Malachite is a common crystalline mineral, whose green color is the product of the copper it is usually found near and which is part of its composition. A soft stone compared to rubies and diamonds, malachite is rarely faceted because its crystals are too small. Instead, it is carved into beads and cabochons. Because the bands in malachite give it an irregular degree of hardness, the stone is often held together with resin or impregnated with plastic before being polished. This also helps stabilize malachite, which tends to be brittle.
Like most gemstones, malachite is thought to possess properties beyond its visual appeal. Malachite was worn to ward off the evil eye, it was considered a balm to babies cutting their first teeth, and when a piece of malachite was hung over a woman in labor, it was believed to make childbirth easier.
In addition to jewelry, malachite has historically been used as a material for inlay. Prior to the Russian revolution of 1917, the royal family paneled entire rooms with the stuff. Today, though, malachite is most commonly found in inexpensive pieces of sterling-silver jewelry, from bracelets to necklaces to earrings.
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