Russian Gemstones Encyclopedia

Vladimir Bukanov. Russian Gemstones Encyclopedia



MALACHITE group (Malachit—Malachite—ћалахит) (Wallerius, J.G. 1747), from Gk. “moloche” – mallow, alluding to its green color. Pliny the Elder (77 CE) refers to it as molochites, the “o” being changed to “a” prior to the middle of the 17th cent. Here are also copper-holding carbonates, which are found together with malachite and often replace it: azurite, aurichalcite, and also phosphate of copper – pseudomalachite.

Composition & Properties. Carbonate – Cu2[(OH)2|CO3], monoclinic system. Hardness 3.5-4. Density 3.8-4.0. Cleavage perfect. Glass luster, and silk in aggregates. Fragile. Malachite is one of the most popular gemstones. Usually it is found in two main types of massive kidney aggregates with radial-rayed structure – body malachite, and concentric-shelled – plisovyi malachite. Sometimes, malachite is found as stalactites. Findings of malachite crystals are very rare. Malachite is usually non-transparent but it can be translucent at the edges. Its color is bright green to dark green; it depends on some aspects of its structure. Copper in the composition of malachite works as a chromophore. Aggregates of malachite are characterized with different patterns. Dark green aggregates of body malachite with parallel stripes have transitions to bluish-green turquoise malachite. Fibrous aggregates of plisovyi malachite, which is called satiny malachite or rill malachite at the Urals, have silky effect. The variety with large concentric pattern is known as eye malachite, and the one with small ovoides – peacock’s-eye. In the U.S.A., such malachite is called peacock stone. The palette of malachite aggregates is enriched mainly with variously colored mineral inclusions: aurichalcite, cuprite, pseudomalachite, chrysocolla. In azurmalachite layers of malachite and azurite alternate each other, in the composition of prasmalachite chalcedony prevails, that’s why it is so hard and solid. Malachite pseudomorphs on azurite, atacamite and cuprite can be also used as jewelry-ornamental material. In this context, inclusions of malachite in some minerals and rocks are of special interest: agate malachite –in jasper, star malachite – in chalcedony, malachite lapis – in quartz, maysorin – in chrysocolla from India, calcite malachite – in calcite. Calcomalachite is an ornamental rock with admixture of malachite, calcite, and sometimes also gypsum, which is known under the trade name chalcomalachite. From the ancient times, at the Near East, chalcomalachite – Eilat stone is known, which contains admixtures of malachite, chrysocolla and turquoise. Sometimes, it is called incorrectly – azurmalachite or Eilat turquoise. Ornamental value of malachite depends mainly on the decorative characteristics of patterns. Defects of malachite are caverns, porosity and cracks.

Deposits. Malachite is formed at the zones of oxidation of copper ore deposits which are laid down in the carbonate rocks. Though only a few of them give much rough materials of gem-quality. In Russia, in the Middle Urals, they began to exploit deposits of malachite in the end of the 2nd millennium B.C. In 1702, the Gumeshevskiy mine was reopened to the southwest from Yekaterinburg, and then the similar ones were discovered near Nizhniy Tagil: Mednorudnyianskoye, Korovinsko-Reshetnikovskoye and Vysokogorskoye. In the process of their exploiting, rather large blocks of jewelry-ornamental rock material were extracted. In 1775, at the Gumeshevskiy mine, a block of malachite, weights 1,504 kg., 1x2 m. in size, was extracted. It was presented to Catherine the Great. Now, it is kept in the Mining Museum SPb. At this mine, high-quality turquoise malachite with small pattern was extracted. For malachite’s from Nizhniy Tagil wide replacement was typical – with chrysocolla, shattuckite and pseudomalachite. They are colored lighter, they have more contrasting pattern and they are especially spectacular in large things. In 1837, at the Mednorudnyianskoye deposit the block of malachite, 480 ton were extracted, from which the piece of ornamental quality was made in 40 ton. A. Demidov presented one of malachite blocks to the Pope. It is kept in Vatican now. These deposits went to the depth of 200 m., and were worked out completely. Small quantities of malachite were found in the North Urals – at the Turinskiy mines near Serov; in Altai – at the Verkhne-Lazurskiy and other mines. In East Siberia, malachite is found at the Udokan copper deposit, in the northern part of Chita Region. In Central Kazakhstan, findings of sphaerolites of malachite at the deposits Zhezkazgan and at Ken’-Choku are known. In North Kazakhstan, malachite is found at the Zaoziornyi mine; and in Balkhash Lake Region – at the deposits Konyrat (form. Kounrad) and Sayaq (form. Sayak). In East Kazakhstan, near Bayanaül, there is the Chok-Pak deposit in skarns with the calculated amount of malachite, and Berezovskoye deposit. In South Armenia, findings of malachite were registered at the K’ajaran and Dastakert mines in Kapan (Zangezur) group of deposits. The largest size of kidney-shaped aggregates of malachite at the K’ajaran mine reached 5x2.5 cm.

