azurite with malachite eyes - Bisbee, Arizona
azurite with malachite eyes - Bisbee, Arizona

Azurite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


Collectors prize deep blue azurite crystals, but faceted gems are extremely rare. However, azurite frequently occurs mixed with green malachite, and this material is commonly used for cabochons and decorative objects.

4 Minute Read

Collectors prize deep blue azurite crystals, but faceted gems are extremely rare. However, azurite frequently occurs mixed with green malachite, and this material is commonly used for cabochons and decorative objects.

azurite with malachite eyes - Bisbee, Arizona
Deep blue azurite cabochon with green malachite “eyes,” 150 cts, 54.4 x 38.2 x 8.7 mm, Bisbee, Arizona. © 49erMinerals. Used with permission.

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Azurite with Malachite - Bisbee, Arizona
Azurite with malachite: Bisbee, Arizona (~ 4 inches high). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

What is Azurite?

Azurite occurs in fine crystals in many localities. When it occurs in massive form, the material is almost always mixed with malachite, another copper carbonate mineral. Lapidaries cut this mixture, called azurite-malachite or azurmalachite, into very attractive cabochons and large decorative items, such as boxes.

Burnite is a mixture of azurite and cuprite (copper oxide).

Since azurite is more unstable than malachite, it often pseudomorphs into malachite. This means its chemistry changes to malachite while retaining azurite's external crystal form.

How Does Azurite Get Its Color?

Azurites, malachites, and cuprites are all idiochromatic; they receive their color from copper. However, copper creates different colors in these different species. Azurites are always blue, malachites are always green, and cuprites are always red. When they occur mixed, these minerals appear as bands and/or "eyes" of their distinctive colors.

carved jewelry box
A jewelry box carved from azurite with patterns of malachite and cuprite, 7.62 x 5.38 x 2.54 cm. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Heritage Auctions.

Does Azurite Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

faceted, step-cut azurite - Namibia
Square step-cut azurite, 3.48 cts, 8.6 mm, Tsumeb, Namibia. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Azurite's distinctive, intense blue color makes it a popular collector's stone. However, even small azurites are extremely dark, virtually black. Since azurites have such low hardness (3.5-4) as well as perfect cleavage, brittle tenacity, and great sensitivity to heat, faceting them proves very challenging. This combination of factors makes faceted azurites very rare.

Azurites will also gradually lose their blue color when exposed to air, heat, and light. Thus, reserve these gems for occasional jewelry use with protective settings.

Azurites makes less than ideal jewelry stones. Cut gems may appeal more to collectors of unusual stones or aficionados of gem cutting skill.

vintage bracelet
Vintage 1950s silver bracelet with an azurite stone, Germany. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Trade-Baltic.

Are Azurites Toxic?

Although the normal wearing or handling finished azurites should pose no health hazards, gem cutters should take precautions when working with these gems. Azurite's copper content makes its dust toxic. Accidental ingestion could lead to acute distress, like vomiting, and chronic exposure could lead to liver and kidney damage. Faceters should wear protective masks and, ideally, use a glovebox to prevent inhaling or ingesting azurite particles during cutting and polishing.

How Can You Distinguish Azurites from Lapis and Other Blue Stones?

Artists have used blue pigments made from azurite since ancient times. Perhaps not surprisingly, people have confused this stone with lapis lazuli, another well-known historic source of blue pigments. Sodalite, another gem material commonly cabbed and carved, is sometimes confused with azurite as well.

Although these materials may show similar colors, azurites have a higher refractive index (RI) and specific gravity (SG) as well as a lower hardness. Azurites are also birefringent, while lapis and sodalite are not.

blue pigment
British artist Michael Price has researched the pigment preparation techniques of the Renaissance masters and prepares natural pigments from minerals like azurite, shown here.Photo by See-ming Lee, taken during a visit to Michael Price's studio in DUMBO, Brooklyn NYC. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

Are There Synthetic Azurites?

