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Gemstones

Articles from GEMSTONES - LOOSE (254 Articles), GEMSTONES - SYNTHETIC (54 Articles), GEMSTONES - CHRYSOPRASE (40 Articles)










Malachite
Malachite

The artistic merit of malachite

Malachite is a basic copper carbonate that derives its name from the Greek word “mallow”, a green herb.
True to form, the gem is banded in rings of both light and dark green. Such colouration is rare for a gemstone and malachite is not easily confused with other stones. In fact, the mineral imposter pseudomalachite and the aventurine quartz are the only two jewellery-quality gemstones that look similar, though both can be distinguished.

A hydrated copper carbonate, malachite is formed through the dissolving of copper ores to create a compact mass of monoclinic crystals. When these crystals are packed together, botryoidal forms are produced and banding occurs in a circular direction throughout the stone.

Found in many parts of the world, it is usually located near azurite, a copper carbonate that comes in a rich blue colour. Very often, the two minerals will share space in one stone creating a visually pleasing mix of blue and green bands called, unsurprisingly, azuremalachite.

Malachite can also be found alongside the copper silicate chrysocolla and the stones can again contain a combination of both minerals.

Pseudomalachite, malachite's mineral impostor, is a copper phosphate that appears to have the exact colours of the stone; however, the two have differing structures. Despite its scarcity, the similarity of pseudomalachite is underlined by the gem's name: pseudo meaning “false" in Latin.

Interestingly, malachite is often called an imposter of azurite for a similar reason.

Once attributed to Russia and the copper mines in the Urals, the best examples of the gem are now found in Australia, specifically Queensland, NSW and SA. Elsewhere, copper mines in Arizona provide a source of the gem, as do some areas of Africa and South America. 

The deep green colours within malachite meant it was an ideal choice for use as a green paint pigment until the 19th century and it dates back as far as the age of the Egyptian tombs (2575BC - 2467BC) where it is present in royal paintings.

In European art, malachite enjoyed a strong surge, mainly in paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries. Additionally, such vibrant colour popularised the gem for decorative purposes and entire malachite rooms still exist in such palaces as the Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Revered for its powerful healing qualities, malachite was said to avert faintness, prevent hernia, reduce heart attacks and aid in colonic treatment. When mashed into a powder and mixed with honey, malachite would prevent the flow of blood from open wounds, while mothers wore malachite amulets to promote teething for Bavarian gypsy infants. 

Perhaps most remarkably, it has been written that wearers of malachite in ancient Egypt were unaffected by the plagues of cholera that devastated that time, giving rise to a belief that it aided rheumatism and asthma.

Today, malachite is popular as an ornamental stone and its use in jewellery is widespread.

Malachite rates a four on Moh's scale of hardness, making it a relatively soft gem. As such, it is susceptible to damage and care should be taken when handling or polishing the stone. Contact with acid will cause malachite to effervesce, so this substance should be avoided when cleaning the gem.

Fact Sheet

December - Malachite
Hardness: 4
Variety of: Copper carbonate hydroxide
Found: Australia, Africa, USA, Russia

Birthstones

Modern: Blue topaz, turquoise 
Traditional: Zircon, turquoise, lapis lazuli
Mystical: Onyx
Ayurvedic: Ruby

Zodiac birthstones

Sagittarius (November 22 - December 21) Sapphire, amethyst
Capricorn (December 22 - January 19) Ruby, agate, garnet











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