Azurite: Sky-Blue Copper Gemstone
Azurite is another ancient gemstone. It has a deep blue to blue-black color often referred to as azurite blue. Though quite soft it is still used in jewelry today because of its striking color and low price.
The radiant deep blue colors of this gemstone have made it a favorite of many gemstone collectors.
Unfortunately azurite jewelry is not very popular because of its fragility. If you take proper care of it you can enjoy it for many years however.
What is Azurite?
Azurite is a copper carbonate that is the result of the weathering of copper ore, just like its sister stone malachite. The name azurite comes from the Persian word ‘lazhward’ a place where a lot of lapis lazuli was found (azurite was often confused with lapis lazuli) and ‘azul’ Arabic for blue.
With a low hardness of 3.5 to 4 on Mohs scale of hardness, the azurite gemstone is almost never faceted. Instead it is cut and polished into a cabochon shape.
Azurite crystals can be faceted, however they are exceedingly rare and quite expensive unlike most azurite.
Often azurite is found alongside malachite and cuprite. Occasionally forming aggregates of azurite malachite or azurite cuprite. These beautiful aggregates, despite being rare, are quite affordable because all three of these gemstones are relatively cheap.
Azurite is found across the entire world. Currently it is being mined in a number of countries including Australia, France, Mexico and in the southwestern part of the USA.
The azurite mineral has many uses, not only for use in azurite jewelry but a range of industrial uses as well. Its main use is as a copper ore, but it also is used as a blue pigment. When crushed it can be used to make a wide range of blue colors, depending on the quality of the stone used.
A large number of painters from the Middle Ages used azurite paints for their blue and greenish colors. Lapis lazuli produced higher quality paints, but it had to be imported from Afghanistan making it very expensive.
Azurite on the other hand was found in several European countries with especially large deposits found around Lyons in France.
Taking Care of Your Azurite Gemstones
Azurite gemstones require special attention, they have a low hardness and they should be kept away from heat as well as bright lights and open air as much as possible.
Here are a few tips to keep your gemstone in the best shape possible:
- Avoid physical labor, azurite scratches quite easily.
- Heating azurite will quickly make it lose its color. Ovens and cleaning with hot water should be avoided.
- Never use a steam or ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, it could weaken its color or even make it entirely useless.
- Opt for wearing an azurite pendant, earring or necklace instead of an azurite ring. They are less likely to be scratched or come into contact with hot water.
- Azurite should be stored away from other gemstones. Especially faceted gemstones can easily scratch this blue gemstone. Keeping it in a cool and dark place will allow you to enjoy its radiant blues for longer.
- Cleaning should be done with lukewarm water and a mild soap. Only when this is no longer enough should you be using a soft brush or towel to clean it. Make sure to dry the gemstone before you store it.
Though azurite has intense blue colors they can fade over time. Especially if exposed to open air and sunlight for long periods of time. If you are an outdoors type of person it might be better to settle for another gemstone or only wear it sporadically.
If, despite taking precautions, your gemstone starts losing its color. You can think about replacing the stone. It may take some time to find the right size stone. However, it should be quite cheap and could be far cheaper than getting a new piece of jewelry. Just make sure you hire someone that knows how to set azurite, as the normal methods could damage this gemstone.
Caution!: Azurite gemstones are treated with wax at times to give it better protection. If you are aware of this be careful not to remove the wax layer when cleaning. Hot water should be avoided as this could melt the wax.
Azurite Buying Guide
Just like malachite, azurite is sometimes enhanced by using colorless wax or plastics to give it a shiny look and improve its durability.
I would not buy a stone with a plastic layer as it is almost permanent and is very hard to remove in case repairs are needed.
Waxed azurite is far easier to remove and adds some protection to this vulnerable gemstone. Check whether it is enhanced or not before you buy, so you don’t overpay for it thinking it’s a completely natural gemstone.
When you are looking to buy azurite malachite, make sure you are actually buying an aggregate of these two minerals. Azurite will eventually oxidize to malachite when exposed to bright lights and open air.
Certain dealers exploit this fact and expose small parts of an azurite stone and try to sell it as the more expensive azurite malachite. Make sure the green color of malachite is not just seen on the surface but goes deeper into the gemstone or mineral!
Large azurite stones are sometimes carved into ornamental figures. You should not be placing these in your garden or on your balcony. Their beautiful colors will quickly fade when exposed to the elements 24 hours a day. The only exception is when the ornament has been treated with a resilient wax or plastic. Ask your dealer about this before purchasing.
One of the easier ways to get your hands on a piece of azurite jewelry is to buy azurite beads, which can be bought quite easily both online and offline. These can easily be added to a necklace. With the advantage that if a piece starts to lose its color you can easily replace it.
With a bit more trouble you can make a pendant or even earrings. If you are not able or willing to do this yourself, a local handmade jewelry shop is a good place to look for help.