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Facts About Azurite: Description, Properties, and Uses

A Botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys researching and writing about topics that interest her.

Deep blue azurite cabochon with green malachite

Deep blue azurite cabochon with green malachite

What Is Azurite?

Azurite is a secondary copper mineral frequently found in oxidized zones in deposits of copper ore. It is typically found as tabular to prismatic crystals of a deep azure blue color. It is produced by the weathering of copper ore deposits.

Azurite is named after the Persian word “lazhward” for its characteristic blue color. It occurs in the weathered zones of copper ore, usually in association with malachite.

This mineral is famous for its vibrant color and interesting forms. There are over 45 well-known forms of Azurite. It can be cut into cabochons and faceted into gems and used for ornamental objects. Azurite dust is toxic and must not be inhaled when cutting or polishing.

Azurite deposits can be found in Australia, Chile, France, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, the South Western USA, and Zaire. Samples of Azurite can be found displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

History of Azurite

Azurite has been used for thousands of years as decorative stones for jewelry and ornamental objects. In addition, early Egyptians believed that Azurite had the power to communicate with spirits.

It has been used for many centuries as a pigment to give a unique blue color and was used extensively in paintings through the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe.

During this period azurite was used first in tempera and fresco painting and later in oil. To make azurite pigment, masses of minerals were collected and ground into powder. This powder was then washed and run through a sieve.

The grains of ground azurite were separated by size. The heavier, coarse grounds were used to create a dark blue pigment, and the finer grounds were used to create lighter shades.

Several coats of azurite pigment were required to create a solid blue color and this layering of coat after coat of fine azurite fragments formed a crystalline crust with a deep blue hue and a subtle sparkle.

Over long periods the blue color changed to greener hues based on the copper present in the mineral. This natural change is referred to as pseudomorph and the resulting green color is a related copper mineral called malachite.

This change can be seen in mineral specimens and in the old paintings that use azurite pigments. One of the most notable works of art affected by the azurite to malachite change is Raphael’s Madonna and the Child Enthroned with Saints.

 Raphael’s Madonna and the Child Enthroned with Saints

Raphael’s Madonna and the Child Enthroned with Saints

Azurite Formation

Azurite is not a common or abundant mineral. Azurite is a secondary mineral that usually forms when water laden with carbon-dioxide seeps into the earth and reacts with subsurface copper ores. The carbonic acid of these waters dissolves small amounts of copper from the ore.

The dissolved copper is transported with the water until it reaches a new geochemical environment. This new environment could be a location where water chemistry or temperature changes or a place where water evaporation occurs. If the conditions are right, the mineral azurite may form. If the right conditions persist for a long time, a significant accumulation of azurite might develop.

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Azurite precipitation occurs in pore spaces, fractures, and cavities of the subsurface rocks. The azurite formed through precipitation is massive or nodular. In rare situations, azurite can be found as stalactic and botryoidal growths.

This image shows two parts of a section of a wall of a cave near Brisbee, Arizona. It is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

This image shows two parts of a section of a wall of a cave near Brisbee, Arizona. It is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Description and Properties of Azurite

Azurite is a copper carbonate hydroxide mineral, a secondary mineral formed in the oxidized portions of copper deposits. With a ratio of 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs hardness scale, azurite is a relatively soft mineral.

Azurite is soft with a deep blue color that is unique only to this mineral stone. It is found in groups of crystals in the natural form. These crystals are monoclinic and can be found as radiating, botryoidal, or incrusting crystals (crystallization system).

Azurite forms in nature when copper ores oxidize as it absorbs water from the atmosphere. As it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, the blue azurite changes to the green mineral called malachite. Due to this, azurite and malachite are found to exist next to each other; they can also be found with minerals such as limonite and chalcopyrite.

Well-formed azurite crystals

Well-formed azurite crystals

Azurite is popular with mineral collectors due to its deep blue color and stunning monoclinic crystal forms, and interesting structures.

The instability of azurite poses a problem for mineral collectors because if this mineral is exposed to heat or high humidity, the surfaces of the mineral will begin to weather and become dull, faded, or greenish in appearance.

Valuable specimens have to be stored in closed collection drawers with limited air circulation, darkness, and cool, stable temperatures.

"Velvet Beauty" is a stunning Azurite specimen weighing 3 pounds and 9 inches in diameter. It was discovered in 1890 in  Bisbee, Arizona.

