Malachite has always been one of my favorite gemstones for jewelry so I’m not sure what took me so long to get around to telling you about it!
Malachite is a relatively common mineral associated with oxidized copper veins. It has the chemical formula Cu2(CO3)(OH)2. Malachite is easily recognized by the beautiful color banding of shades of bluish-green to darker green and almost black. Mineral specimens can be found showing many different habits; commonly botryoidal (rounded grape-like masses) with fibrous or silky structure, small crystals, stalactites, and tufts.
Although malachite can be a minor ore of copper, it is mostly used for jewelry and carvings. It is commonly found in combination with other minerals; for jewelry use, azurite (azurmalachite), chrysocolla, and shattuckite often show up in the mix.
Knowledge of malachite goes as far back as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans where it was used for jewelry, eye shadow, and as a pigment for paints. Paint using malachite has been found in Egyptian tombs and in European paintings from the 15th and 16th centuries. A stunning use of malachite can be seen at the Winter Palace at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, which features “the Malachite Room” with ornamental columns, vases and fireplace panels made from malachite.
There are both synthetic and imitation versions of malachite. With a little practice, they can be easily recognized.
Malachite is very soft (3.5 – 4 on the Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness) and scratches easily. It is also sensitive to chemicals and is sometimes coated with resin or wax to help protect it. Malachite necklaces and earrings are less likely to incur damage than rings or bracelets. Malachite jewelry should be cleaned with mild dish soap and water and a soft brush. Do not use steamers or chemical or ultrasonic cleaners as they can damage the stone and/or remove any protective coatings.
Every piece of malachite is unique and a wonderful addition to your jewelry collection!
Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis, 1985, Manual of Mineralogy, 20th ed., John Wiley and Sons, New York.