Chrysoprase is a gem in the chalcedony family. The name comes from a combination of Greek words that mean “gold” (chrysos) and “leek” (prason). It is an translucent stone that is generally apple green in color. Although, it sometimes comes in a deeper shade of green or a lighter yellowish green, those types of rough are far less desirable.
Chrysoprase gets its unusual color from the amount of nickel found within the crystalline material. The gem is composed of tiny crystals that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
This stone is somewhat scarce in nature, which adds to its allure and mystique. It is generally found around serpentine rocks, which are also rich with nickel deposits. It is mined in Africa, Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Poland, Russia, the United States and Zimbabwe. In the U.S., it is found only in California.
Chrysoprase dates back hundreds of years. It has been discovered in jewelry and ornamental items from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It is said to been the favorite gemstone of Alexander the Great. For that reason, many people call it the “victory stone.”
Today, the gem is used primarily in jewelry. However, buyers should beware because some unscrupulous jewelers use as a substitute for Imperial jade.
Chrysoprase ranks about a 6.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. The gem is rarely faceted, but instead cut into cabochons or used for beading. It is also used as for intaglios and cameos.
Because the gem is rare, it can be quite expensive. Consequently, imitations have popped up to take its place. These are most often forms of agate that have been dyed to imitate Chrysoprase. Buyers should take great care in making certain that what they are buying is absolutely genuine.
Chrysoprase is somewhat soft in nature. For that reason, care must be taken to maintain the quality of the stone. It should never be immersed into harsh chemicals or put into an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. Instead, it should be cleaned with a very soft, damp cloth. Since it can be scratched, cracked, or broken easier than some other gems, Chrysoprase should be stored alone or put into a velvet or cloth pouch before putting it in a jewelry box with other items.
The gem has other unusual characteristics. Legend claims that thieves once used Chrysoprase as a means to make themselves invisible for easier access into target areas. Sailors also used talismans of the stone to protect them on long sea voyages.
While I’ve never been on a sea voyage and, therefore, cannot speak to the accuracy of that claim, I can say that the gem hasn’t worked in turning me invisible. So much for that legend.