Malachite; stunning 100+ shades of green

Malachite; stunning 100+ shades of green

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    Working in China I often visited gemstone stores, run by local Chinese people, that knew a lot about gemology. I really learned quite a lot from them. They never told me anything by themselves, but always answered my many questions patiently.

    One day when I visited Xi’an and a locale gemstone I saw a statue of a green lion, with a red ribbon in his mouth. The statue was made of malachite, full of luster, different shades of green, bands, eyes, etc. That lion came alive in the shop.

    My appreciation for this intriguing green gem started there and then. Especially when I discovered that you do not only can use malachite for carving statues. Also for making jewelry it is a great gemstone, due to the 100+ shades of green.

    Malachite gemstone color line
    Malachite gemstone color line

    Malachite is already known for ages

    Thanks to archeologists we know that malachite was first discovered over 4000 years ago. We have found gemstone jewelry and statues made of this gemstone all over Israel (Timna Valley) and Egypt.

    Not only did they use it for making jewelry and statues in Egypt, Greece, or in Ancient Rome, but also people made pigments out of it. Pigments to use as green eye shadow and paint.

    The green eye shadow, called kohl, was just as popular as wearing this gem’s amulets. The only thing is that malachite dust is poisonous when you inhale it. So when you try to decorate yourself with malachite, you better stay with the amulets.

    That this gemstone was well-known and popular proves an old text, written by the philosopher Ptahhotep from Egypt about 4500 years ago in the book Emeralds of Wisdom: ‘ knowledge knows no boundaries, and no one has yet reached perfection in it. Good speech is more hidden than malachite’.

    Rough malachite
    Rough malachite

    Polished malachite
    Polished malachite


    As stated above, the malachite powder was used as the base of the paint. You can see the results in old Pharaoh graves in Egypt, which are often decorated with stunning murals. And the green color is made from malachite.

    Also, the European painters from the 1600s and 1700s used malachite as the base of their green paint. They knew the process because they used lapis lazuli powder as the base of their blue paint.

    The vibrant green gem was officially recognized in 1747 as a gemstone


    This gemstone has endless possibilities, besides making paint and eye shadow, or making jewelry with it, there are people who build with malachite.

    Not complete houses (although…) but the Russian Tsar Alexander I used this gem to decorate 8 huge columns of St. Isaak’s Cathedral with the green gem. And in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg (Russia) you can see a complete malachite room, decorated with 200.000 kilos or 7055 ounces of it. Tsarina Alexandra Fjodorovna decorated this room in the 1830s and used malachite for enormous vases, fireplace panels, and huge columns.

    And then we don’t count the enormous malachite vases, ornaments, and statues made of this green gem, that stands all over the world.

    Malachite columns in the St Isaak's Cathedral in St Petersburg Russia
    Malachite columns in the St Isaak’s Cathedral in St Petersburg Russia

    And other ways of using it

    The First Nation people in the United States of America used the power of the malachite, making stunning jewelry with it to enhance their connections with the world above.

    And did you know that the Football (soccer) World cup you can win in this FIFA tournament is made of gold and the base is malachite? This cup is used since 1974.

    Where to find this stunning gemstone?

    About 3800 years ago malachite was mined in the Great Orme Mine in Great Britain. People had to use stone tools to get to the copper, where you can find malachite nearby. Around 3200 years later all the activities in that mine stopped.

    In the Ural Mountains in Russia, you could find also a lot of malachite. But with the Tsars loving this green gem so much and using enormous quantities of this green gem, also this mine run out of supply.

    The same goes for the mines in Israel and Egypt. Nowadays the malachite comes mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and some other African countries. And from the United States (Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico) or France and Australia.

    Malachite and copper???

    This gemstone consists of carbon, hydroxide, and copper! It is about 58% copper and maybe now the green color is understandable. When you see rusty copper the color is green.

    Since you find malachite a lot in copper veins it is also called the ‘guide to prosperity’. When the miners found this gemstone they knew that they have to dig deeper to find copper.

    The mines are most of the time in the weathering zones of copper deposits. Weathering zones are areas above the deposits that are broken down by water, wind, or pressure.

    Malachite forms as a so-called secondary mineral, rather than as a primary mineral. Primary minerals are formed when a rock first crystallizes.

    Weathering can change the chemical makeup of these minerals until you get a new, secondary mineral.

