Fake Trinitite

The trinitite pictured here is not what it seems. While many people assume that a lot of trinitite sold on the internet and at gems shows is fake, I have to disagree with that assumption. I do not believe that you can 'fake' trinitite to any level of perfection that could not be recognized immediately by an experienced trinitite collector. I do believe that those new to the hobby, who are not familiar with trinitite can be easily fooled by several things that may resemble the real thing.

This page is to hopefully educate and help you understand what an actual specimen of trinitite looks like, and how to spot a fake.

About 80 to 90 percent of all trinitite is basically flat, smooth on top with a rough sandy or lumpy bottom where it lay in the desert floor after the test. They average between 1/4" and 1/2" thick and are pale to dark green in color. There are examples that are rough all around where they rolled across the ground while cooling, some may have a fine coating of fallout on the surface giving the piece a rough sandy feeling on top. Very thick pieces have been collected, but usually still retain the other typical trinitite characteristics, smooth on top and rough on the bottom.

Large specimens of trinitite are almost nonexistent today. The largest piece known is the 'Green Monster' from the LaPaz collection. Weighing in at 258 grams, it is now in a private collection.

The first example of fake trinitite we will examine is one of the most commonly mistaken things that people think is trinitite, slag glass. Slag glass can be found in many states all over the US. It was produced as a byproduct of iron smelting in furnaces as far back as colonial times. There are tons of this material produced in modern day factories, and glass of all colors is produced to make ornamental items.

As a collector and dealer in the trinitite business, I get numerous photos sent to me by people who have either inherited or collected slag glass and think it is trinitite. Sometimes they will even claim they found it in states other than New Mexico. Trinitite was only found and collected at the Trinity site in New Mexico between 1945 and 1951 after the detonation of the world's first atomic bomb on July 16th, 1945. Anything collected after 1951 was done so illegally.

Photos top left and right: This is an actual piece of trinitite from the Lincoln LaPaz collection. This piece is 44.0 grams and approximately 1" thick on the side. Notice the smooth glassy green surface shown in the top right photo. This is the classic look of a trinitite surface. The left photo shows the 1" thick side view with numerous holes created from exploded gas bubbles.

Photos middle left to right: This is a specimen of greenish/blue slag glass. To give you an idea of how easily fooled people can be, this piece came from the collection of a very experienced mineral collector. This was displayed on his shelf along with the rest of his collection and a friend bought the collection after the man passed away. I traded a jar of North Carolina sapphires for this piece, just so I could add it to my growing collection of fake trinitite to use for educational purposes. The first things that are immediate indicators that this is a fake are the weight, shape and color.

This is a very large piece of slag weighing over a pound. It is not flat like typical trinitite. It is also a blue/green color. While green is the usual color for trinitite, blue is exceptionally rare, maybe the rarest color for trinitite. I have several hundred specimens in my collection, with maybe five pieces that have small, under 1cm blue areas on them. If this specimen were real, it would be worth over $10,000 for its weight alone!

The pictures on the left and middle resemble the real trinitite above with the holes from exploded bubbles. It is easy to see how one could be fooled by these similarities, but there are other things to look for that give it away. Notice that there is no smooth surface on top, The picture on far right is the bottom of the piece. There is not a sandy or lumpy bottom on this piece, it has been cut flat with a lapidary saw. If you tried to cut a piece of actual trinitite, it would fall to pieces. Trinitite is not stable enough to cut with a saw.

Lastly, if still unsure of the authenticity of a piece, have some testing done. Real trinitite has a unique fingerprint, or radioactive signature that is specific to specimens from the Trinity site. Most slag glass will have none at all.

Photos bottom left and right: Both pictures are of the label and case the piece was displayed in. Notice that 'trinitite' is spelled wrong on the label.

Remember, when trying to determine if a piece may be trinitite, look for a smooth green glassy surface, a rough sandy bottom, light weight and about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. The piece will always come from the Trinity site in New Mexico, it does not come from anywhere else. Of course, there are exceptions of rare specimens that may have rolled on the desert floor or formed while in the air. If you have questions, you can contact me, and I will try to help you identify what you have. Rick Jacquot; rickjacquot@gmail.com

This piece was purchased by a friend at a rock shop out west. He bought two of them and showed them to me at a gem show. I advised him that they were not actual trinitite and traded him some real trinitite so I could add these to my collection of fakes. In my opinion, these are some really bad attempts at faking trinitite. They don't even resemble anything I have ever seen, especially not trinitite. I sent one piece off for testing, and as I suspected, it came back as common uranium ore. Not trinitite. It appears as if they coated the piece with some translucent green substance. It also has what looks like a piece of autunite? stuck in the specimen, likely glued into place. I also found the label interesting, 'Collected in 1980s' which would have made it illegal to collect at the time. Not something I would advertise on my fake merchandise!