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Azurite from China.jpg
Category Carbonate mineral
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 5.BA.05
Crystal system Monoclinic
Crystal class Prismatic (2/m)
(same H-M symbol)
Space group P21/c
Unit cell a = 5.01  Å, b = 5.85 Å
c = 10.35 Å; β = 92.43°; Z = 2
Formula mass 344.67 g/mol
ColorAzure-blue, very dark to pale blue; pale blue in transmitted light
Crystal habit Massive, prismatic, stalactitic, tabular
Twinning Rare, twin planes {101}, {102} or {001}
Cleavage Perfect on {011}, fair on {100}, poor on {110}
Fracture Conchoidal
Tenacity brittle
Mohs scale hardness3.5 to 4
Luster Vitreous
Streak Light blue
Diaphaneity Transparent to translucent
Specific gravity 3.773 (measured), 3.78 (calculated)
Optical propertiesBiaxial (+)
Refractive index nα = 1.730 nβ = 1.758 nγ = 1.838
Birefringence δ = 0.108
Pleochroism Visible shades of blue
2V angle Measured: 68°, calculated: 64°
Dispersion relatively weak
References [1] [2] [3]
Azurite from Arizona, collected by Dr John Hunter in the 18th century, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow Azurite from Arizona, collected by Dr John Hunter in the 18th century, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.jpg
Azurite from Arizona, collected by Dr John Hunter in the 18th century, Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

Azurite is a soft, deep blue copper mineral produced by weathering of copper ore deposits. In the early 19th century, it was also known as chessylite after the type locality at Chessy-les-Mines near Lyon, France. [2] The mineral, a carbonate with the chemical formula Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2, has been known since ancient times, and was mentioned in Pliny the Elder's Natural History under the Greek name kuanos (κυανός: "deep blue," root of English cyan) and the Latin name caeruleum. [4] The blue of azurite is exceptionally deep and clear, and for that reason the mineral has tended to be associated since antiquity with the deep blue color of low-humidity desert and winter skies. The modern English name of the mineral reflects this association, since both azurite and azure are derived via Arabic from the Persian lazhward (لاژورد), an area known for its deposits of another deep blue stone, lapis lazuli ("stone of azure").

Copper Chemical element with atomic number 29

Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.

Mineral Element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes

A mineral is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound that occurs naturally in pure form. A rock may consist of a single mineral, or may be an aggregate of two or more different minerals, spacially segregated into distinct phases. Compounds that occur only in living beings are usually excluded, but some minerals are often biogenic and/or are organic compounds in the sense of chemistry. Moreover, living beings often syntesize inorganic minerals that also occur in rocks.

Type locality, also called type area, or type section, is the locality where a particular rock type, stratigraphic unit or mineral species is first identified. If the stratigraphic unit in a locality is layered, it is called a stratotype, whereas the standard of reference for unlayered rocks is the type locality.



Azurite is one of the two basic copper(II) carbonate minerals, the other being bright green malachite. Simple copper carbonate (CuCO3) is not known to exist in nature. Azurite has the formula Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2, with the copper(II) cations linked to two different anions, carbonate and hydroxide. Small crystals of azurite can be produced by rapidly stirring a few drops of copper sulfate solution into a saturated solution of sodium carbonate and allowing the solution to stand overnight.

Carbonate minerals Nickel–Strunz 9 ed mineral class number 5

Carbonate minerals are those minerals containing the carbonate ion, CO32−.

Malachite carbonate mineral

Malachite is a copper carbonate hydroxide mineral, with the formula Cu2CO3(OH)2. This opaque, green banded mineral crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system, and most often forms botryoidal, fibrous, or stalagmitic masses, in fractures and spaces, deep underground, where the water table and hydrothermal fluids provide the means for chemical precipitation. Individual crystals are rare but do occur as slender to acicular prisms. Pseudomorphs after more tabular or blocky azurite crystals also occur.

