Although most green stones owe their colour to chromium or vanadium, chrysoprase derives its colour from the presence of disseminated particles of a hydrated nickel silicate. It ranges in colour from a beautiful apple green to a deep rich green. It is usually translucent but may be opaque in poorer quality material. Unlike many non-transparent members of the quartz family, it is the colour of chrysoprase, rather than any patterns or markings, that makes it desirable.
Due to its bright, even colour and texture, chrysoprase is usually cut into cabochons, beads and carvings. It has previously been used for intaglios and cameos, dating back to Greek and Roman times and was used lavishly in Europe until the middle of the last century, when sources were exhausted and it became rare and expensive.
Today, chrysoprase is primarily sourced from Central Queensland in Australia, although it has been found in Brazil, the Ural Mountains and California. Due to its overwhelming presence in Australia, chrysoprase is often referred to as ‘Australian jade’.
The name ‘chrysoprase’ is from the Greek chryos, meaning golden, and prason, meaning leek. This name was given to it in the 18th century when a vein was discovered in Silesia (now Poland) at the time of Frederick the Great of Prussia, who had a particular fondness for the stone.
His favourite pieces included a walking stick adorned with a knob of chrysoprase and a ring set with a large chrysoprase, surrounded by 15 diamonds. His love for the stone can still be seen today decorating many buildings in Prague, including the Chapel of St Wencelas.
Chrysoprase has been historically renowned for having some incredible powers. In the Middle Ages it was believed that by putting a piece of chrysoprase in your mouth, you would become invisible. It was also thought that the stone would lose its colour in the presence of poison. A Roman folklore claims chrysoprase enabled its owner to understand the language of lizards.
The gem was said to bring spiritual protection, prevent depression, increase grace and equilibrium and increase fertility. It was believed to encourage maximum physical outcomes to situations and helps to heal the “broken heart”. Chrysoprase was also said to be a victory stone.
Today, chrysoprase is still widely used in jewellery-making due to its excellent durability. Rating 6.5 to 7 on Moh’s scale, Chrysoprase is resilient and well suited for jewellery and carving. It is easily worked and takes a fine polish. The inherent toughness of the material makes it a very forgiving stone and allows for small carvings and thin work that transmits ambient light.
Chrysoprase can be worn every day and cleaned in an ultrasonic jewellery cleaner or with warm, soapy water and a soft brush. The stone’s vibrant hue can fade in sunlight due to dehydration, robbing the stone of its colouring agent. As stones dry out, they can lose their lustre. To restore, simply soak them in water.
Variety of: Microcrystalline
Found: Australia, Brazil,
the Ural Mountains
Modern birthstone: Diamond
Traditional birthstone: Diamond
Mystical birthstone: Opal
Ayurvedic birthstone: Diamond
Aries (March 21 – April 20) Bloodstone/carnelian
Taurus (April 21 – May 20) Rose quartz