Azurite is an absolutely beautiful gemstone known for its distinct and deep blue colors and unique patterns. Also known as “blue copper,” azurite is a copper carbonate that develops in the upper oxidized layers of copper deposits.
While Azurite might not be as popular or well known as quartz, it is still a stone that is very interesting.
Below, let’s explore why azurite has become such a popular stone over the years.
Azurite: A Brief History
Azurite has an interesting history dating back thousands of years. Some of the earliest societies developed an appreciation for the mineral, including the ancient Egyptians.
Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans
The Egyptians were among the recorded societies to develop an appreciation for azurite’s beauty. They used azurite in jewelry and decorative objects, eventually using the powder from ground stones as eye make-up.
Azurite become so popular that it was often worn by Egyptian pharaohs and other nobles as decorative eye make-up. The powder was made by combining ground azurite with other minerals.
Middle Ages and Medieval Times
During the Middle Ages, which are generally considered to range from around 500-1500 CE, azurite’s popularity in art increased. The deep blue pigmentation of the stone was highly sought after by artists.
The rich blue color of the stone become commonplace in creating vibrant artwork. It would often be found in frescoes, wall paintings, and other forms of decorative art.
Medieval physicians also believed that azurite contained a variety of healing properties. It was thought that azurite could help alleviate symptoms of numerous illnesses and ailments, including issues with the livers and kidneys, epilepsy, and mental illnesses.
Modern Uses of Azurite
Today, azurite continues to be appreciated for its beauty and is a popular gemstone for jewelry.
As it has for over two thousand years, it also has a home in the world of art. It is found in a variety of decorative objects, such as vases, bowls, and other sculptures.
While azurite is not incorporated in traditional medical healing, many people still believe in the metaphysical properties of azurite and use it for a variety of meditative and spiritual purposes.
Azurite Cost and Market
Despite being a mineral used for well over two thousand years, the current market for azurite is largely driven by stone collectors and enthusiasts. It can be purchased in typically smaller quantities on the mass-market, but the demand for the stone is relatively limited.
When considering the cost of azurite, the price will reflect several factors: size, origin, quality, and supply/demand.
Azurite stones considered to be of a high quality will include deep, rich, and vivid blue coloring. Well-defined patterns will also increase the cost. If a stone appears to be rare, the price can easily reach several thousand dollars.
For smaller collector stones, however, azurite can be purchased for several dollars online, at local metaphysical stores, etc.
Where is Azurite Found Naturally?
Azurite can be found in many parts of the world, including:
- United States (Arizona): The state of Arizona (in the United States) is home to some of the world’s premier azurite deposits, with the Morenci Mine and the Bisbee Mine being two notable locations.
- Democratic Republic of Congo: The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s largest producers of copper. Azurite is then extracted from the mined copper.
- Australia: Azurite is found in several locations throughout Australia, including the Burra Mine in South Australia and the Mt. Isa Mine in Queensland.
- Morocco: Morocco is home to several large azurite deposits, including the Touissit Mine and the Oumjrane Mine.
- Mexico: Mexico is known for its beautiful azurite, particularly those from the Milpillas Mine and the Ojuela Mine.
- China: Azurite is found in several locations throughout China, including the Liufengshan Mine in Guangdong Province and the Tongshankou Mine in Hubei Province.
- Namibia: The Tsumeb Mine in Namibia is known for producing high-quality azurite specimens with well-defined crystal structures.
These are just a few examples of the many places where azurite can be found. The minerals extracted from these locations often warrant higher bids from collectors due to the notable origins and reputation from fine products.
How is Azurite Extracted?
Azurite is typically mined from copper ore deposits where it forms in the oxidized zones of copper deposits. Copper mining companies typically extract the copper ore from these deposits using a variety of techniques such as open-pit mining or underground mining.
Once the ore is extracted, it is crushed and processed to remove the copper, which is then used in a variety of applications such as electronics, construction, and transportation.
During the mining process, azurite can be recovered as a byproduct or as a primary target if it occurs in sufficient quantities and quality. Azurite specimens are typically extracted by hand from the mine walls or from the waste rock piles that accumulate during the mining process.
The specimens are then cleaned and prepared for sale as decorative objects or as gemstones for use in jewelry.
Environmental Effects of Azurite Mining
It’s worth noting that mining can have significant environmental impacts, and copper mining in particular has been associated with water pollution, habitat destruction, and other negative effects.
Many mining companies have implemented sustainability practices to minimize their impact on the environment and to promote responsible mining practices.