Chrysoprase is one of the most prized of the Chalcedony family and recognized by a magnificent shade of vivid apple green. It’s nickname, Australian Jade, is not a reference to gemological attributes, but rather a visual likeness to Burmese Imperial Jade.
Chalcedony, a variety of cryptocrystalline Quartz, is composed of very fine intergrowths of SiO2 minerals rather than being singular, six-sided, prismatic crystal-like rock crystal. As a result, stones are opaque to translucent rather than ‘crystal clearness’. Unlike other green gems varieties such as Emerald, Imperial Jade, Peridot and Tsavorite Garnet, who owe their brilliant hues to chromium, vanadium and/or iron, Chrysoprase’s color derives from the presence of nickel. Forming in veins and nodules, mineralization occurs from the weathering of serpentine. As particles of the serpentine, nickel, silica and other iron oxides are dissolved, the solution collects in cracks and veins in the underlying environment and the disseminated elements recrystallize.
Chrysoprase was used lavishly in ancient Greece and Roman times for jewelry, intaglios and cameos until sources in Poland and Germany became exhausted. Alexander the Great was said to have worn a piece on this girdle/belt as a good-luck charm to help him win his various victories and Cleopatra believed it helped retain her youthful beauty. With a hardness of 7, this gem is great for rings as well as other types of jewelry such as pendants and earrings. Due to its bright, even coloring, Chrysoprase is generally cut into cabochons, beads and carvings. Occasionally you might see a faceted stone but this is not the favored style, as facet edges will become rounded over time.
Today, Chrysoprase is still sourced in various locations around the world but predominately Australia. A popular and well-known site is in Marlborough, Queensland and the town even has an area in their local museum dedicated to the history of mining Chrysoprase.
Bunny Bedi, owner and designer at Made in Earth, has always loved Chrysoprase and has been fortunate in the past getting hold of high quality stones. “I’ve been lucky to have done some clever buying a long time ago. A dear friend of mine, the late Frank Soklich, swapped his brand new ute for one of the best parcels I’ve ever seen many years ago. So today, we still have some beautiful quality stones from the Marlborough region and Western Australia. We have solid green cabochons, and others with a mixture of Chrysoprase and matrix material. The contrast of the chocolate brown with the lush green is quite beautiful.”
Although we’re not famous for having green Jadeite, we’re certainly famous for Chrysoprase. This green variety of Chalcedony is quite exquisite and so is our Chrysoprase jewelry collection in our galleries.