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Malachite is a copper carbonate. The name derives from the Greek maláchee, which means mallow, because of its green color. It crystallizes in the monoclinic system, but it is rarely found in distinct crystals , which are acicular, thin and usually gathered in ray-shaped tufts of felt aspect. Very frequent and characteristic are the concreted masses with a radial fibrous structure, like compact harpoons, often of great purity, in even very large nodules with a mammillary, reniform surface.
The color, given by copper oxide, is intense green, often emerald green, dark green; because of the concreted nature of the mineral, it is frequentley alternating in lighter and darker areas with an agate-like appearence. Malachite is often associated with azurite (another copper mineral) and in this case it occurs in light blue-blue spots. Malachite is pleochroic, opaque or translucent, with silky lustre when the fibrousness is evident; usually tending to vitreous.
Malachite is produced by wheatering of deposits containing copper minerals, forming above it a covering commonly called hat (scientifically it is called gossan). Famous and renowned are the Russian mines in the central Urals, particularly those of Gumeshevsk and Bogolovsk which, however, seem to be unproductive today, and the mine of Nizhne-Tagilsk. Other mines are located : in Africa, in Zaire and in Zambia; in Chile; in the United States in Bisbee in Arizona and in other places, where it is found together with azurite; in France; in Romania.
It is a well known decorative mineral; remember the columns of the temple of Diana in Ephesus; the altar decorations in S. Paolo outside the walls in Rome. This use is particularly widespread in Russia where the columns of the temple of St. Isaac in Leningrad are famous. Many virtues have been attributed to malachite in past times; among these the most common was that malachite could protect from enchantments and spells, so it was used particularly to protect children.
Malachite is particularly suitable to produce snuff boxes, jewelry boxes, small vases, amulets; it is used in thin sheets as a covering of various objects, especially of a religious nature.
The value is always very high since the processing is not simple; because the low hardness, the mineral is fragile. The artistic objects of enormous dimensions existing in the Vatican museums have great value, as well as the spectacular pair of large malachite vases with bronzes.