I always liked the trinket box that my grandmother kept on a side table in her sitting room. It wasn’t particularly big. It had a crack across the top rather badly repaired by some Victorian with a dark brown gunk. The frame was gilt and rather fussy with little feet. However the side panels and lid were filled with stone and what a stone. It was Malachite – Green luxury. The swirling shapes with circles and nodules in deep and pale greens fascinated me. Hence it’s no wonder why Malachite has been used as a luxury material for decoration for thousands of years.
Malachite – A brief history in decoration
Because of its amazing patterns in deep and pale greens Malachite as well as being the basis for copper has also been used for luxury decorations and ornaments for millennium.
Certainly the most famous uses of malachite for interior decoration on a big scale have to be the Malachite rooms of the Hermitage and the Castillo de Chapultepec in Mexico City. In the Hermitage the fire place and huge columns of course dominate the room. Moreover in the Castillo de Chapultepec it is a pair of impressive malachite and gilt double doors and vast urns on pedestals that give the room its name.
Malachite is a natural material and is found on most continents. Africa, South and North America Europe, Australia the Middle east and perhaps most famously the Urals in Russia. It is formed from copper carbonate hydroxide, the copper giving it its green colour. However it gets its name from the green leaves of the Mallow plant, from the Latin molochītis, Middle French: melochite, and Middle English melochites meaning Mallow.
The stone has been mined for many years to extract the copper content. The Great Orme mine in England was opened pre the Bronze Age 3800 years ago. Indeed it was worked all through that period and beyond. Throughout Antiquity and up until about 1800 malachite was ground in to a powder to make pigment for green paints.
The Ancient Egyptians believed it has links with death and resurrection and pieces are often found in tombs. The Mayans of course used it for elaborate funeral masks.
During the 17th 18th century’s predominately in Russia but also in Europe the stone was used in the making of all kinds of luxury products. These also include Jewellery chests, boxes desk sets, mantle clocks, tables and even cabinets and grand pianos. Generally speaking it was used in conjunction with gilt metal. It is appreciated by luxury watch and clock-makers as well as Jewellery designers to the present day.
Of course craftsmen and artists have been creating faux malachite products for centuries to recreate luxury of the real stone. Generally artists painted various shades of green in swirls to imitate malachite. Furthermore, nowadays it is even available as wallpaper.
I have always wanted to use this luxury stone in my designs but I needed a modern twist. In a nutshell my goal was to make something more realistic than the normal faux malachite; In particular I wanted something that looked similar to my grandmother’s trinket box, the one that started my fascination in this material.
A few very ago I finally worked out a method of creating a realistic faux malachite. I developed a film of ink depicting a sheet of malachite which I could float on water. By lowering the product or panels into the water the ink wraps itself around the item and adheres to it. Finally the results are perfect and I have achieved my malachite dreams.
Malachite in interior design
Finally with my interior design hat on, I love the deep richness of this stone. The shades of green are strong and vibrant it is best not to use it in excess as can be seen in the malachite rooms of the Hermitage and the Castillo de Chapultepec. The rooms thus have specific areas where it is used but it does not dominate the rooms.
I personally think a single statement piece works best. A malachite mirror – or a pair of them – in a neutrally painted hallway or living room can really focus a space. In the same way a sculpture or a display tray or a small box will act as a focus in an area within a room.