    In the case of malachite, the mineral forms in two ways: a solution of water and carbonates changes the rock with copper in it. Or a solution of water and copper minerals changes a carbonate rock.

    Most of the time malachite is found in limestone or within other minerals like Azurite and chrysocolla. The gemstone is not that hard, only 3-4 on Moh’s scale.

    Malachite writing artifacts

    Let us talk about its features:

    What does it look like?

    Malachite is a vibrant copper carbonate mineral that occurs in many shades of green, with green-colored bands and spiral patterns.

    The stone is opaque and soft. And since it is not that strong most of the time the malachites in jewelry are protected by resin or wax. Since the amount of it on Earth is not that large anymore, most of the material is used for making jewelry.

    And when you are very lucky you will find a stone that has chatoyancy. Tiger eye and cat’s eye have that feature too. It means that the stone shows a band of bright luster caused by the reflection from the inclusions in the stone.

    What is in a name?

    The name comes – via Latin (molochitis), Middle French (melochite), and Middle English (melochites)- from the Greek language, where it is called ‘molochites lithos’. This means ‘mallow-green stone’, due to the fact that the color resembles the mallow plant.

    The color

    The color is green, all shades of green, due to the copper in the gemstone. The shade varies between the pale green of the honeydew to the deep olive green tree green.

    The different shades are found in the bands (also called a peacock’s eye) and patterns of the stone. The patterns can be round or have a spiral shape, caused by the fact that the colors are unevenly placed in the stone.

    The bands or circles can be compared with the tree rings, twisting in each other and circles in spirals. In fact, those bands are small crystals. The smallest species are lighter than the larger crystals. And that explains the color variations.

    Sometimes the crystals of the bands are inclusions of different gemstones or other minerals.

    Circles, bands, and patterns
    Circles, bands, and patterns
    Malachite signet rings
    Malachite signet rings

    The brother and sister gemstones

    The other gemstones or minerals can be Turquoise, Chrysocolla, or Azurite. The combination of malachite and azurite is called ‘azurmalachite’, and contains copper as well.

    That azurmalachite is a stunning gemstone since the blues of the azurite mingle with the green of the malachite.

    The other mixture is called the Eilat stone, found in Israel. This gemstone has turquoise and green colors in one stone.

    Healing and spiritual features

    The green stone is associated with Venus and Jupiter, which implies it can enlighten thoughts and feelings, absorb negative energy (Venus) and broaden your mind to get new knowledge (Jupiter).

    According to the believers, this gemstone has strong energy, that works perfectly for protection and healing. And it is called the ‘stone of transformation’ since wearing it you can get rid of self-destructive habits.

    In the Middle Ages, people wore malachite amulets or stones to protect themselves against Black Magic and witchcraft. But nowadays people see the power of this green gem in healing deep internal problems, like arthritis, high blood pressure, and asthma.

    Lady statue, bronze with malachite, made by Alphonse Mucha, Art Nouveau style
    Lady statue, bronze with malachite, made by Alphonse Mucha, Art Nouveau style
    Portrait of a Pharaoh painted with malachite.
    Portrait of a Pharaoh painted with malachite.

    Cleaning and maintenance

    This green gem does not like the strong heat but does not mind the light. So don’t put it into the sun or even warm water, or water at all. It is sensitive to hard beats, ultrasonic cleaning, acids, and tougher gemstones.

    Since the stone is so sensitive and rather soft it is most of the time protected with resin or wax. You can clean the stone with distilled water and air dry it.

    The value

    This gemstone is not that expensive since the Democratic Republic of Congo mines it in abundance.

    But when the gemstone has exceptional features, like an abnormal crystal structure *(zoning or banding) or it is grown in another gemstone, it can be more valuable. The same goes when the stone has chatoyance.

    The most expensive stones are rather large and have one or more of these exceptional features, and cost between $1000-4000.

    Is it real or not?

    This gemstone is not expensive enough to copy on a large scale and make the fraud profitable. If you have a gemstone without any bands, circles, or patterns, and with an even green color it is fake. Unless it is a very small piece.

    Malachite beads or cabochons are beautiful to make jewelry from. I love to combine it with ruby, ruby zoisite, or even the deep blue of the lapis lazuli. And yes, I have some pieces in my collection. Just have a look in FlorenceJewelshop to find out.

    FlorenceJewelshop produced a free PDF with a lot of information about birthstones and other gemstones. Just let me know where I can send it to!

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