iridescent purple and green silicon carbide

In Mark Sherwood’s case at the Spring 2017 show. Photo by Stephanie Reed

At Mark Sherwood’s talk “Earth Science… Facts, Frauds and Scams” he mentioned carborundum (also spelled carborundrum). It is made of silicon carbide, but it is not a natural mineral that you can find in the ground. If you want to find some carborundum, look in a chimney. At an iron foundry, the carbon and silicon in the smoke rise and precipitate on the inside of the chimney. When the chimney is cleaned, they find these nice silicon carbide deposits. They are iridescent and pretty enough to buy, but don’t be fooled. Some sellers will say that carborundrum or moissanite and pretend like it is from some secret mine or even a meteorite, but it is really a man-made mineral.

Note: Moissanite is a naturally occurring silicon carbide, but it is very rare and it doesn’t look like the specimen pictured above. It actually looks like tiny green glass crystals. They are usually heat treated to increase clarity. If so, the seller needs to disclose that the specimen has been heated or they are being fraudulent. Buyer beware.