In Europe, malachite appeared in England at the Rowton-Jill mine, Cumbria; in Bulgaria – at the Elacite deposit. In Germany, malachite crystals were found near Wissen, Rhineland-Palatinate. In France, malachite pseudomorphs on copper and cuprite at the Chessy deposit, near Lyon, were found. In Hungary, good crystals malachite and its pseudomorphs after azurite occur at Rudábanya deposit. In Romania, malachite was discovered at the Banata deposit; and at the Bâita Bihor deposit spectacular spherules of malachite up to 3 cm. in cross-section were found – as joint groups with cerussite and hemimorphite. On Cyprus Is., Mediterranean Sea, malachite was extracted in the ancient time. It was called Cyprian copper or Cyprian smaragd there. Those times, malachite was extracted in copper’s sandstones near Elat, on the Sinai Penin., Israel. Rich with malachite Elath sandstone is used as ornamental material, and rocks with malachite inclusions are used as malachite matrix. In Africa, the largest malachite deposits are concentrated in the “Copper belt”, 45-100 km. broad, 525 km. long – from Congo (Kinshasa), the Kolwezi deposit and others in the Katanga Prov. (form. Shaba), to Zambia, the Bwana Mkubwa deposit, near Ndola, Copperbelt region. At the Kolwezi deposit, stalactites of malachite were found up to 90 cm. length. Beside malachite, here azurmalachite is extracted. Congo malachite is characterized with obvious stripped texture, it has bright green color, mainly in light tones. At the Kambowe deposit, 3 km. from Kolwezi, crystals up to 3 cm. and crusts of homogeneous malachite has thickness up to 3.5 m. was found. In 1972, the biggest whole malachite block 5 ton was extracted there. It is kept in the residency of the President of Congo in Kinshasa now. In Katanga (form. Shaba) Prov., at the Shangulowe deposit, malachite crystals were found 9x6x4 cm. in size; and at the Kamoto deposit, the thickness of crust of malachite in cavity reached 3 m. In Namibia, stalactites malachite and massive banded aggregates, also malachite pseudomorphs after azurite up to 20 cm. at the Tsumeb deposit were found. From malachite crystals, cut stones for collection purposes were made up to 2 ct. Findings of malachite and azurite crystals up to 2.5 cm. are known also at the Touissit deposit in Morocco.

In South Australia, stalactites and globular aggregates malachite at the Burro Burro mine, near Adelaide, is extracted. Finding of malachite are known also in the New South Wales – at the deposits Broken Hill, West Bogan and Tottenham; in Queensland – at the Peak Downs mine. In China, in the Guangdong Prov., the Shilu malachite deposit is being exploited; malachite deposits are also in the eastern part of the country, in the Shanxi and Hubei Prov. India also possessed malachite deposits. In the U.S.A., small quantities of gem-quality malachite are extracted in Arizona, at the deposits Bisbee, Morenci, Ajo and others states. At the Bisbee deposit, Cochise Co, velvety malachite fills cavity in limestones. Stalactites of azurmalachite up to 8 cm. in cross-section are found there, with beautiful order of layers of malachite and azurite, as well as malachite pseudomorphs on pyrite, azurite and chrysocollapeacoc stone. At the Lavender mine, the unique “Malachite of Miller” was extracted – a block 30x57x67 cm. in size, about 90 kg. In Nicaragua, the malachite Mina Rosita is exploited in the of Selahia Notre Dept., Costa Atlantica Prov., as well as less significant deposits in the of Cinandega Dept. Small deposit of malachite are in Brazil, in the Pará State, near Curionópolis – Serra Verde; in Minas Gerais – at Marro do Buli, near Oro Preto, where malachite crystals were found. Findings of malachite are known in Mexico, at the deposits Sierra Madre and El Cobre, as well as in Chile and Cuba.

