Meet the Gemstones: Chrysoprase
Jade has an almost mythic standing in the jewelry world, much of which has to do with its incredible green variety. But some chrysoprase gemstones can rival the finest jade greens.
ABOVE: Candala chrysoprase is from the Marlborough Mine in Australia, which produces some of the finest stones today. Photo by Jim Lawson.
Chrysoprase is not as tough as jade. Jade’s fibrous structure makes it dang near indestructible—it was, after all, used as tool material in the ancient past. But chrysoprase is a type of chalcedony, so it has all the excellent characteristics of chalcedony. It’s hard (quartz’s 7 versus jade’s 6), durable, often very translucent, and usually takes a gorgeous polish. (Toughness is a gemstone’s resistance to breaking; hardness is its resistance to scratching. Jade will scratch before chrysoprase does, but the chrysoprase may chip before the jade does under similar conditions of wear.)
Chrysoprase gemstones were said to be responsible for Alexander the Great’s amazing victories, as he always wore the stone. When the stone was lost (a snake—they are blamed for everything—was said to have bitten it off when Alexander laid his girdle aside to go bathing), the victories were said to have stopped.
Chrysoprase was also said to be the preferred stone of Frederick the Great, who wore one in a ring, had chrysoprase mounted on his walking stick, and was often gifted with chrysoprase snuff boxes. On some old birthstone lists, chrysoprase is given as the stone for December, and it is listed as the stone for those born under the signs of Taurus, Gemini, and Libra.
Chrysoprase was said to make one invisible (if Harry Potter had only known), and was chosen by criminals to help them avoid hanging. These gemstones have been said to heal burns, headache, neck pain, and wounds, and to repair a broken heart. Supposedly it can convert negative emotions into positive ones and help one overcome compulsive behaviors. Chrysoprase promotes a sense of security and trust, and encourages fidelity (which would certainly lead to the feelings of security and trust). It promotes nonjudgmental attitudes.
The list is quite long. All in all, chrysoprase is a worthy stone to wear about one’s person, military victories notwithstanding.
One source of fine chrysoprase is the Marlborough mine in Queensland, Australia, which is marketed under the name Candala chrysoprase. Another source of fine chrysoprase is the Iyobo Mountain mine near Haneti in Tanzania, which began full mining production in 1997. Both mines appear set to provide reliable sources of chrysoprase in the future.
Like most colored gemstones, chrysoprase comes in a variety of colors. It ranges from very dark green, similar to Wyoming nephrite, through a gem green that, in jadeite terminology, would be called “imperial,” to a lighter apple green to a very light pale green. Transparency can also vary. Some stones may be almost opaque, while some few verge on transparent. Fine chrysoprase should be evenly and intensely colored and translucent. Some chrysoprase has dark flecks of other minerals, possibly goethite.
Often chrysoprase is very affordably priced from $20 per cab and up. As color intensifies and translucency approaches transparency, naturally the costs will go up. Its beauty in color, its polish, and durability also make chrysoprase a favorite of gemstone carvers. Carving prices will depend not only on the color of the material but the skill of the carver.
Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing about gemstones and jewelry for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of birthstone romance novels under the name Liz Hartley.