Malachite

Malachite is a gorgeous green banded ore of Copper, which has been found occurring around the world. Deposits in the UK at the Great Orme have been mined for thousands of years, with Bronze Age activity found on site.

While some rare specimens from the Orme do still come to market (I have some!) as far as I am aware, commercial mining has long since stopped, and most of the Orme is a SSSI.

Most of the Malachite mined today comes from Africa, especially the Congo. It is often associated with Chrysocolla, a blue-green ore of Copper. Combined, they are sometimes given the trade name ‘Malacolla’, but I personally just refer to them as ‘Chrysocolla with Malachite’ or ‘Malachite with Chrysocolla’ depending on the quantity of each.

Malachite takes an incredible polish. It’s primary use, of course, is as an ore for Copper, but attractive pieces are often polished or tumbled. Carved bowls, cabochons and tumblestones are relatively common display items cut from Malachite.

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Appearance

Malachite is a lovely banded green Copper ore, which is typically sold polished or carved to really show off the gorgeous colours.


Uses and History

It has been mined since antiquity. In Britain, the mines at Great Orme have been mined since around 3800 years ago for Copper production.

It is named after the ancient Greek word for “mallow”, which was a green herb.

Malachite was also used as a mineral pigment in green dyes until as late as the 1800s, after which it was replaced with synthetic forms.

As a decorative stone, it has been used in some truly grandiose designs, including rooms at the Hermitage and the Castillo de Chapultepec. Typically speaking, Malachite is either used as a Copper ore, polished or sold as a mineral specimen nowadays.


Locales

There are thousands of Malachite locales around the world, so it is impossible to list them all! Instead, I have listed some locales I have seen particularly nice specimens from. I’m sure more will be added in future!

Africa:

  • Kambove District, Haut-Katanga, DR Congo
  • Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga, DR Congo
  • Kolwezi mining district, Lualaba, DR Congo
  • Um Samiuki, Eastern Desert, Red Sea, Egypt
  • Tsumeb, Oshikoto Region, Namibia
  • Ndola, Copperbelt Province, Zambia

Asia:

  • Nehbandan County, South Khorasan Province, Iran
  • Guichi District, Chizhou, Anhui, China
  • Yangchun Co., Yangjiang, Guangdong, China
  • Daye Co., Huangshi, Hubei, China
  • Dongchuan District, Kunming, Yunnan, China
  • Nizhnii Tagil, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia

Europe:

  • Ortenaukreis, Freiburg Region, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • Hof District, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany
  • Pécs, Baranya County, Hungary
  • Rudabánya, Kazincbarcika District, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, Hungary
  • Killimor, County Galway, Connacht, Ireland
  • Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork, Ireland
  • Elba Island, Livorno Province, Tuscany, Italy
  • Gmina Janowice Wielkie, Jelenia Góra County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland
  • Chęciny, Kielce Co., Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland
  • Conceição, Vila Viçosa, Évora, Portugal
  • Great Orme, Llandudno, Conwy, Wales, UK
  • Botallack, St Just, Cornwall, England, UK
  • Wheal Buller and Beauchamp, Redruth, Cornwall, England, UK
  • Dodington, Bridgwater, Sedgemoor, Somerset, England, UK

South America:

  • Antofagasta, Chile
  • Paipote, Copiapó Province, Atacama, Chile
  • Sierra Bolsico area, Vallenar, Huasco Province, Atacama, Chile
  • Cuitaca, Santa Cruz Municipality, Sonora, Mexico
  • Ojocaliente Municipality, Zacatecas, Mexico
  • Yauyos Province, Lima, Peru

Antarctica:

Australia and Oceania:

  • Condobolin district, Kennedy Co., New South Wales, Australia
  • Batchelor, Coomalie Shire, Northern Territory, Australia
  • Cloncurry, Cloncurry Shire, Queensland, Australia
  • Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia, Australia
  • Whim Creek, Roebourne Shire, Western Australia, Australia
  • North Flinders Ranges, Flinders Ranges, South Australia, Australia

North America:

  • Galore Creek, Liard Mining Division, British Columbia, Canada
  • Bisbee, Cochise County, Arizona, USA

Mineralogy

 

Chemistry
Malachite is a Copper Carbonate Hydroxide, with the formula Cu2CO3(OH)2.
Colours and Variations

The crystal habits of Malachite lead to some pretty interesting variations, which give the mineral a good amount of variety for collectors.

Silky velvet Malachite is a fibrous form which seems to shimmer, and has a silky optical effect.

Botryoidal Malachite has an appearance similar to balls, or bunches of grapes – it is one of the more common formations and creates excellent banding.

Malachite stalactites have formed by precipitation – drop by drop. This creates interesting formations which can be sliced to give an amazing almost round cross section.

Streak
Green.
Luster
  • Fibrous Malachite has a silky luster.
  • Crystalline Malachite can have a vitreous luster.
  • Massive Malachite typically has a dull to earthy luster.
Fracture
Depends on the type of Malachite – can be uneven, sub-conchoidal, or fibrous.
Crystal habit
Often forms in botryoidal, stalagmitic and fibrous formations, or as crusts on other rocks.
Mohs hardness
3.5 – 4
Specific Gravity
3.6 – 4.05
Easiest testing method
Genuine Malachite will be cold to the touch, and will have uneven patterns that are not uniform. Resin, plastic, etc will likely have repeating patterns, and fake plastic Malachite will be warm to the touch and lightweight. The most common fakes are plastic/resin, or ‘calsilica’ – a mixture of ground up rocks, plastics, and dyes.

Photos of Malachite

Malachite kongo

Fibrous Malachite from the Congo.

Malachite-153552

Stalactitic Malachite from the Congo

Malachite-195440

Polished botryoidal Malachite from the Ural Mountains, Russia.


Malachite 4 (Chine)

Silky ‘Velvet’ Malachite from China.

Malachite-41470

A cross section of a dual Malachite stalactite, from the Congo.

Silver and malachite rings

A pair of Sterling Silver and Malachite rings.


Malachite-62603

A cross section of multiple Malachite stalactites, from the Congo.

Armband av guld, 1868 - Hallwylska museet - 110136

A gold bracelet with Malachite cabochons, from the 19th c.

Malachit - Capta, Katanga, Kongo.

Polished slice of Malachite from the Congo.


Hazards and Warnings

If you are looking up the hazards of Malachite online, make sure not to confuse it with “Malachite Green”. This is a chemical used as a dye and an anti microbial agent, which can be quite toxic.

Malachite is relatively safe to handle – the danger comes from crushing, cutting, or otherwise working with it. Ingestion is the issue, really.

Almost all rocks, minerals (and, frankly, almost all other substances on earth) can produce toxic dust when cutting, which can cause serious respiratory conditions including silicosis.
When cutting or polishing rocks, minerals, shells, etc, all work should be done wet to minimise the dust, and a suitable respirator or extraction system should be used.


Translations

Arabic:

  • الملكيت
Hindi:

Portuguese:

  • Malaquita

Bengali:

  • ম্যালাকাইট
Indonesian:

Punjabi:

  • ਮਲਾਕੀਟ
English:
Italian:

Russian:

  • малахит
French:

Japanese:

  • マラカイト

Spanish:

  • Malaquita
  • Malachita
  • Malakhita
  • Molochita

German:

  • Malachit
  • Malakhit
  • Molochit

Korean:

  • 공작석

Thai:

  • หินมาลาฮีท
Gujurati:

Mandarin Chinese:

  • 孔雀石

Urdu:

  • مالاکیٹ

Further Reading / External Links