Sometimes, the identification SEEMS to be right, but the piece itself looks a bit too perfect or different than what has been seen in the past. Let me be clear here–This Azurite/Malachite is technically NOT a FAKE OR FORGERY. What it is, however, not a natural occurrence ALL OF THE TIME.
It is important to note that even though the information provided below shares how stabilized pieces are crafted and created, that the minerals involved are the real deal and do “grow” together. The real deal tumbles I have seen are more lumpy, bumpy and the crystals are often stunning.
Yes, that is a lovely blue Azurite with Green Malachite inclusions. Or is it? Welcome to the World of Stabilization!
Malachite and Azurite do often occur together naturally, but this is not one of those times. Someone came up with a brilliant idea on how to utilize (recycle) the powdered material that was left over after cutting.
Here’s how it works. Azurite is a soft mineral. You can literally scrape a piece and get a little mound of blue powder. (How do you think the Egyptians used Lapis as an eye shadow?). When Azurite is mined, or boxed and shipped or sliced and diced, this blue powder accumulates. They take all of this beautiful blue powder, add it to a stabilizing solution, mix it up and sprinkle in Malachite shavings. Then they put it into a 350 degree oven….Wait, I am starting to sound like Julia Child there….LOL
Anyway, you get the idea.
Once these blocks harden, they can then be sliced into smaller pieces to be tumbled or slabs to be polished, jewelry pieces to be crafted, etc. This production technique can and is used on many other softer materials, like Chrysocolla for example.
And something to note–these pieces are normally NOT dyed. They may however get powder in the micro cracks that occur during tumbling or polishing etc. and may turn your hand a different color if held for too long (heat from the hand loosens up powder in cracks). Washing or soaking will also release these micro powders so your water may turn a different shade. So if you wash your tumbled Chrysocolla to cleanse it and get some color on your hand, do not panic, it is still Chrysocolla, just with a twist.
**ALERT** As I was doing some research on this type of process, I ran across no more than 6 sites that labeled these tumbled Azurite/Malachite pieces as RARE!!. This is not true. They are not rare at all. China manufactures these on a regular basis.
Testing for dyed or stabilized materials
As I was catching up with my reading on Fakes, Forgeries, Stabilized Material etc. at Mindat.org, I found this very simple instruction on how to “test” pieces if you were suspicious as to whether it has been dyed or stabilized.
Please note: Do this at your own risk. Using the underside may be best for most types of testing in this manner. I personally have never had any issues, but just the same.
1. The easiest way to check for dyed material is to use acetone (Fingernail polish remover) and a small piece of white cotton or white toilet paper. Apply the acetone to the cotton or toilet paper, then rub a small spot of the piece in question with the acetone cotton/toilet paper. If the material is dyed, this will likely rub off on to the acetone-soaked material and leave a blue spot. This can also remove some of the stabilizer agents and leave that spot chalky-looking.
2. For stabilized material: Use a lighter flame (On low) and hold it over a small corner edge. All stabilized materials will give off a burnt plastic smell and leave the area that the flame touched generally blistered. I know this sounds extreme but it only takes a moment and if you suspect the item is fake, you are not losing anything. If it IS something like real Turquoise, this brief exposure will not hurt it.