Chrysoprase is regarded as one of the most valuable gemstones in the Chalcedony group (the name given to the Cryptocrystalline family of Quartz).
In many parts of Asia there is a fascination with this gemstone like no other, so much so that it is referred to by some as Imperial Chrysoprase, a prefix that is normally associated with Jadeite.
Its hue is normally very pure and only occasionally will you find pieces that are a greenish-blue. Some mines unearth Chrysoprase that has a greenish yellowish hue, but although I quite like this colour, it tends to sell very cheaply as most buyers in Asia don’t appreciate this hue.
If a Chrysoprase has a nice tone, hue and saturation, combined with a reasonable level of translucency, then it can often be one of the most expensive members of the Quartz family that you are likely to see. I recently saw one mine owner at an exhibition in Hong Kong trying to sell his pieces at over £100 per carat, claiming that the gem he was selling was as beautiful as Jadeite! I thought that he had no chance, yet the next day I walked past his stand and they had all gone. I asked what price it had sold for and he smiled! I asked him if he gave a discount and I was amazed when he said “not at all, in fact I had two traders bidding for the parcel and I got far more than I was originally asking”. As you can imagine, this made me want to learn a lot more about this gemstone, one which until this point I had not paid a lot of attention to!
The name is derived from the Greek words “chrysos prason”, meaning “gold leek”. As you can imagine, the gem is a bright leek green translucent gemstone. Its shades vary from very pale green through to a “Golden Delicious” apple green.
Whereas most other green gems owe their colour to the presence of chromium or vanadium, Chrysoprase derives its colour from traces of nickel. The gemstone is generally opaque but occasionally translucent stones are found.
Similar to the lustre of Apatite, the lustre of Chrysoprase is often resinous. The opaque variety can sometimes have a swirling marble effect running through the gem. This effect is similar to that sometimes seen in Jade; however, in Jade it is regarded as a somewhat negative attribute, but it is seen as a valuable and beautiful quality in a Chrysoprase gemstone.
The gem is said to encourage hope and joy, as well as clarifying problems and restlessness. Crystal healers also believe that it soothes headaches and relieves loneliness. Others believe that Chrysoprase promotes emotional balance and grants inner strength and peace, thereby leading a person to a greater sense of self-confidence.
The gem is mined at Marlborough Creek in Queensland, Western Australia, where due to its similar appearance to Jade it is often marketed as Australian Jade. The Marlborough mines first opened in the 1950s and have been the world’s largest source for this gemstone pretty much ever since.
Like many gemstone mining towns, at first hundreds of people staked their claim, but eventually after numerous disputes, takeovers and mergers, only a few mines remained. Such is the demand for the gemstone in China that the Po Yuen Mining company of China purchased the Gumigil Chrysoprase Mine, which for many years was one of the largest in Marlborough; however today the mine is said to be almost exhausted. Another famous mine in the region is the Candala Chrysoprase mine (also known simply as the Marlborough Mine), the colour of pieces found here are darker in tone than from other locales and the material can sometimes be almost transparent! Some claim Candala Chrysoprase is the very best on the planet.
Other important sources include Kazakhstan and Brazil. Historically the gem has also been unearthed in Poland, Germany and Russia.
Historically the gem was first mined in Poland in the 14th century at an area known as Frankenstein. The quality was said to be of a very high grade, but unfortunately the deposit was depleted several hundred years ago.
In addition to Australia, current known sources include Brazil, India, Madagascar, Russia and three states in the USA Arizona, California, and Oregon.