Malachite was one of the first ores of copper but also contains hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. Some of the world's finest material comes from Africa and despite being relatively soft and fragile, it's widely used for decorative purposes. On Mohs scale of mineral hardness which measures the scratch resistance of one mineral against another, malachite grades 3.5 to 4.
One of the first green pigments, the colour of malachite is caused by the presence of copper. Being an ore of copper the dust from malachite is toxic. Whilst stones are being cut and polished appropriate breathing equipment must be worn. Malachite is safe to handle but care should be taken around newly cut stones and very dusty specimens. It's good practice to wash your hands aftert touching rough pieces. Being soft and fragile malachite should ideally be handled as little as possible.
The name malachite comes from the Ancient Greek word 'mallow' because its colour was believed to resemble the leaves of the Mallow plant. Mallow which comes from the same family as hibiscus and hollyhock often has long stems covered in circular leaves with a crinkly edge. Throughout history they have been used in food and for medicine.