Malachite: A Popular Green Gemstone for Jewelry

Malachite is a striking green gemstone that has been used for jewelry and ornamental objects for thousands of years. Derived from copper carbonate, malachite has a very distinctive banded light and dark green coloration that makes it instantly recognizable. In ancient Egypt, malachite was a stone associated with nobility that was used for jewelry and cosmetic powders. Today, malachite remains a popular gemstone, especially for cabochon cuts that showcase the stone’s distinctive banding.

The most important malachite deposits are located in the Ural Mountains in Russia, as well as in Zaire, Chile, Australia and the southwestern United States. The vibrant green color of malachite comes from its high copper content. Interestingly, malachite often forms through a secondary process after weathering in copper deposits, rather than as a primary mineral. Malachite frequently occurs with azurite, another popular blue copper mineral.

Malachite has been used as a gemstone and ornamental stone since 4000 BCE. In ancient Egypt, malachite was pulverized and used as a green eye shadow. It was also popular for amulets and jewelry. The Egyptians believed malachite could protect against evil spirits and guard against dangers. In the Middle Ages, malachite was popular for ecclesiastical objects and jewelry among Russian aristocracy. Faberge made extravagant works of art from malachite in czarist Russia.

Today, malachite remains a popular gemstone for jewelry design. Since it is very soft and fragile, malachite is almost always cut en cabochon rather than faceted. This style of cutting displays the stone’s striking color banding to full effect. Malachite has a Mohs hardness of only 3.5-4, so it requires gentle handling. It is also sensitive to heat and acid, which can cause the vibrant green color to fade. Malachite jewelry should not be exposed to perfume or acidic sweat.

Malachite is frequently used in silver jewelry designs. The striking green contrasts beautifully against the bright white metal. Malachite also looks very stylish in combination with other natural stones. Pairings like malachite with tiger’s eye or malachite with blue lace agate create visually interesting color combinations. For a Southwestern style, malachite can be combined with turquoise. Malachite also makes one-of-a-kind beads for necklaces and bracelets.

While synthetic malachite is available, most malachite gemstones today are natural. However, some enhancements may be applied to improve color and durability. Dying is occasionally used to create deeper green tones. Malachite is also commonly stabilized with colorless wax or resins. This process penetration the pores and protects the malachite from scratching, chipping and fading. Stabilization is an accepted enhancement for this delicate gem.

With its striking green bands and long history, malachite is a unique gemstone that adds color and character to any jewelry design. From Egyptian cosmetics to Faberge eggs to modern silver designs, malachite has remained consistently popular over thousands of years. For those who love distinctively patterned green gems, malachite is an excellent choice.