What is Malachite?

Malachite, along with azurite, goethite, and calcite, forms via the weathering of copper. This mineral, a copper carbonate hydroxide (Cu2CO3[OH]2) crystallizes in the form reminiscent of prisms, and, in nature, it occurs as an opaque, green banded mineral in the form of massed spheres (botryoidal), fibers (fibrous), or cones (stalagmitic), or, rarely, needle-shaped prisms.

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Malachite accumulates in the fractures and cavities of host rock, deep beneath the ground, where hot, mineral-rich underground water transports copper in solution. The precipitate, copper carbonate hydroxide, deposits in the fractures and cavities, forming the masses known as malachite. This mineral, common around weathering copper ores together with limestones (the source of carbonate required to form the precipitate), often occurs together with azurite (Cu3[CO3]2[OH]2), goethite (FeO[OH]), and calcite (CaCO3).

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Malachite’s found throughout the world, where geologic conditions, combined with geothermal activity, provide the environment and reactants necessary for its formation. Historically, Urals, Russia, provided much of the world’s malachite, but now it’s mined in Africa, Mexico, Europe, Australia, Asia, and both North and South America. Much of the malachite used by American Indians comes from mines in Arizona, like the Copper Queen Mine of Bisbee.

The name, malachite, means, “mallow-green stone,” from the Greek, “μολόχη molōchē,” name referring to “mallow” (Althaea officinalis), from Africa, which looks very much like the American mallows. Malachite often occurs together with azurite, and Arizonan Natives refer to this mix as “Azurmalachite.” Usually banded, some malachite has concentric rings of varying shades of green.

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