Fakes, Repairs, and Coatings... Oh my!

The world of crystals and minerals is so visually tantalizing it is hard to believe there is any need or market for creating synthetic, enhanced, or replica crystals.  Truth be told, this is an industry.  Not unlike every other industry there is always going to be a darkside of the market trying to deceive the consumer to make a profit. 

In this series I will be showing examples of common fakes, explaining some of the enhancement and repair methods used on crystals, and giving some guidelines to help keep you safe when rock shopping.  Stay tuned for monthly blog posts on this topic!

ic:Angel or Opal Aura Quartz Specimen from unicornmanor.com

Not all crystal enhancements are created equal.  There are countless consumers drawn to what the trade calls “Aura” coatings on crystals.  In this process natural crystals are placed in a vacuum chamber and different steps are taken from here to produce the different varieties of metallic sheen that make up a rainbow of aura crystals. 

ic:Aqua Aura Quartz, the most fragile of the aura coatings, this example is from the-concious-mind.com

Titanium aura quartz, for example, is created by harnessing the natural electrostatic charge of the crystal and adhering titanium molecules to the surface in a process called magnetron ionization.  This is one of the most stable aura crystals because it is not exposed to high heat.  Aqua aura, in contrast, is created in a vacuum using vapor deposition which requires heating the chamber to 1600 degrees Fahrenheit.  While the result may be beautiful, the process compromises the structure of the crystal leaving them very brittle and prone to breaking.

Loving or hating “aurafied” crystals is all a matter of opinion.  There is no right or wrong here.  It is important to know the facts and to understand these are not typically prized specimens being used for coating.  Most often the specimens being treated are large bulk lots of imperfect crystals that are then coated to increase their value. 

ic:Iris quartz, 3.5cm group from "Madhya Pradesh"; photo by Yuuki Hasegawa

The only time to be on high alert is if the word Anandalite or Iris Quartz is being used in association with a crystal that looks like opal/angel aura quartz.  Iris Quartz is a natural crystal that displays a “peculiar internal spectral phenomenon - flashes of rainbow colors - an interference effect produced by reflection and refraction on very thin parallel Brazil-law twin planes and/or thin depositional layers”, as stated on Mindat.org. 

ic:Sidi Rahal, Morocco; Amir Akhavan photo; Spirifer Collection

You can find more detailed information on these natural beauties in Dr Amir Akhavan's comments on http://www.quartzpage.de/gro_text.html a little over halfway down the page.  These command a significantly higher price than any aura crystal and are found in only a few parts of the world.  Be sure to question the origin before investing in any rare mineral.