Malachite: Green Banded Copper Gemstone
Malachite is an ancient gemstone that is still quite popular today. This gemstone is found in all shades of green and often displays beautiful banding.
This makes malachite a gemstone that should not be missed in your gemstone or jewelry collection. The price should not be the reason for not including it, as it is one of the cheapest gemstones you can find.
What is Malachite?
Malachite minerals are a result of the weathering of copper ores. It is found in a range of green colors often referred to as ‘malachite green’.
The name malachite comes from the Greek words ‘molochitis lithos’ meaning ‘mallow-green stone’. Mallow being a plant whose leaves resemble malachite.
Almost all malachite has banding, these bands are mostly different hues of green. Though at times other colors such as black can be seen depending on the mother material.
Malachite is often found together with azurite, sometimes even forming aggregates which are known under the name azurite malachite. Together they form a blue and green banded gemstone that looks truly spectacular.
This mineral is not only used as a gemstone but has many other uses as well. In the industry it is used as a copper ore and when crushed it can be used as a green pigment. In fact in many older paintings the color green is malachite.
Eye shadow is another use for this versatile gemstone. Malachite has ornamental uses other than as gemstones. For example, large stones are usually not cut but sculpted into figures to increase their value. Many precious things are adorned with it as well, like jewelry boxes and photo frames.
History of Malachite
This ancient gemstone has been mined for thousands of years. One of the locations where it was mined was in King Solomon’s Mines in the Timna Valley, Israel. Evidence suggests that this site has been in use for more than 3,000 years and still produces some high quality malachite gemstones even today!
Most of the malachite that can be seen in cathedrals all over Europe came from The Urals in Russia. Extensive deposits were found here in the 19thcentury though most of them are no longer in use today. Currently most malachite is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other countries that have active mines are: Morocco, Australia and the USA.
Taking Care of Your Malachite Gemstones
Malachite is a gemstone that requires special attention, here are several tips to make sure you enjoy it for as long as possible:
- Physical labor should be avoided while wearing malachite, its low hardness makes it very easy to scratch.
- Malachite does not take kindly to heat, stay away from the oven and other hot objects.
- Do not use a steam or ultrasonic jewelry cleaner on your malachite jewelry.
- I would advise against wearing a malachite ring but instead opt for a pendant or earring, they are less likely to come in contact with hard objects or a heat source.
- Store it separate from other gemstones. Most likely every other gemstone you own, especially faceted gemstones, are able to scratch your malachite jewelry.
- Clean it with lukewarm water, a mild soap and, only when needed, a soft brush. Use a soft cloth to dry.
Important!:If your malachite gemstone has been treated with wax you should only use a soft cloth to clean it, warm water might remove the wax!
Malachite Buying Guide
Malachite is sometimes enhanced by using colorless wax or even plastic to give it a better look and higher durability. There is nothing wrong with using wax to protect your gemstone.I would advise against using plastic though, because of its permanence. The plastic cover will make it hard to get your jewelry repaired.
Just make sure you know that your gemstone has been enhanced. Don’t overpay for it thinking that it is all natural beauty. Imitations are on the market, usually these are synthetic green colored stones.
The easiest way to recognize these fakes are the way they are banded. Their banding is far too regular unlike natural malachite that usually has very irregular banding patterns. Some of the names that these materials are known under are: Blue malachite, emerald malachite, siliceous malachite and copper malachite. When a seller tries to sell you a ‘natural malachite gemstone’ with one of these trade names I would get away as soon as possible!
Malachite is a fairly cheap gemstone, often the jewelry it is used in is more expensive than the gemstones themselves. For a truly unique piece of jewelry you could buy a high quality loose gemstone and get a jeweler to set it in a piece of jewelry.
The most important tip as always is to only deal with reputable gemstone sellers and jewelers when you are buying gemstones online or in a brick and mortar shop.