Chrysocolla Properties Facts and Photos
Chrysocolla | Colour Caused by Copper
Although very soft stone in its purest form, chrysocolla is often found combined with quartz which can make the stone considerably harder. Its striking colour is caused by the presence of copper and some material when polished, can be mistaken for turquoise.
Chrysocolla is widely used as a decorative stone because of its colour and markings. With some material being so soft it can be very difficult to work with. On Mohs scale of mineral hardness chrysocolla grades just 2.5 to 3.5 in its purest form. If combined with quartz that can sometimes increase to as much 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 Africa and in particular the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chrysocolla is often associated with the minerals malachite, turquoise, quartz, azurite and other copper minerals.
Some 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 which is malachite or blue hydrated copper silicate which is chrysocolla. Despite tests being carried out on gold artefacts, there is still no definitive answer.
The ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus wrote about chrysocolla in his treatise Theophrastus on Stones. It's believed chrysocolla was a term used to describe all bright green copper minerals including malachite. He wrote "chrysokolla can be found in large quantities in gold mines and even more in copper mines". He also said it can be found in "kyanos" which in Greek means "blue copper carbonate”. That's a geological description of the mineral azurite which confirms that malachite was part of the group of minerals known as chrysokolla.
In later writings by Roman author and naturalist Pliny the Elder, he says 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 wrote "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
Chrysocolla was used by the early Native American Indians for healing and dealing with emotional challenges. It was also powdered and used as a digestive aid to improve the body's resistance to disease and to relieve arthritic symptoms.
The dust from many minerals whether inhaled or ingested is toxic. The worst offenders are those which contain copper oxide. Turquoise contains around 9.8%, chrysocolla 45% and azurite malachite 70%. When cutting and polishing these minerals appropriate breathing equipment must be used. Minerals containing copper should not be used as an elixir. When polished, these stones are completely safe to handle.
Today when used for its metaphysical properties chrysocolla is said to provide inner strength during periods of stress or grief. It can also promote harmony and eliminate negativity from an environment or person.
The chrysocolla 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 second photo is of grade A chrysocolla tumbled stones from our own collection of rocks and minerals. The last photo is malachite on chrysocolla from the Democratic Republic of Congo. All images are clickable and redirect to the original full size photos.