Copper(II) carbonate or cupric carbonate is a chemical compound with formula CuCO
. At ambient temperatures, it is an ionic solid consisting of copper(II) cations Cu2+
and carbonate anions CO2−

Chemical structure of azurite (color code: red = O, green = Cu, gray = C, white = H). Azurite crystal structure.jpg
Chemical structure of azurite (color code: red = O, green = Cu, gray = C, white = H).

Azurite crystals are monoclinic. Large crystals are dark blue, often prismatic. [2] [3] [6] Azurite specimens can be massive to nodular. They are often stalactitic in form. Specimens tend to lighten in color over time due to weathering of the specimen surface into malachite. Azurite is soft, with a Mohs hardness of only 3.5 to 4. The specific gravity of azurite is 3.77 to 3.89. Azurite is destroyed by heat, losing carbon dioxide and water to form black, copper(II) oxide powder. Characteristic of a carbonate, specimens effervesce upon treatment with hydrochloric acid.

Specific gravity Relative density compared to water

Specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance; equivalently, it is the ratio of the mass of a substance to the mass of a reference substance for the same given volume. Apparent specific gravity is the ratio of the weight of a volume of the substance to the weight of an equal volume of the reference substance. The reference substance for liquids is nearly always water at its densest ; for gases it is air at room temperature. Nonetheless, the temperature and pressure must be specified for both the sample and the reference. Pressure is nearly always 1 atm (101.325 kPa).


The optical properties (color, intensity) of minerals such as azurite and malachite are characteristic of copper(II). Many coordination complexes of copper(II) exhibit similar colors. As explained within the context of ligand field theory, the colors result from low energy d-d transitions associated with the d9 metal center.

Ligand field theory (LFT) describes the bonding, orbital arrangement, and other characteristics of coordination complexes. It represents an application of molecular orbital theory to transition metal complexes. A transition metal ion has nine valence atomic orbitals - consisting of five nd, three (n+1)p, and one (n+1)s orbitals. These orbitals are of appropriate energy to form bonding interaction with ligands. The LFT analysis is highly dependent on the geometry of the complex, but most explanations begin by describing octahedral complexes, where six ligands coordinate to the metal. Other complexes can be described by reference to crystal field theory.


Azurite is unstable in open air compared to malachite, and often is pseudomorphically replaced by malachite. This weathering process involves the replacement of some of the carbon dioxide (CO2) units with water (H2O), changing the carbonate:hydroxide ratio of azurite from 1:1 to the 1:2 ratio of malachite:

Pseudomorph mineral or mineral compound that appears in an atypical form

In mineralogy, a pseudomorph is a mineral or mineral compound that appears in an atypical form, resulting from a substitution process in which the appearance and dimensions remain constant, but the original mineral is replaced by another. The name literally means "false form".

2 Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2 + H2O → 3 Cu2(CO3)(OH)2 + CO2

From the above equation, the conversion of azurite into malachite is attributable to the low partial pressure of carbon dioxide in air. Azurite is also incompatible with aquatic media, such as saltwater aquariums.


Ground azurite for use as a pigment Azuritepigment.jpg
Ground azurite for use as a pigment


The background of Lady with a Squirrel by Hans Holbein the Younger was painted with Azurite Lady with a Squirrel.jpg
The background of Lady with a Squirrel by Hans Holbein the Younger was painted with Azurite
The greenish tint of the Madonna's mantle in Raphael's Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints is due to azurite weathering to malachite Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints.jpg
The greenish tint of the Madonna's mantle in Raphael's Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints is due to azurite weathering to malachite

