no doubt Moctezuma is the preferred spelling in Mexico!

The Moctezuma emerald is a fake in the sense that it's a montage combining many crystals from different Colombian locations. These natural crystals were "glued" before even the glue existed.

I doubt it was meant to look "natural". It was just a symbolic piece among the incredible amount of wealth Moctezuma presented Cortes.

Gérard


Thanks, Gérard. How it will be possible to contact you directly?
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2015 15:28    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

You can contact me directly by using the "pm" button located on the left-hand side of the message area.
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: Dec 07, 2015 16:16    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Bob Harman wrote:
FIEBRE, Thanks for posting your pictures of the faked specimens. It always helps to know what is real and what may be cleverly faked, especially when the $$$/EuEuEu changing hands may be big!
While I don't collect this stuff and personally need not worry, I do look at hi end mineral examples at all the shows I attend. One thing that I routinely see in these faked emeralds, aquamarines, tourmalines, beryls, etc is that the crystals usually sit a bit too perfectly into the surrounding matrix and too much into the center of the example, a bit too evenly displayed and too evenly surrounded by all the other crystals. If the whole specimen looks a bit too good to be natural, it usually is.....Your pictured examples all show these phony conditions with the attached emerald. Only then do I look carefully for any glueing of the crystal onto the matrix. CHEERS.....BOB


Thanks Bob.
These days all kind of fakes can be seen in the market, from the crude fakes to the (very) sophisticated ones.
The first "specimen" of my post is a good example of the type of work you see more and more often these days.
It does not have the typical "too good to be true" look that you described but it is spectacular enough to justify the price tag (and a close examination!).
I have also seen poor man's fakes in Bogota - an ordinary matrix combined with a non-terminated opaque crystal.

The supply of natural Colombian matrix specimens is getting scarce these days and sadly, the industry of fakes seems to have a strong future :-(

Gérard
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PostPosted: Dec 08, 2015 12:12    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Hello Fiebre Verde
Thank you for sharing such valuable information!
Most fakes (and there are MANY;) offered at shows look worse;)
Although I agree, the one in your first photo is a "serious case", not that easy to spot.

Some time ago, I was told a local rumor by a -as I think- quite knowledgeable person, that today's fakes of really high$$$$ specimens were produced by using laser technology.
Cutting precisely fitting holes or other spare rooms into the matrix, where crystals / "canotillos" would be "implanted" . Hardly detectable, as, of course, non-fluorescent and acetone-resistant glue is used. A side business for dentists?;)
Can you confirm this rumor or would you consider it to be more kind of a "mineralogical urban legend"?
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: Dec 08, 2015 14:24    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

minsur wrote:
Hello fiebre verde
Thanky you for sharing such valuable information!
Most fakes (and there are MANY;) offered at shows look worse;)
Although I agree, the one on your first foto is a "serious case", not that easy to spot.

Some time ago, I was told a local rumor by a -as I think- quite knowledgeable person, that today's fakes of really high$$$$ specimens were produced by using laser technology.
Cutting precisely fitting holes or other spare rooms into the matrix, where cristals / "canotillos" would be "implanted" . Hardly detectable, as, of course, non-fluorescent and acetone-resistant glue is used. A side business for dentists?;)
Can you confirm this rumor or would you consider it to be more kind of a "mineralogical urban legend"?


You are welcome minsur!
I also heard the same rumor (e.g. laser technology) but am unable to confirm - I don't go to dentists in Bogota :-)
But this would not surprise me at all as this is a money-making industry.
I am convinced that high-end specimens are manufactured in modern labs using cutting-edge technology.
During all this manufacturing process, the final makeup phase is critical as this is where the potential buyers will focus most - does the contact zone between the crystal and the matrix look natural? Any suspicious material, contact, dusting?
How much of the main crystal is contacted? No or little contact could already be an indication...
And how does the main crystal compare to the other ones, if any?
If the specimen is from a new find, how does it compare with the other specimens from the same find?
And if after a close examination and all the standard tests the findings are still not conclusive, you need to seek some help from an experienced person.
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: May 05, 2016 17:24    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

I saw more fake specimens this morning.
No doubt that it's a flourishing market, especially around the mines which are visited by more and more tourists now that the roads are better and the safety conditions have improved.
Most of the fakes I saw are pretty rough even for an untrained eye.



