Perhaps lesser known to most people than turquoise, chrysocolla has been used for jewelry-making since ancient times. Its name comes from the Greek word chrysos, meaning gold, and kola, meaning glue, a reference to the use of chrysocolla as solder in gold working.In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra is said to have favored jewelry made with chrysocolla, as it was believed to clear one’s thoughts during negotiations. When competing in chariot races, Nero is said to have sprinkled chrysocolla dust around the circus, instead of sand, as a show of power and opulence.Native Americans also associated chrysocolla with the alleviation of fears and tensions, a belief that continues with some cultures and belief systems in the present day. Chrysocolla is also associated with the opening of the heart chakra and with creativity, making it a favorite of artists and musicians.For all chrysocolla’s history of use by royal families as a sign of grandeur and power, its use in healing in diverse belief systems throughout the ages, and its association with creativity even in modern times, it’s quite surprising that this beautiful gem is so much overshadowed by its cousin turquoise.
Sources of Chrysocolla
Chrysocolla is available in different forms and is sourced from various locals throughout the world—from Peru, Russia, Chile, and Australia to the United States (from Arizona, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, Michigan, and Pennsylvania,) and it is found wherever copper deposits occur. Because of varying factors of formation and composition, chrysocolla is not considered to have a definitive chemical makeup. Indeed, variance is one of the key points in the utilization of the gem.
Chrysocolla in jewelry forms is commonly found in beads or cabochons, either faceted or smooth. The luster varies from glassy to waxy, so faceting the stones is a wonderful way to introduce a play of light into pieces.
It comes in various shades from vibrant sea greens to bright sky blues, or a blend of colors, which vary depending on the amount of copper present during formation. One of the main reasons jewelry makers have turned to chrysocolla is its marvelously unique patterns—at times striated or mottled, at other times looking like images of the Earth from space, showing continents and vast oceans or the networks of light over cities at night.
Each piece of chrysocolla is work of art on its own—making it a stunning focal point or gorgeous in strands. When you buy chrysocolla, each batch is going to be unique, depending on where the material was sourced from, the level of other compounds that interacted during its formation, and the amount of copper in the composition.
Another factor that contributes to the wonder variance of chrysocolla’s appearance is the intermingling of chrysocolla with other gems, such as azurite, malachite, turquoise, and jasper during the formation of the gem. In fact, this combination not only produces the wonderfully diverse color combinations but, also, strengthens the chrysocolla, making it much sturdier and more suitable for use in jewelry making.
“Pure” Chrysocolla is normally blue in color, and, although it is very attractive, the softness and brittleness of the mineral make it much more valuable to those who collect minerals, rather than those who are seeking a gem sturdy enough to undergo a jewelry-making process.
Chrysocolla Versus Turquoise
Price-wise, one is going to find that chrysocolla is less expensive than turquoise. In fact, chrysocolla beads can cost a third of the going rate for turquoise beads, making this lesser gemstone an excellent alternative to its more widely known cousin in the gem world.Turquoise may be treated before being used in jewelry making. This can include dying the turquoise, to make its color more uniform or vibrant, or stabilizing it (which can include the injection of a clear bonding compound) to make it stronger. Turquoise may also undergo a process of reconstitution, whereby it is broken down and then reformed to increase its attractiveness.While chrysocolla pieces may be coated with a resin before being used in jewelry making, they usually do not go through any kind of enhancement process, nor does it undergo a process of reconstitution before being made ready for use in jewelry making.In dealing with chrysocolla, the main attractions are going to be the natural patterns and colors that result as a natural of process of formation, so it’s not something that’s going to need enhancement, particularly in terms of color and pattern. Due to this fact, chrysocolla may be considered a more “natural” substance than turquoise—perfected during its formation.
Care and Maintenance
Like turquoise, chrysocolla can be a softer, more delicate substance, so, when storing pieces, make sure to place them separately from other pieces of jewelry to avoid scratching or chipping the surface. It can be cleaned simply with a soft cloth and soapy water.