If you are a collector of chalcedony, you may be familiar with chrysoprase. While this gemstone may have an unusual-sounding name, it is actually just a form of chalcedony which happens to contain trace amounts of nickel.
Chrysoprase is translucent and typically has a vibrant apple green color.
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What is Chrysoprase?
As mentioned previously, chrysoprase is a form of chalcedony, which in turn is a cryptocrystalline form of silica.
This means that the crystals are incredibly tiny and dense.
You would need to be looking through a microscope under polarized light to see them distinctly.
Chrysoprase Properties and Color
Thanks to the nickel present in chrysoprase, this gemstone has a distinct green hue. The color is generally bright and warm (think of a green apple), but it may sometimes have a bluish tint (more of a light aqua color).
Generally the green is medium to light in tone, but it may sometimes be substantially darker. When chrysoprase has a deep green hue, it is usually just referred to as “prase.”
Oh the Mohs scale of hardness, chrysoprase rates a 6-7 (for reference, quartz is a 7). In terms of transparency, the gem is usually translucent, but sometimes it may be opaque.
Whereas many gemstones that are close to opaque are valued for their unusual bands and markings, chrysoprase is not. It is the color that makes the gemstone so desirable. Because chrysoprase typically has a uniform color and a glassy luster, it can catch the light beautifully when polished into cabochons.
Curious how chrysoprase forms? Oftentimes it is found in deposits of serpentine. When nickeliferous serpentinites weather, chrysoprase may be the result. Chrysoprase is found all around the world, but the best known mines are located in Germany, Russia, Poland, Australia, Brazil, and the United States (in California and Arizona).
The most famous deposit is one located in Szklary, Lower Silesia, Poland. So far this appears to be the largest deposit in Europe and the world. In fact, for quite some time, Poland was the only known source of chrysoprase in existence. It remained that way for hundreds of years before additional deposits were discovered.
There are no industrial uses for chrysoprase. The only use for the gemstone is in jewelry and mineral collections. Chrysoprase is prized for its aesthetic beauty.
Chrysoprase Buying Guide
As a form of chalcedony, chrysoprase is not an overly expensive gemstone. When you are shopping for chrysoprase jewelry, you will be paying as much for the quality of craftsmanship as you will be for the gemstone itself. If you are purchasing unset chrysoprase stones, you should find them an affordable addition to your collection.
How much will you pay for chrysoprase? As a form of chalcedony, its value is well in line with other hues. Generally you can expect to pay a few dollars per carat for small chrysoprase stones. Large top quality chrysoprase stones usually sell for $20-30 per carat.
Typical jewelry pieces which feature chrysoprase range anywhere from $30-$100, with some pieces exceeding $100. Remember, much depends on the craftsmanship. The value of other materials used will contribute as well. A piece set in gold will cost more than one set in copper. Chrysoprase with embellishing gemstones such as diamonds naturally also cost more.
What types of jewelry are made out of chrysoprase? You can purchase everything under the sun: necklaces, bracelets, pendants, rings, earrings, brooches, and more. Chrysoprase is used to make beads as well as cabochons.
Faceted chrysoprase is not common since the gemstone is never transparent, and faceting is designed primarily for stones which are. The best way to bring out the beauty of chrysoprase is to tumble and polish it. Most pieces you will find are oval-shaped cabochons. The smooth, glassy look and feel of these gemstones can be startling to behold. The look of chrysoprase is very simple but elegant.
Chrysoprase Engagement Rings
Chrysoprase engagement rings are surprisingly common. You would not expect this with a translucent or opaque gemstone, but it seems that chrysoprase is frequently used as an embellishment (if not typically the main feature) of an engagement ring.
As you might imagine, chrysoprase engagement rings tend to have an unusual, unique design, and an artistry that is quite different from what you would typically find at your average jeweler store. Many of them are designer rings, which means they also tend to carry a very high price tag.
What are some designs you might see? You might find a ring with chrysoprase set as the focal gemstone with small diamonds encrusted all around it. Or you might find an engagement ring with a diamond or emerald as the focal stone, and smaller chrysoprase gems embellishing it.
Other common designs include rings with fancy bands where carved pieces of chrysoprase are worked into the bands directly. These can be quite eye-catching. Prices for chrysoprase engagement rings can cost anywhere from $350-$6,000.
- Chrysoprase is a beautiful gemstone and makes for a great conversation piece. You can be sure that a chrysoprase engagement ring will get a lot of attention, and that it will be unique among other engagement rings.
- The designs of chrysoprase engagement rings are quite varied, so there is something to suit any taste, particularly for more eclectic wearers.
