Malachite has been used in jewelry for thousands of years because of its unique color and patterning. But as of recently, because of its rarity and high value, there are many imitations on the market.
In this article, we'll discuss how to differentiate between real vs fake malachite.
Malachite Mineral Formation
To fully understand how natural malachite should appear, it's first essential to understand the process of its formation.
Malachite forms in caves or caverns as stalactites or mineral deposits filling the cracks or fractures of rocks. Fluids containing dissolved minerals seep out of the earth, tricking down rocks walls through fractures and cracks or dripping off of cavern ceilings leave behind copper-rich mineral deposits of malachite material. Over time the water's composition changes resulting in a change of color in the deposited minerals left behind. That process is responsible for the varying shades of malachite green rings.
Color of Malachite Rings & Patterns
As stated above, the rings of malachite are various shades of green. The key here is green. Imitation malachite is made with green and black resins swirled together in a large container. The black color boldly contrasts the green and is why it is chosen for imitation malachite. Identifying black lines is a surefire way to spot the fakes.
Malachite's formation process inherently results in predominantly linear and circular ring features. But, in the case of imitation malachite, because it is essentially a stirred bucked of resin, the patterning will show far more swirling than a natural specimen would. But beware, some tactfully crafted imitation malachite has more realistic patterning.
Density, Weight, & Temperature
Malachite is a very dense mineral with a specific gravity of approximately 3.8 g/cm3. To put this in perspective, silicate minerals such as quartz, tiger's eye, and jaspers have a specific gravity of approximately 2.65 g/cm3 - meaning that malachite is about 30% heavier than silicate minerals, and about 45% heavier than fake malachite resin based materials that have a specific gravity closer to 2.0 g/cm3.
Density is often closely tied to thermal conductivity, which is a materials ability to transfer heat. Higher density materials tend to be more thermally conductive. Malachite's high density and conductivity make it feel colder to the touch, whereas fake malachite will not feel very cold as it's not very dense or conductive.
Malachite is a rare and sought-after mineral. Mining and cutting of malachite is a labor-intensive task; therefore, it comes at a high price. If you find a product listing that says something like "Genuine Natural Green Malachite, Grade AAA, 100% Natural" with a price that seems too good to be true, then it probably is a fake. Even low-quality malachite will come at a cost. Imitation malachite with genuine claims, unfortunately, is a common occurrence, particularly in online marketplaces.
High-quality genuine malachite is a naturally beautiful stone that is great for handmade jewelry. Do your homework, ask questions, be informed about what you purchase, and seek out reputable suppliers to ensure that you're getting authentic products.