Azurite is not a useful pigment because it is unstable in air. It was however used as a blue pigment in antiquity. [7] Azurite is naturally occurring in Sinai and the Eastern Desert of Egypt. It was reported by F. C. J. Spurrell (1895) in the following examples; a shell used as a pallet in a Fourth Dynasty (2613 to 2494 BCE) context in Meidum, a cloth over the face of a Fifth Dynasty (2494 to 2345 BCE) mummy also at Meidum and a number of Eighteenth Dynasty (1543–1292 BCE) wall paintings. [8] Depending on the degree of fineness to which it was ground, and its basic content of copper carbonate, it gave a wide range of blues. It has been known as mountain blue or Armenian stone, in addition it was formerly known as Azurro Della Magna (from Italian). When mixed with oil it turns slightly green. When mixed with egg yolk it turns green-grey. It is also known by the names blue bice and blue verditer, though verditer usually refers to a pigment made by chemical process. Older examples of azurite pigment may show a more greenish tint due to weathering into malachite. Much azurite was mislabeled lapis lazuli , a term applied to many blue pigments. As chemical analysis of paintings from the Middle Ages improves, azurite is being recognized as a major source of the blues used by medieval painters. Lapis lazuli (the pigment ultramarine) was chiefly supplied from Afghanistan during the Middle Ages, whereas azurite was a common mineral in Europe at the time. Sizable deposits were found near Lyons, France. It was mined since the 12th century in Saxony, in the silver mines located there. [9]

Pigment material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light

A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light. Most materials selectively absorb certain wavelengths of light. Materials that humans have chosen and developed for use as pigments usually have special properties that make them useful for coloring other materials. A pigment must have a high tinting strength relative to the materials it colors. It must be stable in solid form at ambient temperatures.

Fourth Dynasty of Egypt dynasty of ancient Egypt

The Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Dynasty IV lasted from c. 2613 to 2494 BC. It was a time of peace and prosperity as well as one during which trade with other countries is documented.

Meidum village in Beni Suef Governorate, Egypt

Meidum, Maydum or Maidum is an archaeological site in Lower Egypt. It contains a large pyramid and several mud-brick mastabas. The area is located around 62 miles south of modern Cairo.

Heating can be used to distinguish azurite from purified natural ultramarine blue, a more expensive but more stable blue pigment, as described by Cennino D'Andrea Cennini. Ultramarine withstands heat, whereas azurite converts to black copper oxide. However, gentle heating of azurite produces a deep blue pigment used in Japanese painting techniques.


Azurite is used occasionally as beads and as jewelry, and also as an ornamental stone. However, its softness and tendency to lose its deep blue color as it weathers limit such uses. Heating destroys azurite easily, so all mounting of azurite specimens must be done at room temperature.


The intense color of azurite makes it a popular collector's stone. However, bright light, heat, and open air all tend to reduce the intensity of its color over time. To help preserve the deep blue color of a pristine azurite specimen, collectors should use a cool, dark, sealed storage environment similar to that of its original natural setting.


While not a major ore of copper itself, the presence of azurite is a good surface indicator of the presence of weathered copper sulfide ores. It is usually found in association with the chemically very similar malachite, producing a striking color combination of deep blue and bright green that is strongly indicative of the presence of copper ores.


The use of azurite and malachite as copper ore indicators led indirectly to the name of the element nickel in the English language. Nickeline, a principal ore of nickel that is also known as niccolite, weathers at the surface into a green mineral (annabergite) that resembles malachite. This resemblance resulted in occasional attempts to smelt nickeline in the belief that it was copper ore, but such attempts always ended in failure due to high smelting temperatures needed to reduce nickel. In Germany this deceptive mineral came to be known as kupfernickel, literally "copper demon". The Swedish alchemist Baron Axel Fredrik Cronstedt (who had been trained by Georg Brandt, the discoverer of the nickel-like metal cobalt) realized that there was probably a new metal hiding within the kupfernickel ore, and in 1751 he succeeded in smelting kupfernickel to produce a previously unknown (except in certain meteorites) silvery white, iron-like metal. Logically, Cronstedt named his new metal after the nickel part of kupfernickel.