Scientists have synthesized azurites for geological research as well as research into pigments. Crystals have also been created in labs. However, due to azurite's physical limitations, any such lab-created material would make an unlikely option for jewelry use.

Reconstituted Azurmalachite

Nevertheless, you can easily find "synthetic azurites" for sale online, especially in jewelry. Be aware that "reconstructed" azurmalachite — a compressed and stabilized, plastic-impregnated form of azurite and malachite — can be cabbed and has good color and toughness. This material has been available since 1989 at the latest, and by 1992, imitations of azurmalachite in jewelry were popular (if not always convincing). More recently, such materials have been found to contain artificial veins of copper.

It's possible vendors are selling this "reconstructed" material or other simulants as "synthetic." In such cases, "synthetic" means imitation or "fake" in the popular sense. These stones aren't identical optically and physically to the natural, mined material. Buyer beware.

"Copper Lapis" and "Arctic Opal"

Although natural azurite is a coveted collector's stone, it's still not very well-known to consumers. Thus, some vendors may misrepresent azurites as "copper lapis" or "Arctic opal," perhaps to garner more sales interest by associating them with more popular gems. Of course, azurites aren't lapis or opals but a distinct gem species.

See our article on false or misleading gemstone names for more examples of misrepresented gems.

Azurite Enhancements

Azurites generally receive no treatments or enhancements. ("Reconstructed" azurmalachite may receive pore-filling stabilization treatments similar to turquoise).

Where are Azurites Found?

Notable gem-quality localities include the following:

  • United States: Morenci and Bisbee, Arizona: banded and massive material, also crystals; Kelly, New Mexico (also other localities in that state).
  • Chessy, France: the type locality, material sometimes called chessylite, fine crystals in large groups.
chessylite - France
"Chessylite," intergrown royal blue azurites, 3.7 x 3.3 x 3.2 cm, Chessy-les-Mines, Rhone, Rhone-Alpes, France. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.
  • Eclipse Mine, Muldiva-Chillagoe area, Queensland, Australia: gemmy crystals up to about 9 grams.
  • Tsumeb, Namibia: fine, tabular crystals, some facetable in small bits.
azurites - Namibia
Large cluster of deep-blue azurites, crystals up to 2 cm, Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Otjikoto Region, Namibia. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.
  • Zacatecas, Mexico: fine but small crystals.
  • China; Democratic Republic of Congo; Greece; Italy; Laos; Morocco; Pakistan; Peru; Russia.
azurites - Laos
Azurites and malachites on a limonite crust, 4.5 x 3.5 x 2.5 cm, Sepon Mine, Vilabouly District, Savannakhet Province, Laos. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Stone Sizes

Facetable crystals are always tiny, and cut gems rarely weigh more than a carat. Larger stones would most likely be so dark as to be opaque. Gem cutters sometimes take dark blue crystalline material and create cabochons up to several inches across.

azurite - velvet beauty
"Velvet Beauty," a stunning azurite specimen, weighs three pounds and measures 9" in diameter. It was discovered in 1890 in Bisbee, Arizona. Photo by cobalt123. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

How to Care for Azurites

Clean these gems only with water, mild detergent, and a soft brush. Avoid any cleaner that contains acids. Store them separately from harder jewelry stones, in darkness, and sealed to reduce contact with air.

Consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more care recommendations.

azurite ring
Azurite dress ring with single-cut diamond highlights, about 2.8 cm across. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Fellows.

Joel E. Arem, Ph.D., FGA

Dr. Joel E. Arem has more than 60 years of experience in the world of gems and minerals. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University, he has published numerous books that are still among the most widely used references and guidebooks on crystals, gems and minerals in the world.

Co-founder and President of numerous organizations, Dr. Arem has enjoyed a lifelong career in mineralogy and gemology. He has been a Smithsonian scientist and Curator, a consultant to many well-known companies and institutions, and a prolific author and speaker. Although his main activities have been as a gem cutter and dealer, his focus has always been education. joelarem.com


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