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March 18, 2018
With the whole world turned green this weekend, I bring you some beautiful, vividly hued malachite. Fabulously, its incredible green colour is due to its high copper content.
Over the millenia it has been mined for varied purposes. In Great Britain large quantities were mined for the copper only which was smelted out and the left over material discarded.
Other common uses included grinding it down for pigment for painting and makeup. And of course in jewellery!
Because of its softness and susceptibility to heat (remember the copper!), jewellers have to be careful not to melt it when at the bench. I had a painful experience once myself years ago when I unwittingly gave silver pieces to a gold plater. The silver jewellery had malachite elements which did not fare at all well in the plater's chemical bath!
The last bit of nerdy info I learnt in researching this post is that in ancient Egypt the colour green was associated with death and the power of resurrection as well as new life and fertility. They believed that the afterlife contained an eternal paradise which resembled their lives but with no pain or suffering, and referred to this place as the ‘Field of Malachite’. It turns out that malachite gets its name from its resemblance to mallow leaves. 'Mallow' in turn comes from the Greek word malakos, meaning soft - marshmallow anyone? Amazing how everything is linked to everything else!
It's found in many places including Russia, Africa, Chile, USA and Mexico. There's even a specimen lurking in Dublin's natural history museum 😉.
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