Malachite is one of the oldest known minerals with mining of the vividly green mineral by the ancient Egyptians dating back as far as 4000BC. First used as pigments for eye shadows, paints and the dying of cloth, it then led to the search of metallic ores and to the development of metallurgy. The name malachite is thought to be derived from its resemblance to the leaves of the mallow plant or possibly from “malakos”, the Greek word for soft.
Even with a low ranking of 3.5 – 4 on MOH’s scale of hardness, when polished malachite may still achieve a vitreous lustre similar to quartz. Its surface may become dull from abrasion over time from fine quartz particles that circulate in the atmosphere and general wear-and-tear.
This copper carbonate can be expressed by the formula Cu2Co3(OH)2 which is almost identical to that off the deep blue copper mineral azurite and the two often occur together. Malachite is referred to ‘the stone of transformation’ and is also known to be a pseudomorph of azurite, which refers to a substitution from one mineral to another whilst retaining the original appearance and dimensions. In the case of malachite it is the prismatic crystals and clusters of azurite that it imitates so frequently.
The opaque green mineral, which crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system, is rarely seen in single crystal form but most often as botryoidal, fibrous or stalagmitic masses. It is formed from the weathering of copper ores by water over time and the copper is redeposited in cavities of copper rich host rocks. The concentric banding of light and dark shades of green are a reflection of the concentration levels of copper and the subtle changes in the oxidation states of the surrounding pore waters.
Bunny Bedi, owner and designer at Made in Earth, discusses some of the finer points of cutting from some of these growth forms. “A lot of the rough malachite that we cut our cabochons from is a botryoidal aggregate. This growth formation is one where the mineral has a globular external form resembling a bunch of grapes. From this external characteristic we can determine the direction and pattern of banding contained beneath the surface. In each piece we try to capture the most exciting and vividly contrasting patterns that in turn display what malachite is so loved for”.
“Over the years it has become an increasingly difficult stone to find in high quantity and quality, as industrial mining of the copper ore has exhausted many large commercial deposits. Matching cabochons for earring and bracelets has always been a challenge, as with any patterned stone, but especially now with supplies running low.”
Appreciated for thousands of years, malachite has truly transformed from a source of color to an amulet of beauty that our designer has captured in our malachite jewelry collection here at Made in earth. How many more years will this beloved velvety green gemstone will be available for the jewelry industry is unknown, like many limited sources of nature. However, whether it be a ring, pendant, earring or bracelet. We know you will find the perfect malachite piece in our range in our galleries to cherish forever.