Synonyms. Atlaserz, Germ. | Atlasite | Aznac-stein, Germ., chrysocolla, malachite, azurite and turquoise in growing together | Chalchihuitl, Mexican name | Medina emerald, in joint groups of crystals with azurite, Pliny the Elder. | Malachite green | Mountain green | Green glass head | Silver Peak jade | Schlimmer malachite, Germ., obs. | Plisovyi malachite, from Russ. name velvet | Maysorin (mysorin), local name in India, in the place of finding near Maysora | Molochites (melochites), Pliny the Elder, obs. | Atlas ore | Patina | Pseudoemerald | Peacock stone | Poplar stone | Soft stone | Immature turquoise, obs. | Rock verde.

Cut Gems. The first data on using of malachite as an ornamental stone are connected with the Neolithic Age. On the territory of Northern Iran, malachite pectoral was found in the burial (8,500 B.C.). Another finding was beads in a burial near Jericho (7,000 B.C.). In the South Urals, near Itkul’ Lake, four malachite pendants were excavated; they were connected with the Itkul’ culture (7-5ss cent. B.C.). In Ancient Egypt, malachite was known 3,000 years B.C.; it was called maphek, later – schesmet. However, those times, malachite was not used really wide. In Greece and Rome,  malachite was much more popular; it was called molochites. Amulets, signs, beads, cameos and coloring pigment were made from it. They produced green glass, blue glaze, and colored glass mass frit for items of small plastic with admixtures of malachite. They thought the columns of the antique temple of Artemis (Diane) in Ephesus, Asia Minor, were of malachite. According the legend, they were transferred to Constantinople to the main Cathedral of Byzantium St Sophia erected by the Emperor Justinian in 532-537 (now the mosque Ahia Sophia in Istanbul). Nowadays, however, there are columns of green marble in this cathedral; may be in Ethes there were similar columns, too. At the medieval East, the best was considered Iranian malachite from mines of the ancient Kirman. There is known that malachite was extracted in the north of China, Shengsi Prov., at the Da Jzou mine in the 7th cent. In China, malachite was called mountain green; it was used in stone cutting in the 7-9ss cent. In 643, it was included in the assortment of ambassadors’ gifts for Ancient Rome. V.B. Semionov mentioned: “…from the 9th cent. the connection of crafts with malachite was broken everywhere, obviously, it was the result of the complete working put the surface parts of copper mines, where malachite is formed.” In China, at the epoch of Ming (1368-1644), malachite was extracted on the territory of modern Yunnan Prov. Malachite and pearls decorated headdresses of empresses. In India, malachite could be extracted as additional material at copper mines. It exists in the decoration of the famous mausoleum Tadj Makhal (1630-1652). In Europe, because of the flourishing of mining in the 15-16ss cent., local sources of malachite were discovered. It was extracted in Bohemia, Hungary, Saxony and Italy. In Bulgaria, malachite was used in the second half of the 14th cent. – in mosaics of the Throne hall of the palace in Tyrnovo.

