Translucent Black Serpentine (Bowenite) The Great Imitator
One of the most common and scandalous techniques to fool customers when it comes to buying translucent black jadeite (Omphacite-Jadeite) involves the use of translucent black serpentine (Bowenite) as an imitation Stone.
Translucent black serpentine video
Bowenite also know as ‘noble’ or ‘precious’ serpentine, is a type of antigorite used for semi-precious jewelry and carvings. This material is also used in most of the scams involving Omphacite-Jadeite purchases.
Translucent Black Serpentine or Bowenite is actually very similar to jadeite, often found naturally occurring in the same geological deposits. Fluids with jadeite rich minerals once flowed through these serpentine rocks in a high pressure, low heat environment under the Indian Continental Plate. Under this plate, the slab of what was seafloor at that time, was plunged deep into the earths mantle. This interaction of tectonic plates is what started the formation of the Himalayan mountain range approximately 100 million years ago.
Among the many differences between Bowenite and Omphacite-Jadeite include the three main differences involving the hardness, luster and specific gravity of the stones.
The hardness of Omphacite-Jadeite is similar to that of the other green varieties of jadeite, hovering around 7 on the Mohs Scale of hardness.
In contrary, Bowenite is extremely soft in comparison with a rating of only between 4-5 on the Mohs Scale. This soft mineral structure causes the stone’s surface to appear waxy and dull, known as the stone's ‘Luster’. Bowenite’s luster is unable to attain a high polished shine like that of jadeite and therefore will always appear a dull black when compared with Omphacite.
Along with the differences in hardness and luster the Bowenite also exhibits a much lower density than Omphacite and therefore has a lower specific gravity of 2.2-2.9. In comparison, Omphacite has a specific gravity of 3.2-3.4 showing that it is almost 33 % more dense than Bowenite.
These two different stones also show similarities in their translucent characteristics when shown with a transmitted light shining through them. However, there are differences in color and types of inclusions that can be used to discern between the two. For instance, Omphacite will always shine a ‘true green’ while Bowenite will show hues of yellow mixed with an olive green color.
Another way to see the difference is to look for inclusions in the stones. Bowenite will almost always contain black specks of metallic and graphite inclusions while Omphacite will mostly contain inclusions that resemble ‘cottonballs’.
: Bowenite showing its speckled inclusions and yellowish hues.
Omphacite-Jadeite showing a clearer grain structure with the characteristic 'cotton ball' inclusions combined with hues of deep green.