- With a 6-7 ranking on the Mohs scale of hardness, chrysoprase is reasonably hard and can stand up to everyday wear at least as well as quartz. Since it has no cleavage, it is arguably even stronger and less likely to break.
- In terms of value, chrysoprase tends to be quite expensive, despite the fact that it is not a precious gemstone like diamond. Since many chrysoprase rings are designer jewelry items, they will have significant value as heirlooms.
- If you are looking for a traditional engagement ring, chrysoprase is not going to be a good choice. Most recipients prefer diamond, or at the very least, another precious gemstone which is transparent and has a bit of sparkle. Chrysoprase is usually opaque, and definitely has no clarity or sparkle.
- Green is not a good match for every skin tone or wardrobe either. One of the reasons diamond is most popular for engagement rings is because it is colorless. This means it matches everything.
Chrysoprase makes an excellent gift for anyone who loves green gemstones, but if you are thinking about purchasing a chrysoprase engagement ring for someone (or any other non-traditional engagement ring), you should always ask first.
Make sure that your recipient will really be happy with a diamond alternative before you go through with your purchase.
How to Clean and Store Chrysoprase
- Cleaning Chrysoprase: Like most gemstones, the best method for cleaning is to do so without resorting to ultrasonic or steam cleaners. Just get an old, soft toothbrush and use warm, soapy water. Stick with only mild detergents and stay away from harsh chemicals. Chrysoprase is porous, which means that it can easily soak up chemicals and other substances. For this reason, it is especially important to avoid exposure or the stone can be ruined.
- Storing Chrysoprase: Chrysoprase is a stone that can be damaged by excessive heat or light. Either may gradually leach out the color. You should store it in a cool, dark place to avoid exposure. Since chrysoprase is harder than a lot of other gemstones, you do not need to worry about it quite as much as you would many softer gems, but it is still wise to keep it inside an individual pouch or compartment. After all, harder stones like diamond or topaz may still scratch it.
- Wearing Chrysoprase: Wearing this gemstone, you should take reasonable care that it does not get damaged. You do not have to be overly careful since it is relatively hard and has no cleavage, but it is still best to remove it before you engage in physical activity. Do not put it on until after you apply any hairsprays, perfumes, and other cosmetics which might damage it.
Chrysoprase is a gem which actually has quite a few mentions throughout ancient history. You might not expect this being as we do not hear that much about it today, but it has quite a rich background.
The name “chrysoprase” comes from two Greek words: “khrusos,” which means “gold,” and “prason,” which means “leek.” That might sound peculiar, being as this is clearly a green gemstone, but it may sometimes feature gold inclusions, thus the name.
It was described in ancient times by Pliny, and also shows up in the New Testament where it is mentioned among the foundation stones of Jerusalem. Ancient rabbis wore it in their breastplates since it was a holy stone.
A couple of famous people in ancient history were fans of chrysoprase. One was Cleopatra, who believed that the gem would help her hold on to her youth. Since she was famed for her beauty, who knows—maybe it worked.
The other famous historical figure associated with chrysoprase in ancient times is Alexander the Great. There is a legend about Alexander and chrysoprase—one which seems unlikely to be true being as it is quite fanciful, but it is worth relating nonetheless.
Throughout his campaign, Alexander the Great is said to have worn a chrysoprase gemstone on his belt. Apparently one day near a river, he came upon a snake, which attacked him. The snake tore the chrysoprase off his belt, and it fell in the river. At that point, the legend says, his winning streak came to an end.
Another historical military leader who wore chrysoprase was Fredrick the Great. Frederick II ruled Prussia during the latter part of the 18th century. He was said to enjoy the color of the stone immensely—plus it was a patriotic stone, since it was mined in Silesia, which was at the time a part of Prussia. Eventually those deposits were depleted and the stone became less popular.
During Frederick’s reign, however, chrysoprase became quite famous. He carried a walking stick topped with chrysoprase, and he owned a chrysoprase ring which he wore everywhere. He had chrysoprase furniture and décor throughout his palace in Potsdam. He also owned eight chrysoprase snuffboxes. You can view one gem-encrusted example below.
Throughout history, there have been other unusual properties associated with chrysoprase. Among the superstitious in the Middle Ages, it was believed that chrysoprase glowed in the dark (how they didn’t notice that this wasn’t true is a good question—perhaps the way that light caught in the stone confused them).
During the 18th century, there was also a belief among thieves that chrysoprase could confer invisibility. So they carried the stone in their mouths while they were engaged in crime.
Chrysoprase obviously cannot make you invisible or confer youth or victory on the battlefield, but the fascination it has held throughout history only adds to its mystique among gem collectors today.