In Russia, malachite was extracted at the zones of oxidation of copper deposits in the Urals even in the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. In a burial in the South Urals malachite earrings were found. As a satellite of copper, miners knew malachite from the Urals in the early medieval period. The first finding of malachite ore in the upper reaches of the Tagil River was made in 1645. By 1750-s, the interest to ornamental malachite from the Urals was obvious not only in Russia but abroad. At that time, the first its classification according the quality was composed. Malachite became the indispensable part of the decoration of mineral cabinets. The first items from malachite, which were produced at the Yekaterinburg lapidary factory, were buttons for gala coats. Then, it was used in signet rings, in the incrustations of snuffboxes. Malachite was very expensive, that’s why it became the symbol of luxury and prosperity. For more effective and rational usage of malachite a new technique of malachite incrustation was invented. It was wide used especially after the discovery of large malachite deposits in the Urals in 1830-s. Malachite incrustation – “Russian mosaic” – was used for covering big objects, vases, tables and even columns. Malachite was cut up into fine plates, which were collected carefully according their patterns and were glued on the base. With such method four columns and a fireplace were covered after the project by O. Monferrant in the Malachite hall of the house of P.N. Demidov in St Petersburg in 1836. In 1839, after the project by A.P. Bryullov, that method was used in the “Winter Palace” in the “Malachite Parlour”. For its decoration 132 pud (about 2 ton) of malachite were used; columns, pilasters, fireplaces, mirrors, a wardrobe, standing-lamps, vases and tables were covered with malachite. The peak of usage of malachite was covering of columns in the iconostasis of the St Isaac Cathedral in St Petersburg after the project by O. Monferrant. For eight columns, 9.7 m. high, 0.43 m. in cross-section, it was used about 20 ton of malachite. In 1851, at the World Industrial exhibition in London, P.N. Demidov shown “Malachite Parlour” which consisted of 86 pieces covered with malachite. Among them were: doors, 4.4x2.5 m. in size, five tables, two armchairs, six chairs, a clock and others. The Parlour was mentioned as “the most memorable and wonderful object in the history of industry.” From Russia to Europe many things made from malachite were sent, it was even called Russian stone. An example is a rich collection of malachite objects in Versailles and other palaces in Paris, where gifts from Alexander I are kept – a table, a chandelier, a vase. In Vatican, such chandeliers from Ural malachite are in the Sixtine chapel.

Legends. Malachite, according the legend, decorated one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the temple of Arthemis in Ephesus, who was the patroness of animals and hunting. Different legends treated malachite as a talisman, which strengthened health and spiritual forces, helped to realize wishes and to choose correct decisions. As an amulet, it was supposed to be a savestone for children against illnesses and evil spirits. At the East, it was a stone of Earth, which kept the female force Yin. It produces physical and emotional harmony in a human organism; it is useful for all the signs of zodiac, especially for Taurus and Libra.

Synthesis. The technology of low-temperature synthesis of malachite was invented at first at the Leningrad University and implemented into industry in 1984. Synthetic malachite has different varieties of texture, all of which differ from natural malachite because they are more or less similar and easy in patterns.

Similar Gemstones & Imitations. The biggest similarity with malachite such stones have: chrysocolla, pseudomalachite and turquoise. Synthetic malachite is widely used for the imitation of natural malachite. Besides, phosphate of barium with connecting components is used, as well as glass, ceramic and plastic.

Azurite (Azurit—Azurite—јзурит) (Pliny the Elder, 77 in Jameson, R. 1805), from Pers. “lazhward”, blue color. Carbonate – Cu3[OH|CO3]2, monoclinic system. Hardness 3.5-4. Density 3.8. Cleavage indistinct. Glass up to diamond luster. Fragile. It is found in crystals, radial-rayed sphaerolites, so called azurite rose; stalactites of azurmalachite, grained masses and earthy aggregates – rock blue, often in mixture with chrysocollacopper blue, with admixture of zinc – zincazurite. In crystals, azurite is often transparent to half-transparent, in aggregates – non-transparent. Color is blue, violet-blue. Such variety as azurmalachite is concentrated-stripped aggregates with texture with changing layers of azurite and malachite. Dark blue quartz aggregates with admixture of azurite up to 40% are called azure lapis; and mixture of azurite with malachite and cuprite is called burnit. As ornamental stones such varieties can be interesting as pseudomorphs of native copper, malachite and chrysocolla – on azurite; and also azurite – on gypsum.

