Chrysoprase

Chrysoprase The Beauty Of Green

Chrysoprase is a variety of chalcedony and belongs to the quartz family. For the technical minded, Chrysophrase (at times spelt this way) is a cryptocrystalline or microcrystalline variety of quartz. Good quality chrysoprase gems would be transluscent and have no inclusions or cracks. They would also have a nice uniformly spread apple green or a slightly darker green color. It is this variety of chrysoprase that can resemble fine quality jadeite which is also known as imperial jadeite. The stone is sometimes referred to as Australian jade. In terms of volumes Australia leads the rest of the world for chrysophrase gem output.

Talking about the meaing  of the word chrysoprase is an interesting topic. It is widely believed that the name of chrysoprase gemstones is derived from two Greek words. The first Greek word is 'chryso' which means golden and the second word is, 'prason' which means 'leek'. Some historic records say that the Greeks believed that there were golden drops in the chrysoprase stone! The reference to 'leek' is much clearer since the color of this green stone, does resemble the color of the leek vegetable. 

The basic color of Chrysophrase is green, it could range from a light green to a yelllowish green, move to the enticing 'apple' green and then end with a darker shade of green. If you prefer Australian chrysoprase, you should be looking more for the medium green to apple green color shades. There are some locations in the African continent more specifically Tanzania, where a nice dark saturated green chrysoprase is found. We would suggest that you do not strain your budget when buying chrysophrase gemstones. Check for a medium green color, give more attention to lack of flaws on the surface of the stone. You also do not want internal cracks to scar the stone, checking with a penlight flashed from below the gem can help spot such flaws.

If you go by the book, you will learn that Australia, Brazil and even California (U.S) output chrysophrase gem stones. A practical look at the gems and jewelry industry reveals that, much of the chrysophrase gemstones come from Australia. Many loose gems in cut and finished enter the markets from Hong Kong and China but, that does not mean that it is mined in that region. Chrysoprase beads, loose gemstones and even carvings made from the stone are available through China. The fact is that some fairly large chrysophrase gemstone mines in Australia are owned by companies based in Hong Kong. The rough stone that is mined is sent directly to H.K and from there to China for cutting and manufacturing.

In the world of gems, most green stones get their color from the presence of chromium or vanadiam, this does not hold true for green chrysophrase gems. The green color of this stone is a result of particles of hydrated nickel silicate. A research project conducted in 1996 revealed that platelets of nickel-talc known as willemseite, were responsible for the green color in chrysoprase gems. Keep the term 'hydrated' in mind, it means that some amount of moisture is naturally present in the stone. You might recall that another gem that includes moisture is opal, we will come back to this issue lower down in our report.

Every gem buyer should be aware of the durability of the gems that they purchase. This report on chrysoprase gems would not be complete without discussing issues related to durability. Like most other quartz, chrysoprase has a hardness of 6.5 to 7 which makes it suitable for jewelry applications. It is resilient and does not crave for any special care. Much of the stones are available in smooth cabachon cut. Gems with a very deep cut can protrude well beyond the jewelry mounting, this can make them more prone to being damaged or scratched by physical impact. This might not be a big issue when you talk about chrysoprase earrings or pendants but, gemstones set in rings always take fairly substantial wear and tear.  

Understanding the physical properties of a gem allow you to provide the right type of care when wearing, storing or cleaning the jewel. Most jewelers fail to provide complete gem information to buyers, they feel that doing so would put buyers off and thereby reduce sales. We take a different view and feel that a buyer gets better value for money paid and longer satisfaction, if they are explained issues related to a gemstone.  You can clean your chrysophrase jewellery in an ultrasound cleaner, it is also fine to use a mild detergent solution and a soft brush during the cleaning process. One thing that is recommended for all jewelry and not just for chrysoprase gem stone jewels is to store them carefully. When you keep jewelry in a box, do not bundle all the jewels together, this can cause them to scratch or damage each other.  A box with small compartments that can hold a single jewel in each compartment are ideally suited for jewelry storage.

Related to caring for chrysophrase gems is the issue about natural moisture in the stone, we talked about this a few paragraphs earlier. It is quite possible that the moisture in the chrysophrase gets dried over a period of time. The gem could then lose some of it's vibrant color and lustre, fortunately soaking chrysoprase in water should bring most of that lost beauty back. Keeping this in mind, it would be best if chrysophrase gems are not exposed to heat sources.  

While most gemstone jewelry is today worn for fashion and style, the popularity of many of gems began with traditional beliefs. Chrysophrase has it's share of stories and folklore and we will talk about some of these. There was a time when people believed that one could become invisible by placing a piece of chrysophrase in the mouth ! The Romans at one time believed that the stone would lose color if it came in contact with a poisonous substance. It is not clear whether they deployed the services of chrysoprase to detect poisons. Wearing a chrysophrase gem stone is supposed to bring calm and grace to a person. Increased fertility and spiritual protection were also attributed to the gem. In today's world it is best to read these beliefs out of interest rather than to expect the extraordinary.