Holiday Gem: Malachite

What could be more perfect for Christmas than a green hued gem?  Well only two green hued gems like my malachite Jazmin earrings below.  I know I wrote about the Jazmin earrings last week, and showed you pictures of their different color combinations. One of them was the malachite and diamond pair.  What I didn't do is go over in detail what malachite actually is and the history that surrounds the fabulous gemstone, so I'm back today with more on malachite, my newest gem obsession.  

Perfect for the holidays,
Malachite Jazmin earrings in yellow gold with
diamond details. 

The first culture to make extensive use of malachite was that of Egypt, a country whose history with malachite goes back at least as far as 4,000 BC when it was heavily mined in the Sinai -- near what is now the Suez Canal -- and in the famous King Solomon's copper mines on the Red Sea.

A copper carbonate, malachite was prized because it was the easiest copper mineral to reduce to copper metal. The scale of copper mining in the Sinai reached a size that made it the first real industry of the ancient world.
The Sinai area and its mines were considered under the spiritual dominion of Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of beauty, joy, love and women, who was also known as the "Lady of Greenstone," and "Lady of Malachite."

Reputed to have strong therapeutic properties, Egyptians believed that wearing malachite in bands around the head and arms protected the wearer from the frequent cholera epidemics that ravaged Egypt -- since slaves who mined malachite (a form of copper carbonate) were often unaffected by the plagues.
The Egyptians used malachite primarily for amulets, jewelry and cosmetics: powdered malachite was made into kohl, an Egyptian eye shadow. The application of the kohl was believed to place the women under the protection of Hathor.  Applying the malachite mixture was to the Egyptians, partaking in the essence of Hathor herself. 

From my Charmed collection,
here are the stunning Papillon
 earrings in
malachite, diamonds and yellow gold

Malachite has always been a women's mineral. Following in the Egyptians' footsteps, Greeks also made jewelry and talismans from malachite to ward off evil spells and thoughts. The Greeks also used malachite architecturally: according to Pliny, built in 560 BC, the famous Temple of Diana (Artemis) in Ephesus -- one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (four times as large as Athen's Parthenon) -- was decorated with malachite.

With its swirling concentric eye-like rings patterned after a "peacock eye," malachite was popular as protection against the "evil eye," fighting sorcery and black magic in the Middle Ages. Thought in many cultures to alleviate menstrual cramps and aid labor, malachite has also been called "the midwife's stone" since medieval times. 

Also from my Charmed collection,
Cuore earrings in malachite and diamonds

Since the Egyptians malachite has been an important gem, but it was Russia's Romanov dynasty who made malachite synonymous with grandiose opulence. Discovered in the foothills of the Urals near Ekaterinburg in 1635, by 1820, high quality malachite -- still considered relatively scarce -- had become very fashionable for jewelry, frequently mounted in gold and adorned with diamonds.

The nineteenth century proved to be the golden age of Russian malachite. The sumptuous stone became a sign of prestige and a token of wealth -- so much so that Russian papers of the time wrote: "To afford having a big piece wrought in malachite is synonymous to owning diamonds."

Due to malachite's relatively close proximity, Russian tsars could easily obtain the malachite they needed to decorate their lavish palaces, paneling walls and commissioning beautiful inlaid works of art. Year after year the Russian (Romanov) treasury paid increasingly unreasonable prices to hoard the best malachite, much of which went into Romanov palaces and extravagant objects d'art Here is a picture of some malachite work in the Malachite Room in the Hermitage Museum, which possesses a collection of over two hundred examples of 'palatial' malachite.

Malachite Room, Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg Russia

It was during my visit to St. Petersburg that I really understood the history and tradition of this beautiful gemstone, and its link to the Russian royals.  As you know, I love the royals and their history, but I was not familiar with their love for fabulous gem.  As they say knowledge is power, and I am so glad I can appreciate and work with malachite, and in turn bring it to you guys in the form of jewelry you can cherish and wear forever. 

Love Always
Dani K

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