Malachite vs Moldavite: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

Malachite and moldavite are two often talked about gemstones, and they both have fascinating uses and histories.

To help you better understand these two distinct stones, here is what you need to know. 

Malachite vs Moldavite: The Basics

What is Malachite? 

Malachite is a green copper carbonate hydroxide mineral and it was one of the first to be used in the production of copper metal.

Although it is not used in the production of copper metal as much anymore, it still sees a lot of popular use as a gemstone. 

Malachite is formed at relatively shallow depths above copper deposits in the oxidation zone.

It is often seen to form in limestone, due to the favorite environment for the formation of carbonate minerals.

Formations of malachite usually appear as stalactites or botryoidal coatings along the surface of underground cavities and crevices.  

The color of malachite is one thing that makes it particularly striking.

Its coloration can range from light pastel green to bright vivid green and even a dark green that can appear almost black.

When cut, malachite can exhibit banding similar to what is seen in agate.

These specimens are often opaque and display a dull luster.

Along with malachite in this form, malachite crystals can also be found, although they are much rarer.

These crystals are usually a bright green color with either a vitreous or adamantine luster. 

Malachite is a soft mineral, rated only between 3.5 and 4.0 on the Mohs hardness scale.

Because it is so soft, it can easily be ground into powder.

Coupled with its rich green color that is resistant to fading, it’s easy to see why it was a popular coloring agent for centuries. 

4,000 years ago, some of the first malachite deposits were found in Egypt and Israel.

These deposits were used to produce copper at the time, along with some jewelry.

There is also evidence of extensive mining of malachite at the Great Orme Mines in Britain dating to around 3,800 years ago.

This goes to show just how significant malachite was throughout history.

In the more recent past, a great deal of malachite was mined from the Ural mountains in Russia after large deposits were found there.

Russia continued to be a large producer of malachite throughout the mid-1800s.

However, today, these deposits are producing very little. 

Currently, the top producer of malachite is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Although Australia, France, and Arizona have significant deposits as well. 

It is important to take care when handling malachite as it can be fairly brittle and it is sensitive to heat and can be affected by weak acids. 

Historical Significance Of Malachite

Malachite has a lot of historical significance dating back thousands of years.

The ancient Egyptians, along with using malachite to make copper, also associated the color with death and new life.

They even referred to their version of the afterlife as the ‘Field of Malachite’.

In the middle ages, malachite was also worn as an engraved figure of the sun to help promote good health.

17th century Spaniards also held the superstition that children should wear malachite pendants to help them sleep and keep away evil. 

Throughout history, malachite has come up, again and again, both as a useful mineral and as a metaphysical icon. 

What is Moldavite? 

Moldavite is a natural glass that is theoried to have occurred from an asteroid strike that occurred roughly 15 million years ago.

This impact is thought to have come from an asteroid that split in two before impact, causing the Ries and Steinheim craters in southeastern Germany.

The velocity of these impacts is what resulted in the liquefied rock being thrown into the sky where it solidified before the atoms could form into a mineral structure.

Thus, moldavite is considered a mineraloid, rather than a mineral, because it lacks a crystalline structure but is naturally occurring. 

The moldavite that was created from these impacts was strewn across a large field that includes areas in the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany.

However, over the millions of years that have passed since the creation of the moldavite strewn field, a great deal of it has been either eroded or buried.

This makes it very rare and capable of being found in only a handful of areas.

Currently, the most moldavite is being found in the Czech Republic and the total amount of moldavite thought to be scattered around the world is estimated to be around 275 tons. 

Pieces of moldavite are rated based on their appearance into three grades.

Regular grade moldavite is often darker and more saturated with a green color.

High-quality moldavite often displays a fern-like pattern and is much more translucent than regular pieces.  

Medium quality falls between these two grades and usually shows some characteristics that make it a lower grade than high, such as pitting or weathering. 

Moldavite is found in various shades of green, ranging from yellowish-green to greenish-brown.

Due to its coloration and rarity, it is often highly sought after by jewelers and collectors alike.

Moldavite has been cut into gemstones since the mid-1800s.

However, many collectors value it largely for its extraterrestrial origins. 

Moldavite is also fairly durable, rating between 5.5 to 7.0 on the Mohs hardness scale. 

While moldavite is not thought to be dangerous, moldavite still contains toxic substances which humans should not ingest.

Malachite vs Moldavite: Telling Which Is Which

There are some key differences when it comes to telling malachite and moldavite apart.

For instance, malachite tends to be much softer than moldavite.

Malachite also has a much duller luster and will exhibit banding similar to agate.

Moldavite has no banding and will instead appear to be more translucent and glass-like. 

While moldavite can go in water, malachite should not be submerged because the copper in the malachite reacts with water to create toxic fumes.

Fake Moldavite

Because moldavite is much sought after due to its origins, this has caused some manufacturers to create fake moldavite since the real material is so rare.

Unfortunately, this has caused a flood of undisclosed fake moldavite to make its way onto the market.  

To more readily identify real moldavite, you should look for trapped gas bubbles under the surface and flow structures that can often be seen either with the naked eye or magnification.

Additionally, real moldavite has a low refractive index between 1.47 and 1.51, which is much lower than man-made glass and most other minerals. 

Two Fascinating Stones

Between malachite’s enduring place in history and moldavite’s violent extraterrestrial origins, these two stones are some of the most interesting you can add to your collection.

While they both have impressive green colorations, they are two extremely different stones and by learning these differences you can start to more readily identify them.