What is Chrysocolla?
Chrysocolla is a pure crystal; a gem silicate mined where large quantities of copper can be found. The almost magical appearance of chrysocolla results from copper inclusions that change the gem’s color saturation.
Gem silicates tend to form alongside other minerals, and chrysocolla is no exception. Two or more associated minerals are usually found alongside chrysocolla on host rocks.
Chrysocolla is not alien species of gem – it belongs to a large family of quartz minerals called chalcedony.
So its complete name, if you will, is chrysocolla chalcedony. Chalcedony has multiple sub-varieties, including banded chalcedony (agate). These minerals are related to each other chemically and in their crystalline formations.
Chrysocolla has a conchoidal fracture and is considered a brittle crystal, with a score of four on the Mohs scale of hardness. It has biaxial optical properties. It is primarily made or cut into cabochons for use in high-end jewelry settings. Chrysocolla usually has blue and blue-green patches and veined formations throughout the body. It is translucent and opaque and is suitable for cabochon cutting instead of faceted cutting because of luster and clarity. It has a waxy or glassy luster, and it is a vitreous gem. Chrysocolla is also an example of botryoidal mineralization, which means it looks like grapes when seen in the mines for the first time.
It is not ordinarily available in department stores and regular jewelry stores because it is not as popular as diamonds and rubies; because it is not mined in large, commercial quantities, it cannot be used for mass-production of exceptional jewelry.
The beautiful chrysocolla is often found in nodes alongside other quartz formations. The quartz family is vast and is comprised of several different families and crystal groups. In some instances, the surface and inner crystalline structures of chrysocolla will sparkle because of quartz inclusions. When there are shiny smatterings or granular formations of chrysocolla, such specimens are called drusy chrysocolla. This Peruvian variation of this enchanting gemstone is found in Peru, mainly.
How is Chrysocolla Made?
Pure and unprocessed chrysocolla is deemed fragile and not fit for setting that will receive lots of impact from knocking and dropping. Due to its fragility, chrysocolla is often bound with harder crystals in some designs to strengthen it. It is often combined with opal and quartz (but not always, it depends on the manufacturer or jewelry designer).
Despite not being the most popular of gems, this gem silica still fetches a good value when available. This is why some people would resort to some treatments to improve their appearance.
Since chrysocolla is a type of chalcedony, it is also porous, absorbing water when submerged. Submerged chrysocolla will temporarily have a brighter appearance, with more vivid colors. The vividness will go away as the water dries up.
Paler specimens can also be dyed to improve their appearance. While dyed or pigmented gems are not fake, treatments done to them must be disclosed by sellers, because people deserve to know if they have a natural stone (no modifications) or they’re faced with something else. There is much debate about whether dyed gems are fakes. We think not, but they should be categorized as “dyed gems” and not natural gems to create that critical distinction.
What Are The Types/Colors of Chrysocolla?
There are over two thousand identified deposits throughout the world, but due to the scarcity of this mineral, annual commercial production remains low. The biggest mines that bring the highest volume of chrysocolla in the world to belong to Israel and the United States.
Other notable countries include the Ural Mountains, Peru, the Katanga Province of Congo, and Ecuador. There are several varieties of chrysocolla that are popular with traders and the jewelry market in general.
- Parrot Wing – This is a hybrid or mixed formation comprised of jasper and chrysocolla. The resulting combination creates a crystal that has greenish-brown overtones.
- Stellaris – Also called the chrysocolla quartz (a misnomer, because chrysocolla is a type of quartz), stellarite has light blue colors because it is a combination of chrysocolla and clear quartz.
- Eilat – A combination of chrysocolla, malachite, and turquoise. This fantastic formation is the top product of Israel and is the most magical of all the ‘hybrid’ formations of chrysocolla.
It is important to realize early that all types of minerals have inclusions (chemically speaking), and the quantity of the minerals and chemicals that determine the type of ore that you have on hand.
Grains or smatterings of other minerals do not typically change the entire chemical structure of a mineral, but these inclusions can change the color saturation all the same.
Chrysocolla, for example, tends to have minute inclusions of other elements or minerals that are so low in the quantity that you won’t be able to see them with the naked eye.
These additional minerals include carnelian, jasper, onyx, and agate. When natural nodes have been broken away from the host rocks, they can contain five or more different minerals, but the most abundant mineralization will determine the “type” of gem found.
How much does chrysocolla cost?
The cost of chrysocolla varies per region, and the best ones can fetch more than $100 per carat. Specific characteristics determine the value of gems like chrysocolla. According to gemologists, the best chrysocolla has a pure blue body with the most even of translucence. There should be minimal inclusions and virtually no internal characteristics. While it is normal for additions to occur, they sometimes reduce the gem’s value, as is the case with chrysocolla.
The most expensive type of chrysocolla is the ones with a deep mix of turquoise. These crystals are often unearthed in individual deposits found in Israel, Peru, Taiwan, Mexico, and Arizona. Arizona is notable for its chalcedony deposits and is one of the leading producers of banded chalcedony too. Of significant interest here as well is the Eliat, which we have mentioned earlier, because of its rich mineral content that includes malachite and turquoise.