malachite carvingmalachite carving

Malachite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

Malachite is a beautiful decorative stone. Its rich, patterned coloration in shades of green is unique among gems. Malachite's low hardness makes it easy to work, though it still takes a polish very well. These qualities, combined with ready availability, make malachite a popular choice for lapidary artistry.

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Malachite is a beautiful decorative stone. Its rich, patterned coloration in shades of green is unique among gems. Malachite’s low hardness makes it easy to work, though it still takes a polish very well. These qualities, combined with ready availability, make malachite a popular choice for lapidary artistry.

malachite carving
“Malachitalump,” carved elephant in malachite from Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Kevin Walsh. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

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Malachite Value

Malachite is abundant in its typical forms, so even the best specimens are modestly priced. Pieces showing an unusual crystal habit, distinctive pattern, or chatoyancy will have higher values. Rocks consisting of malachite and other colorful copper minerals in lovely combinations generally command higher prices than pure malachites. The value of carvings and ornamental objects hinges primarily on the size and artistry of the work.

malachite ring
Malachite ring. Photo by Christina Rutz. Licensed under CC By 2.0.
Malachite. Photo by Ryan Somma. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

How Does Malachite Get Its Color?

This vivid green gem gets its color from copper. Invariably associated with copper ore deposits, malachite ranks as a minor copper ore, with 58% copper content. Its recovery generally occurs, at least on a large scale, as a sidelight of copper mining.

How Does Malachite Get Its Patterns?

Malachite's characteristic swirling and concentric band patterns are a result of its formation process. Technically, malachite is usually a "secondary mineral," which means it's created by a chemical reaction between minerals that have already formed, rather than by a simple one-step process. Malachite may form when water containing carbon dioxide or dissolved carbonate minerals interacts with preexisting copper-containing rocks or when solutions containing dissolved copper minerals interact with carbonate rocks. Malachite's swirls and bands reflect the waxing and waning of the solutions necessary for formation and the changes in their chemical content.

Cut from thick malachite stalactites, this polished two-sided slice shows remarkable color and banding. Katanga Copper Crescent, DR Congo, 9.8 x 9.7 x 0.9 cm, 320 grams. Video © Rob Lavinsky, Used with permission.

Most commonly, malachites occur in massive form as microcrystalline aggregates, in lumps, or as crust on other rocks.

A "copper clump" malachite from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by Mike Beauregard. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Does Malachite Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

Since malachite has a Mohs hardness of just 3.5 to 4.5, a somewhat brittle tenacity, and sensitivity to both heat and acids, it requires special care as a jewelry stone. Use protective settings if you want to wear this gem in rings, bracelets, or other jewelry that may receive rough treatment or constant wear. On the other hand, wearing it in earrings, brooches, pendants, and tie pins should pose no special problems.

malachite jewelry
Malachite jewelry. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Although soft, malachites can take a polish very well. This has made them a popular choice for cabochons and beads as well as objets d'art. Lapidary artists use this stone extensively to make boxes, inlays, and carvings of all kinds. With great care, skilled artists can even turn malachite on a lathe to create goblets and candlesticks.

gemstone sphere
A large malachite sphere, cut and polished to show concentric banding and botryoidal crystal growth in cross-section. Approximately 4.9 kg, 15 cm diameter, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo courtesy of and Bonhams.

Facetable malachite crystals would be microscopic in size, since larger crystals are too opaque to let light through. Any faceted malachites larger than a ½ carat would be opaque.

transparent malachite crystal - Namibia
This transparent malachite crystal measures only eight mm in length. Otjikotu, Kaokoveld, Kunene, Namibia. © Rob Lavinsky, Used with permission.

What are the Rarest Natural Malachite Crystal Structures?

Some of the rarest and most desired malachite mineral crystal structures are: botryoidal masses, stalactites or slices cut from them, and pieces with splayed-out clusters of needle-like (acicular) crystals showing a velvety chatoyancy. Mineral collectors compete to acquire prime specimens in these formations.

These densely packed acicular malachites show a sparkly, chatoyant "cat's eye" effect when viewed from different angles. Katanga Copper Crescent, DR Congo, 5.7 x 5.6 x 4.3 cm. Video © Rob Lavinsky, Used with permission.

Fibrous aggregates (packed masses of crystals) can also take a high polish.

