Gem Profile June 22: Chrysocolla

By on June 22, 2012
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by Rose Marion, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Chrysocolla

Shop Chrysocolla Beads | Shop Chrysocolla Cabochons

Chrysocolla, also called gem silica is found in large deposits and is fairly common; yet gem-quality chrysocolla is very hard to come by. Why? Because unlike the hardy agates and quartzes boasting a 7 on Mohs’ scale, chrysocolla only ranks around 2-3 (4 is optimistic) making it just as soft as copper metal. (In fact, chrysocolla’s soft blue color comes from copper, just like turquoise and malachite, which are stones that are often found in the same location as chrysocolla). This low score on Mohs’ Scale makes pure chrysocolla practically too soft to make into cabochons! This makes it one of the softest silicas among its relatives quartz, chalcedony, agate, and jasper.

However, nature intervenes: the hardiest chrysocolla can be found as "agatized" chrysocolla, or chrysocolla quartz, which will have a pattern to it such as swirls or bands as you would expect from an agate. The added quartz or agate gives the chrysocolla enough hardness to be shaped and polished into cabochons. Unlike its quartz relatives, chrysocolla isn’t really used outside the jewelry world, merely a decorative semi-precious stone.

Chrysocolla pendant wrapped in sterling silver wire

Gina Smith's youg friend cabbed this chrysocolla stone (her first cabochon!) and Gina wrapped it in sterling silver wire to show her friend how beautiful her cabochons could become!

The name for chrysocolla is Greek for "gold glue," which is because chrysocolla looks similar to the material the Greeks used to solder glue. Purest chrysocolla is a light blue, blue-green, or light green, although it can have brown or black features, and inclusions of malachite, sagenite, and other minerals. The first documented mention of chrysocolla was in 315 B.C. by a Greek man, Theophrastus, who was the successor to Aristotle’s school of philosophy and studied under Plato. In the ancient world, it was mined in Cyprus, Armenia, Macedonia, and Spain. Chrysocolla can have a glass-like appearance, and be botryoidal (bubbly or look like a bunch of grapes) or be found in a druzy composition: with exposed raw crystals. It’s been suggested that chrysocolla is a mixture of spertiniite and chalcedony.

Chrysocolla pendant wire wrapped in sterling silver wire by Jane Duke

Jane Elizabeth Duke wrapped this chrysocolla cabochon into a pendant with sterling silver wire.

In Modern times, chrysocolla is extracted all over the world. Some chrysocolla sites include: Mexico and the Southwestern US, Chile, England, Poland, Russia, Italy, Israel, Zaire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Western Australia and Queensland, Australia. In fact, in Eilat, Israel, there used to be a large mine that produced a mixture of copper-influenced stones, including turquoise, malachite, azurite, and chrysocolla, collectively called "Eilat Stone." The Eilat Stone is the national stone of Israel, also called the King Solomon stone.

Nickel-free chrysocolla earrings

Donna Wallace created these chrysocolla earrings from chysocolla cabochons (from Wire-Sculpture!) and her Grade 1 Titanium Post earrings and clutches (safe for nickel-sensitive ears!)

Metaphysically speaking, chrysocolla is reputed to stimulate creativity, aid in communication, patience, and intuition; it is seen as a gentle and soothing stone.

Next week, I’ll cover a close stone, chrysoprase, and its relatives prase and plasma. Have you made wire jewelry with chrysprase before? Send your chrysoprase pictures to tips@wire-sculpture.com, and they could be featured!

Resources & Recommended Reading

Gem Profile by Rose Marion

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3 Comments

  1. avatar

    Beverly Tate

    June 22, 2012 at 6:39 am

    Love these profiles.

  2. avatar

    Jeanne

    July 4, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Was researching gem silica prices as I cut quite a bit of this material. Just wanted to mention one thing….chrysocolla and ‘Gem Silica’ are not the same. It’s often confused. Gem silica is a highly silicated form of Chrysocolla, often to the point where there is more chalcedony than there is chrysocolla…so technically, it is more in the quartz family than the Copper family..In GS, the Chrysocolla is a diffuse inclusion that colors the silica. Usually, the more translucent or even the color and the more chalcedony, the more it is considered ‘gem silica’…..you also have ‘chryscolla/malachite in quartz or agate’ where the chrysocolla/malachite are more visible as inclusions than as a coloring or even the background is opaque white quartz with staining and inclusions of copper minerals. You also have ‘gem chrysocolla’, which is any hard chrysocolla, usable for lapidary work without stabilizing…it is usually silicated, but not to the point of gem silica, and usually opaque. Where the lines are drawn between gem silica and ‘chrysocolla in quartz’ is a little unclear , but to call all ‘chrysocolla’ ‘Gem silica’ is incorrect. True Gem silica, high grade, can command over $100 per ct and is highly translucent, some can even be faceted. I have some examples posted on my flickr acct http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanniusdesigns/sets/72157623152730699/

    • avatar

      Rose

      July 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      Thanks, Jeanne!

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