Azurite and Malachite: copper based gemstones

Azurite and Malachite are cousins in the mineral world. They’re both copper based minerals, though with slightly different ratios.


Azurite was originally called “kuanos”, the Greek word for deep blue, in Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia, and the root for the green blue color cyan. The name Azurite, and its color azure, come from the Persian word “lazhward”. Persia was the source of another deep blue stone of azure, Lapis Lazuli.

Azurite is fairly delicate compared to other gemstones. It’s bewitching blue is possible because of the higher content of carbon in the crystal. Azurite needs to be kept in dry places, which is why it’s so prevalent in deserts. Because of it’s brilliant blue, Azurite has come


Malachite’s name has a long history, but we talked about that before. Instead, let’s explore another metal that owes its name to Malachite: nickel. Both Malachite and Azurite have high levels of copper, making them fantastic sources of copper ore. However, annabergite is another metal that degrades into a green hue similar to Malachite, tricking people into thinking it was a source of copper. They would try to smelt it, but this would only end in spectacular failure because nickel needs far higher temperatures than copper. The Germans were especially annoyed by this, so they named the mineral “kupfernickel” out of spite. Kupfernickel literally translates into “copper demon”, which adds a whole new level to the infamous band Nickelback.

Malachite is the final form of this family of minerals. If there’s any form of water nearby, Azurite will react with it, replacing some of the carbon with hydrogen. This changes how the light refracts off the copper, changing the hue completely. Instead of the previous dark blue of the sea, it’s now the bright green of the mallow plant.