Azurite is a mineral of the zone of oxidation of copper deposits. In Russia, findings of it were known in Urals at Berezovskiy mine; and Altai, at Loktëvskiy, Zolotushinskiy and Zmeynogorskiy mines. In Central Kazakhstan, at the Zhezkazgan deposit, layers of azurite interstratified with malachite. At the mines Kayrakty and Berkara, azurite and azurmalachite are found in crystals up to 2 cm. long and in fine veins. In Hungary, at the Rudabánya deposit, azurite is represented with columnar crystals up to 8 cm. long and aggregates in the shape of roses up to 15 cm. in cross-section. In Romania, columnar crystals of azurite up to 5 cm. long are described at the Sasca Montanä deposit. Among other countries, significant quantities of azurite were found in France, at the Chessy deposit, near Lyon; in Italy, on the Sardinia Is., near Algero, azurite crystals up to 4 cm. long were found; in Morocco, azurite was extracted at the deposits Bu-Becker and Touissit. At the second of them, azurite crystals 9x4 cm. in size are found. However, the best transparent crystals up to 20 cm. long are coming from the Tsumeb deposit in Namibia, where their maximal length was 30 cm. In 1980, an azurite crystal, 26 kg., was found there. In Australia, findings of azurite crystals to 15 cm. long good for facet are typical for the lead-zinc deposit Broken Hill, New South Wales. Azurite there, sometimes, is completely replaced with malachite. In Queensland, at the Girofla deposit, near Mungana, azurite was found in crystals up to 6 cm. long. In China, at one of the deposits Shilu in the Guandong Prov., radial-rayed aggregates of azurite in the shape of roses were up to 12 cm. in cross-section, and azurite crystals of the gem-quality were coming from the Hubei Prov. In the U.S.A., in Arizona, at the Bisbee deposit, Cochis Co., azurite crystals up to 18 cm. long are extracted, as well as azurite roses up to 7 cm. in cross-section and crusts of its crystals 50x40x15 cm. in size. At the Morenci deposit, Greenly Co., sintering forms of azurmalachite are discovered. In California, at the Copper World deposit, there is well known grain material, which has a trade name royal gem azurite. In New Mexico, at the Copper Rose deposit, perfect native copper pseudomorphs on azurite are found; and in Utah, at the Apex mine, azurite pseudomorphs on gypsum are seen. In Mexico, aggregates of azurite crystals in the shape of roses up to 7 cm. in cross-section were found at the Santa Rose deposit, Zacatecas State. There also at the El Cobre mine malachite pseudomorphs on azurite crystals up to 12 cm. long were found; and at the Aranzazú mine, azurite pseudomorphs on atacamite were discovered.

Synonyms. Azurite – Armenite | Cobre azul | Berglasur, Germ. | Chessylite, after the discovery location at the Chessy deposit, near Lyon, France (discredited by IMA) | Cyanus, by Theophrastus (372-287 B.C.) | Cyprian cyanus | Scythian cyanus | Copper lapis | False lapis | Copper lazur | Rock lazur | Blue malachite | Armenian stone | Azure stone.

Cut Gems. In the ancient times, small adornments were made from azurite, sometimes; apparently, they not always differed it from lazurite. In Ancient Egypt, priests supposed, that with azurite it was possible to take up one selves consciousness to the level of the God. As an amulet, it helps to take away any pain. From its crystals, small flat stones are cut not more than 1 ct. Massive grain material is worked in cabochons and it is used for stone carving. At the gemstones exhibition in Tucson (1997), in the U.S.A., a polished cut plate of azurmalachite, 8 cm. in cross-section, from the Clifton-Morenci deposit, Arizona, was evaluated in $100,000. There is information on the receiving of synthetic azurite as an ornamental stone. Azurite looks like lazurite, from which it differs with less hardness.

