San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
[Malachite and malachite with azurite. Collection of the San Diego Natural History Museum.]


From the Greek, moloche, meaning "mallow," a reference to the mineral's leaf-green color.

Description and Occurrence

Malachite occurs when carbonated water interacts with copper minerals, or when a solution of copper interacts with limestone. It is a secondary mineral of copper, which means it's formed when copper minerals are altered by other chemicals.

Crystals sometimes form as needles that fan out from the rock in which they are embedded. More often, malachite forms as a mass with concentric bands of light and dark green. Malachite is usually found with azurite, a blue secondary mineral of copper. A mineral sample can have alternating bands of green malachite and blue azurite.

Malachite is used as a decorative stone, since it is easily cut and polished. While its softness limits its use as a gemstone, its beauty is hard to resist. It was a popular decorative stone in Czarist Russia, and was used to make the columns of St. Isaac's Cathedral in Leningrad.

Malachite can be found in Russia, Zaire, Australia, and Namibia. In the United States, specimens have been found in the copper mines of Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

Field Notes: Malachite is opaque and always green. When massive, it usually forms concentric bands of dark and light green. Malachite is often found with azurite, which is dark blue.

Physical Properties

Color Streak Transparency Luster Hardness Cleavage Fracture Specific gravity Crystal form
light green, black green light green transparent to opaque vitreous, silky, dull 3.5 to 4 perfect in one direction, crosswise conchoidal, splintery, brittle, scaly 3.7 to 3.9 monoclinic

Photo: Malachite (conchoidal fracture, left) and malachite with azurite (right).
Collection of the San Diego Natural History Museum

Photo credit: Linda West

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