See also

Related Research Articles

Ultramarine A deep blue color pigment which was originally made with ground lapis lazuli

Ultramarine is a deep blue color pigment which was originally made by grinding lapis lazuli into a powder. The name comes from the Latin ultramarinus, literally "beyond the sea", because the pigment was imported into Europe from mines in Afghanistan by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Lazurite A feldspathoid and a member of the sodalite group

Lazurite is a tectosilicate mineral with sulfate, sulfur and chloride with formula: (Na,Ca)8[(S,Cl,SO4,OH)2|(Al6Si6O24)]. It is a feldspathoid and a member of the sodalite group. Lazurite crystallizes in the isometric system although well formed crystals are rare. It is usually massive and forms the bulk of the gemstone lapis lazuli.

Lapis lazuli A contact metamorphic rock containing lazurite, pyrite and calcite

Lapis lazuli, or lapis for short, is a deep blue metamorphic rock used as a semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense color. As early as the 7th millennium BCE, lapis lazuli was mined in the Sar-i Sang mines, in Shortugai, and in other mines in Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan. Lapis was highly valued by the Indus Valley Civilisation. Lapis beads have been found at Neolithic burials in Mehrgarh, the Caucasus, and even as far from Afghanistan as Mauritania. It was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun.

Chalcopyrite sulfide mineral

Chalcopyrite ( KAL-ko-PY-ryt) is a copper iron sulfide mineral that crystallizes in the tetragonal system. It has the chemical formula CuFeS2. It has a brassy to golden yellow color and a hardness of 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale. Its streak is diagnostic as green tinged black.

Basic copper carbonate chemical compound

Basic copper carbonate is a chemical compound, more properly called copper(II) carbonate hydroxide. It is an ionic compound consisting of the ions copper(II) Cu2+
, carbonate CO2−
, and hydroxide HO

Clinoclase arsenate mineral

Clinoclase is a hydrous copper arsenate mineral, Cu3AsO4(OH)3. Clinoclase is a rare secondary copper mineral and forms acicular crystals in the fractured weathered zone above copper sulfide deposits. It occurs in vitreous, translucent dark blue to dark greenish blue colored crystals and botryoidal masses. The crystal system is monoclinic 2/m. It has a hardness of 2.5 - 3 and a relative density of 4.3. Associated minerals include malachite, olivenite, quartz, limonite, adamite, azurite, and brochantite among others.

Chalcanthite sulfate mineral

Chalcanthite, whose name derives from the Greek, chalkos and anthos, meaning copper flower, is a richly colored blue/green water-soluble sulfate mineral CuSO4·5H2O. It is commonly found in the late-stage oxidation zones of copper deposits. Due to its ready solubility, chalcanthite is more common in arid regions.

Aurichalcite carbonate mineral

Aurichalcite is a carbonate mineral, usually found as a secondary mineral in copper and zinc deposits. Its chemical formula is (Zn,Cu)5(CO3)2(OH)6. The zinc to copper ratio is about 5:4.

Copper carbonate may refer to :

Caledonite sulfate-carbonate mineral

Caledonite, whose name derives from Caledonia, the historical name of its place of discovery (Scotland), is a richly colored blue-green sulfate-carbonate mineral of lead and copper with an orthorhombic crystal structure. It is an uncommon mineral found in the oxidized zones of copper-lead deposits.

Brochantite sulfate mineral

Brochantite is a sulfate mineral, one of a number of cupric sulfates. Its chemical formula is Cu4SO4(OH)6. Formed in arid climates or in rapidly oxidizing copper sulfide deposits, it was named by Armand Lévy for his fellow Frenchman, geologist and mineralogist A. J. M. Brochant de Villiers.

Linarite sulfate mineral

Linarite is a somewhat rare, crystalline mineral that is known among mineral collectors for its unusually intense, pure blue color. It is formed by the oxidation of galena and chalcopyrite and other copper sulfides. It is a combined copper lead sulfate hydroxide with formula PbCuSO4(OH)2. Linarite occurs as monoclinic prismatic to tabular crystals and irregular masses. It is easily confused with azurite, but does not react with dilute hydrochloric acid as azurite does. It has a Mohs hardness of 2.5 and a specific gravity of 5.3 - 5.5.