Malachites sometimes form in combination with other copper-bearing minerals. Blue-green chrysocolla, dark blue azurite, or brick-red cuprite can create rocks of unsurpassed beauty when combined with malachite's forest green.

Azurite and malachite. Photo by Lisa Ann Yount. Public Domain.

Malachites can appeal not only to gemstone enthusiasts but also to anyone interested in nature's mineralogical wonders.

The History of Malachite

malachite vase
Malachite vase, Yekaterinburg Lapidary Work, designed by Ivan Hallberg (1841-42). Photo by Larry Koester. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Many cultures throughout history have prized malachite. The green stone has been used in protective amulets since ancient times. Perhaps its greatest appreciators were the Russian royals of the 19th century. They had dining sets, huge sculptures, vases, and even paneling made from it. You can take a virtual tour of the celebrated "Malachite Room" in the Winter Palace at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Victorians were great admirers of opaque jewelry stones, and malachite was one of their favorites. Victorian-era jewelers often used this material in small carvings, beads, and cabochons set in silver and, occasionally, gold.

Malachite may have been mined in Egypt as early as 4,000 BCE. The material was not only cut for jewelry and ornaments but also ground into pigment for painting and cosmetics. Not until the Industrial Revolution were synthetic pigments created that could rival its color. Restoration experts still use malachite pigment formulas for authenticity when conserving old paintings.

Unfortunately, malachite's beautiful color can also be hazardous.

Is Malachite Toxic?

The copper content of the dust released from grinding malachite makes it toxic to breathe. Workers involved in mining and cutting this stone should wear protective respiratory gear. For lapidaries, keeping the gem rough wet also keeps dust to a minimum.

Although working with malachites can pose health risks, wearing finished jewelry pieces or displaying carved objects or natural specimens should be safe.

Identifying Malachites

Please note: streak and acid tests are destructive procedures. They should only be used on finished pieces as last resorts for identification.

hematite and malachite streak test
Hematite (left) and malachite (right) with characteristic streaks. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Are There Synthetic Malachites?

Although scientists have synthesized malachite for research purposes, this material isn't found commercially. The synthetic material costs far more than the abundant, natural mineral.

Malachites rarely receive any treatments. However, lower quality, less compact pieces may be stabilized with plastic resins or given a surface polish with wax.

Where are Malachites Found?

The majority of malachite gem rough comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Namibia, Russia and the American Southwest.

  • Australia: N.S.W., Broken Hill.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: banded material, also stalactitic, most familiar on marketplace.
  • Namibia: Tsumeb, magnificent large crystals.
  • Russia: Mednorudyansk, immense masses, some up to 50 tons! Much of it good for cutting. Also from mine at Nizhne-Tagilsk.
  • United States: Arizona, at Bisbee and Gila, other localities; New Mexico; Tennessee; Utah.
  • Zambia.
Malachite, Democratic Republic of the Congo (~ 4 inches high). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Malachite Stone Sizes

Cabochons and carvings from banded material can be virtually any size. Stalactites can occur up to several feet in length. Slabs have even been used as paneling in palaces. Facetable crystals are virtually nonexistent. Any cut gem would be very small (less than two carats), but massive aggregates can weigh tons.

How to Care for Malachites

Malachite requires gentle care. Mechanical cleaning methods, such as ultrasonic or steam cleaning, aren't recommended. Don't use any acidic cleaners on malachite jewelry.

Consult our gemstone jewelry care guide for recommended cleaning methods.

Moving malachite pendant. Photo by viviannedraper. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Joel E. Arem, Ph.D., FGA

Dr. Joel E. Arem has more than 60 years of experience in the world of gems and minerals. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University, he has published numerous books that are still among the most widely used references and guidebooks on crystals, gems and minerals in the world.

Co-founder and President of numerous organizations, Dr. Arem has enjoyed a lifelong career in mineralogy and gemology. He has been a Smithsonian scientist and Curator, a consultant to many well-known companies and institutions, and a prolific author and speaker. Although his main activities have been as a gem cutter and dealer, his focus has always been education.

Barbara Smigel, PhD. GG

Barbara Smigel is a GIA certified gemologist, facetor, jewelry designer, gem dealer, gemology instructor and creator of the well-regarded educational websites and

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