We see huge amounts of malachite during our trips to South Africa but finding pieces in nice condition can be a real challenge. Malachite is a very soft mineral which grades just 2.5 to 3.5 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness. For this reason it can be damaged easily. Africa has huge reserves and although malachite can also be found in Russia, material is gradually becoming scarce.
Malachite was used as an ore of copper for thousands of years. During the Bronze Age it was also crushed up to be used as a green pigment. The Ancient Greeks and Romans used malachitre for decorative purposes primarily for vases and various other sculptures. It's still used today for this purpose and figurines of animals, spheres and pyramids are always popular.
Despite being a soft and porous mineral the rich green colour of malachite is resistant to fading. Being an ore of copper its dust is highly toxic hence protective breathing equipment must be worn when stones are being cut and polished.