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Chrysocolla: Looks Like Turquoise But it's Not

Updated on June 27, 2014
Cabochon made from Chrysocolla from the Inspiration Mine in Arizona
Cabochon made from Chrysocolla from the Inspiration Mine in Arizona | Source

Chrysocolla is not Turquoise

It sometimes amazes me to see how many people are wearing jewelry made with Chrysocolla that think they are wearing Turquoise jewelry.

Although they are both copper minerals and are somewhat similar in appearance, they are not the same thing.

From a scientific standpoint, Turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminium while Chrysocolla is hydrated copper silicate.

The appearance of the two materials while similar are usually very easily distinguishable one from another to the trained eye.

Chrysocolla & Malachite from the Congo
Chrysocolla & Malachite from the Congo | Source
Sonoran Sunrise Chrysocolla cut by Marty Andersen.  This unique variety of gemstone gets it's color from Chrysocolla (blue), Cuprite (red) and Tenorite (black).
Sonoran Sunrise Chrysocolla cut by Marty Andersen. This unique variety of gemstone gets it's color from Chrysocolla (blue), Cuprite (red) and Tenorite (black). | Source

Turquoise Characteristics

Although Turquoise looks similar to Chrysocolla it looks quite different in most cases to those who are familiar with the differences.

One of the biggest differences between Chrysocolla and Turquoise is hardness. Pure Turquoise while still somewhat soft is much harder than pure Chrysocolla.

Turquoise is know for it's sky blue or robin's egg blue color. It can also be found in several shades of green. Although the predominant color is blue there are actually hundreds of different varieties of Turquoise each with their own special characteristics. One of the biggest differences that you can see right away is what is known as "matrix" however some varieties of turquoise have little or no matrix.

Matrix in is the host rock or impurities that are found within the turquoise. This matrix is what often makes it easy to differentiate the turquoise from other varieties of turquoise. This matrix along with rarity can greatly increase the value of a piece of turquoise.

Chrysocolla Characteristics

Chrysocolla in it's purest form is way too soft and brittle to be used as a gemstone material. When it is mixed with other minerals it produces a stone that is not only hard enough to be used in jewelry but also gives some unique and colorful additions to the stones it is found in.

Some of the minerals commonly found with Chrysocolla are Malachite, Tenorite, Cuprite, and Azurite. Malachite is by far the most common mineral found with Chrysocolla.

Chrysocolla can be opaque or in it's most valuable and sought after form, translucent.

While traditionally Chrysocolla has not been considered as valuable as turquoise it has gained in popularity in recent years and the price for high quality Chrysocolla has increased dramatically.

Some of the most highly sought after forms of Chrysocolla are Gem Silica Chrysocolla, Druzy Chrysocolla, Apache Chrysocolla, Sonoran Sunrise Chrysocolla, and Parrot Wing Chrysocolla.

A fine cabochon made from some Gem Silica I extracted from a piece of Malachite that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
A fine cabochon made from some Gem Silica I extracted from a piece of Malachite that originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo | Source
Chrysocolla from the Inspiration Mine in Arizona.  This specimen is quite hard and is well silicated.
Chrysocolla from the Inspiration Mine in Arizona. This specimen is quite hard and is well silicated. | Source
Chrysocolla from Sonora Mexico
Chrysocolla from Sonora Mexico | Source

One of the rarest and most sought after forms of Chrysocolla is known as Gem Silica. Gem Silica is Chalcedony that has been stained by Chrysocolla producing a beautiful translucent blue stone that is very hard and well suited for use in jewelry.

This rare form of Chrysocolla is harder than Turquoise and is a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. Other gemstones that have a Mohs hardness of 7 are Amethyst and Citrine.

The highest grade of Gem Silica has good translucency (allows light to pass through), has a strong and consistent color saturation, and has no inclusions or blemishes. This very high grade of Gem Silica can cost more than $200 per carat. Care should be taken when buying Gem Silica because it is sometimes faked by staining clear agate blue.

What is Chrysocolla

Meditation for Chrysocolla

Chrysocolla Lore

Those who believe in the healing properties of minerals believe that Chrysocolla is a calming stone helping to clear feelings of guilt and fear.

Which is your favorite of the two, Chrysocolla or Turquoise?

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