Aurichalcite (Aurichalcit—Aurichalcite—јурихальцит) (Böttger, T. 1839), from Lat. «aurichalcum», yellow copper ore or brass ore. Carbonate – (Zn,Cu)5[(OH)6|(CO3)2], monoclinic system. Hardness 2. Density 3.6. Pearls luster, silk one. Cleavage in one direction. It was discovered at first in Altai, in the ores of the Loktevskiy mine, and then at the Berezovskoye deposit in the region of Ust’ Kamenogorsk (East Kazakhstan now). Together with malachite it is found in the zones of oxidation of ore veins. Needle crystals of aurichalcite of pale blue or pale green color form light colored layers in turquoise malachite. In the pure variety aurichalcite doesn’t form large accumulations. As inclusions, it is observed in blue aragonite – zeyringit. Aurichalcite in mixture with quartz is called Aztec stone. Diagnostic feature of this material is its finegrained structure and low hardness. Another characteristic feature is spotty or layered type of its color. In Russia, aurichalcite was found at the Dal’negorskoye deposit in the Primorskiy Region. In Italy, aurichalcite was discovered at the Campiglia Marittima deposit, in Tuscany, and at the Monteponi deposit on the Sicily Is. In Greece, it is found in the region of Lavrion on the Cyclades Iss.; in Namibia – at the Tsumeb deposit; in Congo (Brazzaville) – at the M’Fouati deposit. In the U.S.A., aurichalcite was extracted in Arizona near Hayden, Gila Co., and at the Bisbee Mine, Cochise Co., also at the Leadville deposit in Colorado. In Mexico, it was found at the Ojuela mine, near Mapimi, Durango State.

Synonyms. Blue calamine | Green calamine | Brass ore.

Synthesis. Commercial interest is in synthetic aurichalcite, which is produced in Russia as jewelry-ornamental material for the imitation of turquoise.

Pseudomalachite (Pseudomalachit—Pseudomalachite—ѕсевдомалахит) (Hausmann, J.F.L. 1813), from Gk. “pseudos” – false, and malachite; it is not that mineral, but similar to it. Phosphate – Cu5[(OH)4|(PO4)2], monoclinic system. Hardness 4.5- 5.5. Density 4.1-4.3. Silk luster. It is formed in the zones of oxidation of copper deposits as radial-rayed kidney-shaped aggregates with concentric-zonal structure. The size of such aggregates is not more than 20 cm. in cross-section. The color of pseudomalachite is from emerald-green to dark green. It forms pseudomorphs on malachite together with chrysocolla and other minerals, and in such variety it can be used as jewelry-ornamental material at the same way as malachite. In Russia, pseudomalachite of ornamental quality is found only in the Middle Urals, at the Mednorudnyanskiy deposit, near Nizhniy Tagil. A perfect sample of this mineral, 8.5x6.5 cm. in size, is represented in the collection of the Mineralogical Museum named after academic V.I. Vernadski, Moscow. In Central Kazakhstan, pseudomalachite is extracted as additional material at mines of copper sandstone at the Zhezkazgan deposit. In the zone of oxidation of that deposit kidneys of pseudomalachite reach 20 cm. in cross-section. In Slovakia, in the region of the ªubietová deposit kidney-shaped aggregates of pseudomalachite of radial-rayed structure, up to 2.5 cm., were found. Among other countries, it is known in England, Great Britain, on the Cornwall Penin.; in Germany – at the deposits Ehl and Virneberg mine, Rhineland-Palatiate; in Spain – at the mines Andújar, Prov. de Jaén; and Oliva-de-Merida, Prov. de Badajoz. The most important finding are in deposits of Katanga, DR Congo, it forms crusts to 5 cm. thick. In Australia, at the Mt. Glorious mine, Queensland, excellent botryoids were found; as well as at the West Bogan mine, New South Wales.

Synonyms. Copper diaspore | Dihydrite, from Gk. “di” – distinction and “hydor” – water | Ehlit, after the discovery location near Ehl, Germany | Hypoleimme | Lunnite, after the Engl. chemist F. Lunn | Phosphorochalcit | Prasin | Prasinchalcite, obs. | Tagilith, after the discovery location near Nizhniy Tagil, the Urals, Russia | Thrombolith.