Chrysocolla | Colour Caused by Copper
Although a very soft stone in its purest form the mineral chrysocolla is often found combined with quartz which can make it considerably harder. Its colour is caused by the presence of copper and when polished it can be mistaken for turquoise. Although highly sought after for use as a decorative material because of its striking colour and markings, being so soft makes it fragile and difficult to work with. On Mohs scale of mineral hardness chrysocolla grades just 2½ to 3½ (in its purest form) but when combined with quartz some stones can grade as high as 7. As a general rule chrysocolla should always be handled carefully and preferably as little as possible.
Although mined in a number of locations worldwide large quantities of commercial grade stones come from Israel and Africa and in particular the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chrysocolla is often associated with the minerals malachite, turquoise, quartz, azurite and other copper minerals.
When used in holistic therapies such as crystal healing the properties of chrysocolla include providing inner strength during periods of stress or grief and promoting harmony whilst eliminating negativity.
The History of Chrysocolla
The name chrysocolla comes from the Greek word 'chrysos' meaning gold and 'kolla' meaning glue which translates as gold-solder. When used in ancient texts the word referred to a solder used on gold but it's uncertain whether that referred to green copper carbonate otherwise known as malachite or blue hydrated copper silicate which is the stone known today as chrysocolla. Despite tests being carried out on gold artefacts there is still no definitive answer.
Theophrastus the Ancient Greek philosopher wrote about chrysocolla in his treatise Theophrastus on Stones but it's believed the word was used to describe all bright green coloured copper minerals. In later writings by the Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder it's written the "ancients used the name chrysocolla more as a reference to the stone we know today as malachite". He goes on to say it should not be confused with modern chrysocolla. He also writes "gold is dug out of the earth and in close proximity to it chrysocolla, a substance which may appear all the more precious and still retains the name which it borrowed from gold". He talks about it being a liquid found in mine shafts that flows through the veins of gold and describes it as being a kind of slime which hardens and becomes like a stone during the cold winter. He says the finest material can be found in silver mines and then copper mines.
Photo by Stan Celestian - Flickr
The mineral chrysocolla was used by the early Native American Indians for healing and dealing with emotional challenges. The stone was also powdered and used as a digestive aid to improve the body's resistance to disease and to relieve arthritic symptoms.
The chrysocolla mineral in the photo at the top of our page is on display in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. Photo by Stone Mania ©. The third photo is malachite on chrysocolla from the Democratic Republic of Congo. All images are clickable and redirect to the original full size photos.