P1120964.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite, Quartz, Pyrite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
Surprisingly, the quartz is not glued.
But the 2 beryl crystals are.
 Viewed:  6367 Time(s)

P1120964.JPG



P1120960.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite, Pyrite, Quartz
 Locality:
Colombia
 Description:
 Viewed:  6362 Time(s)

P1120960.JPG



P1120963.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
This one has massive calcite.
Note the perfect position of the beryl crystal.
 Viewed:  6367 Time(s)

P1120963.JPG



P1120970.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
Massive calcite here too.
The beryl crystal couldn't be better positioned.
 Viewed:  6381 Time(s)

P1120970.JPG



P1120971.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Description:
no comment...
 Viewed:  6369 Time(s)

P1120971.JPG



P1120974.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
That calcite pocket was pretty inspiring.
 Viewed:  6362 Time(s)

P1120974.JPG



P1120975.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Description:
 Viewed:  6367 Time(s)

P1120975.JPG



P1120965.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
I must admit that this one baffled me.
The setting looks so natural...
 Viewed:  6375 Time(s)

P1120965.JPG



P1120966.JPG
 Mineral: Beryl (variety emerald), Calcite
 Locality:
Colombia
 Description:
Can't see anything wrong with the contact area of the aggregate with the matrix. Beautiful job.
 Viewed:  6366 Time(s)

P1120966.JPG


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minsur




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PostPosted: May 06, 2016 07:48    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Wow... a nice and seductive one! Hope, you did not buy it;-))

No chance to recognize without soaking it in dissolvent.
Nevertheless, the not readily explicable contact(?) at the bottom of the crystal looks a bit strange.
It worries me a bit, that such a near to perfect manufacturing job is done to create a specimen of comparatively low value. That is even more amazing than the top quality of the fake, I would say
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PostPosted: May 08, 2016 20:18    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

minsur wrote:
Wow... a nice and seductive one! Hope, you did not buy it;-))

No chance to recognize without soaking it in dissolvent.
Nevertheless, the not readily explicable contact(?) at the bottom of the crystal looks a bit strange.
It worries me a bit, that such a near to perfect manufacturing job is done to create a specimen of comparatively low value. That is even more amazing than the top quality of the fake, I would say


Hi minsur

Sorry for the late answer - I have been busy lately trying to avoid purchasing fake emeralds on matrix :-)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, you don't always need a solvent to find out - knowledge and experience is sometimes enough.

The very large calcite crystals featured in my previous post are typical of the Piedra de Chulo mine, in the Chivor district. The Chivor miners and the local traders - the serious ones - will all tell you that they have never seen or heard of emeralds associated with these large calcite crystals.
This first-hand information is priceless as you don't need to go through a painful solvent test which can be sometimes very impractical.

The last specimen featured in my post is a bit more worrying. That emerald-matrix association is very plausible. Even with a magnifier, I couldn't see anything suspicious with the contact of the aggregate with the matrix. A very professional job.

All these specimens were sold as fakes to the trader who showed them to me. We tend to think that fake specimens are only manufactured to fool the people who are buying them but we often forget that there is a market too for those specimens!

Gérard
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PostPosted: Nov 03, 2016 16:40    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Another interesting fake specimen I saw today.
This one baffled me as I was distracted by the unusual shape of the beryl crystals perched in a vug - specially the longest one.
When I asked the dealer (who also happens to be a good friend) for the price, he finally confessed it was a fake.
In this case, soaking the specimen in acetone wouldn't help much as the adhesive used is cement.