Copper(II) hydroxide chemical compound

Copper(II) hydroxide is the hydroxide of copper with the chemical formula of Cu(OH)2. It is a pale greenish blue or bluish green solid. Some forms of copper(II) hydroxide are sold as "stabilized" copper hydroxide, although they likely consist of a mixture of copper(II) carbonate and hydroxide. Copper hydroxide is a weak base.

Bice, from the French bis, originally meaning dark-coloured, is a green or blue pigment. In French the terms vert bis and azur bis mean dark green and dark blue respectively. Bice pigments were generally prepared from basic copper carbonates, but sometimes ultramarine or other pigments were used.

Lapis armenus, also known as Armenian stone or lapis stellatus, in natural history, is a variety of precious stone, resembling lapis lazuli, except that it is softer, and instead of veins of pyrite, is intermixed with green. "The Armenian stone" is so nearly identical to lapis lazuli that it has often not been distinguished from it; Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary for instance treats the two terms as synonyms. British History Online defines lapis armenus as "Armenian stone, or azurite, a naturally occurring basic copper carbonate, originally from Armenia, but later from Germany, from which blue bice was prepared. It was often found in association with another copper carbonate, malachite from which green bice was prepared... Probably because they were both blue, blue bice was sometimes misinterpreted to mean lapis lazuli."

In ore deposit geology, supergene processes or enrichment are those that occur relatively near the surface as opposed to deep hypogene processes. Supergene processes include the predominance of meteoric water circulation with concomitant oxidation and chemical weathering. The descending meteoric waters oxidize the primary (hypogene) sulfide ore minerals and redistribute the metallic ore elements. Supergene enrichment occurs at the base of the oxidized portion of an ore deposit. Metals that have been leached from the oxidized ore are carried downward by percolating groundwater, and react with hypogene sulfides at the supergene-hypogene boundary. The reaction produces secondary sulfides with metal contents higher than those of the primary ore. This is particularly noted in copper ore deposits where the copper sulfide minerals chalcocite Cu2S, covellite CuS, digenite Cu1.8S, and djurleite Cu31S16 are deposited by the descending surface waters.

Pseudomalachite phosphate mineral

Pseudomalachite is a phosphate of copper with hydroxyl, named from the Greek for “false” and “malachite”, because of its similarity in appearance to the carbonate mineral malachite, Cu2(CO3)(OH)2. Both are green coloured secondary minerals found in oxidised zones of copper deposits, often associated with each other. Pseudomalachite is polymorphous with reichenbachite and ludjibaite. It was discovered in 1813. Prior to 1950 it was thought that dihydrite, lunnite, ehlite, tagilite and prasin were separate mineral species, but Berry analysed specimens labelled with these names from several museums, and found that they were in fact pseudomalachite. The old names are no longer recognised by the IMA.


  1. Handbook of Mineralogy
  2. 1 2 3
  3. 1 2 Webmineral Data
  4. The Ancient Library: Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, p.321, right col., under BLUE Archived December 20, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  5. Zigan, F.; Schuster, H.D. (1972). "Verfeinerung der Struktur von Azurit, Cu3(OH)2(CO3)2, durch Neutronenbeugung". Zeitschrift fuer Kristallographie, Kristallgeometrie, Kristallphysik, Kristallchemie. 135: 416–436.
  6. Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis, 1985, Manual of Mineralogy, 20th ed., Wiley, ISBN   978-0-471-00042-6
  7. Gettens, R.J. and Fitzhugh, E.W., Azurite and Blue Verditer, in Artists’ Pigments. A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics, Vol. 2: A. Roy (Ed.) Oxford University Press 1993, p. 23–24
  8. Nicholson, Paul; Shaw, Ian (2000). Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0521452571.
  9. Andersen, Frank J. Riches of the Earth. W.H. Smith Publishers, New York, 1981, ISBN   0-8317-7739-7

Further reading