"Velvet Beauty" is a stunning Azurite specimen weighing 3 pounds and 9 inches in diameter. It was discovered in 1890 in Bisbee, Arizona.

Azurite Is a Mysterious Psychic Stone

The ancient Egyptians and the people of Atlantis believed it was a mysterious psychic stone. The ancient Chinese called azurite the “Stone of Heaven” and believed that it could open the celestial gateways.

Romans and the Greeks worshipped the azurite stone for its healing powers and visionary insights.

The Mayans believed that the azurite stone enabled the flow of knowledge and wisdom. They also believed that it inspired the mystical side.

The Native Americans used it to connect with their spiritual guides. Azurite is also used in physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

High-purity azurite is ground into a powder to be used as pigments.

High-purity azurite is ground into a powder to be used as pigments.

A jewelry box carved from azurite with patterns of cuprite and malachite.

A jewelry box carved from azurite with patterns of cuprite and malachite.

Uses of Azurite

The following are three of the most common uses of azurite.

Azurite for Healing

Azurite is supposed to have inherent healing energy that helps to enhance health and well-being. It is supposed to help communicate with higher spirits and enhance psychic awareness, psychic skills, and psychic abilities.

Azurite for Meditation

Azurite is used during meditation to increase concentration and the positive flow of energy. It is supposed to help enter the state of meditation easily. It is believed that the presence of copper in azurite helps to increase the flow of energy within the body.

Azurite Used for Jewelry

Azurite is used to make beads and ornamental stones. Azurite stones are fixed on rings and pendants for attaining the benefits of azurite.

Sources and Further Reading

Azurite | Geology.com

About Azurite | Mindat.org

The Mineral Azurite | Minerals.net

Spotlight on Azurite: The Blue-Hued Beauty | The Arkenstone

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on November 15, 2016:

Tristan Dixon I am happy this article helped you to know more about Azurite.

Tristan Dixon on November 15, 2016:

I learned so much from this

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 15, 2015:

FlourishAnyway thank you and yes the color is brilliant!

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 14, 2015:

The color is brilliant, and I sure didn't know about the color changing to green/Malachite. Great hub here!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 31, 2014:

DDE thank you for your visit and vote up. Azurite is amazing.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 31, 2014:

This is amazing! So beautiful and now i know so much more about the facts of Azurite. Voted up!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 28, 2014:

manatita44 thank you and wishing you a Happy New Year.

BlossomSB yes happy times, Australia is a lovely place filled with nature's beauty.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on December 28, 2014:

A very interesting hub. Years ago when our children were small we were members of a rockhound club. Our children each had their own small tools and a little bag to hold their find. Although we live in Australia where azurite is found, I don't recall finding any, but we certainly found lots of other semiprecious stones. I only ever learned to make cabs, but my husband was great at faceting, and I made the settings, usually in sterling silver. Happy times.

manatita44 from london on December 27, 2014:

Interesting stone, interesting colour and its been around for a while, you say? Never heard of it. But then I never heard of Tanzanite until I went to Tanzania. Wonderful article. Happy New Year!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 27, 2014:

pstraubie48 thank you!

tobusiness thank you Citrine earrings are great! Wishing you all the best for a bright and prosperous new year.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on December 27, 2014:

Beautiful and informative article. I've discovered two lovely crystals this Christmas. I received a beautiful pair of Citrine earrings as a Christmas gift and learned about the stones of heaven, what more can a girl wish for.:) A great share. Best wishes for 2015.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 27, 2014:

It is gorgeous . I did not know of its possible medicinal properties...will indeed need to explore.

Angels are on the way to you this morning.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 26, 2014:

tirelesstraveler thank you for your visit. Azure is my favorite color too.

Judy Specht from California on December 26, 2014:

Very informative hub. I had no idea Azurite had anything to do with copper.

Love the color Azure.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 26, 2014:

billybuc thank you for your constant support, much appreciated.

Perspycacious thank you for reading and yes azure is a rare beautiful color.

AliciaC thank you for reading and leaving a comment, much appreciated.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 26, 2014:

Thank you for sharing the interesting information about a beautiful mineral, Vellur.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on December 26, 2014:

Azure is one of the rare colors not found in eyes though I seem to recall that some author made reference to such. That it changes to a green malachite when exposed to air, must complicate its use in jewelry. Interesting Hub, thanks.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 26, 2014:

Very interesting information. This is one of the reasons I love HP...the fascinating facts I learn. Thank you for this.

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