Malachite is mesmerizing and we willingly immersed ourselves in all its shades of green.
The name and the deposit
The name of the stone comes from the Greek word “malache,” meaning “malva,” because its color resembles the leaves of this plant. The second variant, malakos, means ‘soft’, which also describes the mineral.
The mining of malachite is inextricably linked to the extraction of copper ore. About every 10 thousand tons of ore yields 100 kilograms of malachite. This is one of the main minerals of copper. Thanks to malachite, man discovered the era of metallurgy and moved from the Stone Age to the age of metals.
Although in ancient times malachite mines were strategically important, nowadays it is not reasonable to smelt ore from it.
Nowadays, the mineral is mined mainly in the Congo. But the reserves of the famous Ural mines were exhausted by active mining in the 20th century. Only the Korovinsko-Reshetnikovskoye deposit leaves hopes for the revival of the Ural malachite business.
Physical properties of malachite
Malachite is formed by dissolving copper ores in cracks and voids of rocks. Waters containing these compounds seeped through the rock. The evaporation of the droplets formed a solid substance in the form of stalactites and stalagmites.
Formations of this mineral can be seen on some bronze fossils.
The chemical composition of malachite is hydroxocarbonate of copper(II). Its structure resembles that of agate. It is pleochroic and gives three basic colors: almost colorless, yellowish-green, and deep green.
Malachite is considered to be a malachite, only 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale. It is easy to grind, cut, and polished. The downside of this property is its brittleness. Malachite is very susceptible to acid and can be totally dissolved in it. It also melts quite easily.
Nevertheless, if one hits a malachite on an emerald, the latter will split. At least, that is what Arabian fairy tales used to say.
The geography of mining determines the pattern of the stone. African malachite has bigger and more regular concentric rings with the contrasting interplay of light and dark zones.
Malachite in arts and crafts
Malachite green is a common green pigment in Asia and Western Europe. Some other sources call it “mountain green,” or verde azzuro, “blue green.” It is a mineral pigment based on crushed malachite or malachite sand (earthy malachite). The pigment was in demand among artists.
Architects of Egypt and Ancient Greece used malachite to clad buildings and temples. Egyptian pharaohs even ordered the erection of a temple to Hathor, the goddess of love, in one of her mines. So the goddess acquired a new meaning over time – the patronage of miners and the “malachite earth.”
Malachite was also pounded into powder and gum was used to make green eye shadows, popular among Egyptian women at one time.
In the Middle Ages, the mineral was inexpensive and was used to make amulets. The green cross was believed to make childbirth easier, ward off evil spirits, and the child with it fell asleep soundly, peacefully, and without nightmares.
The golden age for malachite was the 19th century, when a deposit was discovered in the Urals. The stone was used in small and large architectural forms. Monumentalism in the use of the stone strikes the imagination. The whole cabinets were lined with it! They say that Napoleon himself wanted to take out the malachite cabinet of Count Rumyantsev.