As you might expect, there are a lot of meanings associated with chrysoprase. Because it was associated with the preservation of youth in ancient Egypt, there are many people today who still connect the gem with youth, health, and well-being. Since it was linked to Alexander the Great and Frederick II, it may also be associated with military victory, especially over lengthy campaigns. More broadly, this can be interpreted as a link to good fortune, protection, prosperity, courage, and success.
Chrysoprase is connected to success in relationships as well. Ancient Greeks used to believe that the stone could protect a marriage and bring fortune and harmony to both partners individually and together. For this reason it was placed on a sill or somewhere else out in the open during half-moons. It was believed that this practice would recharge the power of the stone, which in turn would recharge the marriage.
Chrysoprase is strongly associated with intuition and is believed to help bring clarity to thinking. This is probably due to its historical link to victorious campaigns. It may aid in making key decisions.
Finally, because of its green color, chrysoprase is believed to strengthen the heart chakra. It may assist you with exploring your emotions and with attaining a sense of peace when you are under stress, especially when it comes to your relationships. Chrysoprase may assist you with reaching out to others and opening your heart. It is said that it is a gemstone of forgiveness and serenity.
A stunning example of chrysoprase. Note: we are not affiliated with the creator of the video. Always do your due diligence before purchasing a gemstone.
Similar and Related Gemstones
If you are going to confuse chrysoprase with any other gemstone, chances are quite good it will be chrome chalcedony. These two gems look remarkably similar because they are both forms of chalcedony. This means that most of their properties match up.
They share the same hardness and luster. Both tend to be translucent or opaque. Both are green, but whereas chrysoprase derives its tint from nickel, chrome chalcedony takes its hue from the presence of chromium (incidentally, emerald also is green because of chromium).
How can you tell the two apart? Chrome chalcedony tends to be a cooler shade of green, closer on the spectrum to blue, whereas chrysoprase tends to be much warmer in hue, closer to gold. Some stones are very close in hue, though, and telling them apart can be a real struggle.
Other Forms of Chalcedony
You may sometimes mix up chrysoprase with other types of chalcedony as well. It is especially common for white chalcedony to be dyed green. The resemblance can be very close. Unless the dye job is obvious, you may need an expert eye to tell the two apart.
Chrysoprase is often found in deposits of serpentine, which happens to be another green gemstone. Thankfully the two are quite dissimilar in appearance. Serpentine is more of a warm, mossy green color, much closer to yellow in hue (some stones are quite yellowish). Serpentine is usually opaque and has a mottled appearance, often with a lot of black streaking. Occasionally the stone is opaque, but still tends to look nothing like chrysoprase.
One stone which can be a good deal closer in resemblance to chrysoprase is jade. In terms of appearance, jade rests somewhere between serpentine and chrysoprase. In fact, serpentine is sometimes referred to as “new jade,” and used as an imitation for jade. Jade’s color can range quite a bit, but it is quite often an apple hue similar to chrysoprase.
Just to make matters more confusing, technically jade may be either of two different substances: jadeite and nephrite. Jadeite is similar in hardness to both quartz and chrysoprase. Nephrite is a bit softer, but still comparable. Both are between 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale.
Chrysoprase’s resemblance to jade is so close that it is sometimes sold as imitation jade as well! It is usually marketed as “Australian jade.”
One of the most effective methods for telling jade apart from chrysoprase and other imitations is to hold it up to a light and look inside. If you see what looks like fibrous inclusions, you are most likely actually looking at jade. Chrysoprase is never going to showcase this fibrous structure because of its dense microcrystalline lattice.
Variscite is quite a unique-looking gemstone, but it is still possible to mix it up with chrysoprase since both have an apple-green hue. Variscite is softer than chrysoprase, however, and may have a waxier appearance. It also tends to have a number of veins criss-crossing it which are typically tan in color. Look up images of variscite and you will see how this is quite a distinctive feature.
This is another green gemstone which is sometimes confused with chrysoprase. It is typically translucent, and has a relatively uniform appearance. Its hue is a lot more subdued than vivid color of chrysoprase, and is also significantly more yellow in most cases.
Even though there are a number of gemstones which resemble chrysoprase, many of them can easily be told apart when you learn to recognize differences in color, softness and crystal structure. The most challenging stones to distinguish are dyed forms of chalcedony as well as chalcedony with chromium impurities.
Chrysoprase may not be the most popular gemstone today, but it has a fascinating history. The legends and meanings surrounding it fire the imagination. Many chrysoprase rings and pendants feature unique designs which are unlike anything out there. Chrysoprase makes a wonderful gift for the right recipient, or a breathtaking addition to your own collection. In particular, it is a great gem for military history buffs!