THE MALACHITE ROOM

Malachite has been used as an interior design element for centuries. The copper carbonate rich mineral has special characteristics of intense emerald green color and beautiful natural bands of green and black. It goes extremely well with gold and brass, most valuable of them consisting of concentric circles. Malachite has been used in ornaments and jewelry for thousands of years. It is said to keep off the evil spirits, or so the ancient civilizations believed. Up until the 1800’s, malachite was also used as a source for a green mineral pigment. In Italy they call it a “peacock stone”. Today, malachite is most commonly mined in Africa, it is commonly found in copper rich deposits around limestone. Other deposit rich places have been found in Russia, Brazil, Australia and Arizona.

The Malachite Room in St. Petersburg, Russia
The Malachite Room

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The most famous example of malachite use in interior design has to be from St. Petersburg, Russia. The room is unsurprisingly called “The Malachite Room’ and is located in the Hermitage’s Winter Palace.

The Hermitage, Winter Palace, Malachite Room in St. Petersburg, Russia
The Hermitage, Winter Palace

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The Malachite Room was designed in the late 1830s by a Russian architect Alexander Briullov to replace the original Jasper room ruined in the fire of 1837. The room has malachite columns throughout, a green fireplace, enormous urn and malachite inspired furniture. Used as a reception room for the wife of Nicholas I, the Empress also loved to dress the future brides in the room for their weddings. The Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna also let the room to be used as a gathering place for the imperial family. The malachite room has numerous semi precious mineral objects all over the place: vases, caskets and a small cabinet known as the Tropical Forest. It is made of various shades of green malachite and decorated with numerous flower petals, palm leaves and plumage.

The Malachite Vase in Hermitage
The famous Malachite Vase

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Back then, the richest malachite deposits were found in the Ural mines, which are closed off by now. The most famous of them was the Demidoff mine. It got its name by the Russian miner Nikita Demidoff, who found the copper rich malachite deposits by accident. He was sent out to Urals by Peter the Great himself, to find some iron and copper for his factories. Not only did he manage to locate the iron deposits, the emerald green malachite gem also caught his eye. After the discovery it soon became one of the main sources for copper in the Imperial Russia. A century later, in the 1830s, the copper miners found the biggest malachite deposits in the Demidoff mine so far. An estimated 70 tons of malachite was broken into pieces and carried up to the surface. From this vein was also made the famous vase that the Emperor of Russia ordered to be sent to the Pope as a gift. It required a master to put the malachite pieces together to match its color variations and pattern, so that it wouldn’t appear as a patch work. Russia has been the secret holder for that kind of mastery, effortlessly delivering the malachite furniture, beds, table tops and various other interior design elements, giving endless inspiration to designers and architects up until today.

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