Apart of that, very aesthetic 'specimen' with gorgeous crystals :-)



IMG_1595.JPG
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
 Viewed:  2789 Time(s)

IMG_1595.JPG



IMG_1589.JPG
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
 Viewed:  2784 Time(s)

IMG_1589.JPG



IMG_1593.JPG
 Dimensions: 10cm across
 Description:
 Viewed:  2797 Time(s)

IMG_1593.JPG


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alfredo
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PostPosted: Nov 03, 2016 18:42    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

At least it's a REAL emerald, even if glued ;))

I once got a fake emerald made with great patience by a village boy in the Andes mountains. He spent hours rubbing a chunk of green glass (from the bottom of a wine bottle) against a lump of cement and a quartzite boulder, until he had a crude hexagonal prism, which he then laquered. Surprisingly, it looked quite real! (until you inspected it closely)
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: Nov 04, 2016 17:18    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

alfredo wrote:
At least it's a REAL emerald, even if glued ;))

I once got a fake emerald made with great patience by a village boy in the Andes mountains. He spent hours rubbing a chunk of green glass (from the bottom of a wine bottle) against a lump of cement and a quartzite boulder, until he had a crude hexagonal prism, which he then laquered. Surprisingly, it looked quite real! (until you inspected it closely)


Absolutely, these beryl crystals are very real!
When sold as such (how often?), these specimens are locally called 'gangas artesanales' (handcrafted specimens in matrix) and are priced accordingly.
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PostPosted: Nov 05, 2016 02:19    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Hi Gerard, as with some fake specimens we bought from Brandberg, experience tells you that something is just not right, even though it may be very difficult to see exactly what. Normally one can see the area just around the base of the glued crystal/s are disturbed and of a different colour than the rest, but these 'artists' are very good at even hiding that, by strewing fine bits of common minerals, from that area, on the glue to hide it. Some of these 'artists' know the minerals better than most because they work with them year in and out. Even so, it is extremely difficult to copy nature.
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PostPosted: Nov 06, 2016 17:42    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

You name it, Pierre:-)

Fiebre Verde, cement...
maybe we should change by the time from acetone and the other dissolvent with the inexpressible name and the even more horrible smell, to cheap and ecologically sound vinegar;-))
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Fiebre Verde




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PostPosted: Nov 12, 2016 14:13    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Pierre Joubert wrote:
Hi Gerard, as with some fake specimens we bought from Brandberg, experience tells you that something is just not right, even though it may be very difficult to see exactly what. Normally one can see the area just around the base of the glued crystal/s are disturbed and of a different colour than the rest, but these 'artists' are very good at even hiding that, by strewing fine bits of common minerals, from that area, on the glue to hide it. Some of these 'artists' know the minerals better than most because they work with them year in and out. Even so, it is extremely difficult to copy nature.


minsur wrote:
You name it, Pierre:-)

Fiebre Verde, cement...
maybe we should change by the time from acetone and the other dissolvent with the inexpressible name and the even more horrible smell, to cheap and ecologically sound vinegar;-))


Pierre, minsur,
Was probably much easier to spot manufactured in-matrix specimens say 10 years ago than today.
These craftsmen - some of them are highly skilled and certainly deserve the title of 'artists' - learned from their 'mistakes'.
As a result, they don't necessarily go for perfection when choosing the beryl crystals or setting their final position on the matrix. They also understood that selecting the matrix and the crystals from the same locality would also help to make the specimen look like real in the eyes of locality experts.
In other words, these 'artists' are more and more trying to copy Mother Nature - it's not real but has to look 'right', even for a trained eye.
All in all, forgeries are getting very sophisticated these days and there are more and more convincing 'rock art' around. And the weird thing is that this work is done at the mines!
When acetone or UV light can't help, you need to spend time looking carefully at the beryl crystal environment with a loupe or better, a microscope.
Gérard
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PostPosted: Nov 13, 2016 14:31    Post subject: Re: Fake Colombian Emeralds  

Our collector's universe is sometimes a bit funny and strange...
There are people paying tens of thousands, sometimes even hundreds of thousands $$$$
for epoxi-multi-glued-together and sandblasted Tourmaline specimens.
In my humble opinion just very nice handicrafts, or "artesania", which do not have really much to do with a naturally grown mineral anymore.
But everybody seems to like a truly genuine Emerald on matrix;))
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