Is Azurite a Crystal or Gemstone?

Azurite is an interesting mineral that is often confused as being either a crystal or a gemstone. While it has properties of both, azurite is technically classified as a mineral and more specifically, a carbonate mineral.

Azurite gets its deep blue color from the presence of copper; its chemical formula is Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2. It forms in the oxidized portion of copper deposits and is often found alongside malachite, another blue-green copper mineral. Azurite’s blue color rivals that of the deepest blue lapis lazuli gemstone.

In terms of structure, azurite is a soft, prismatic monoclinic crystal. Its crystals can form in a wide variety of shapes including tabular, pyramidal, stalactitic, globular, and botryoidal formations. The crystals have a vitreous to dull luster and the copper content can cause azurite specimens to weather a dull green surface coloring.

While azurite is too soft at 3.5-4 on the Mohs hardness scale to make durable jewelry, it is sometimes used as a cabochon or carved into ornamental objects. Its softness does make it difficult to polish, so azurite is not widely used as a gemstone. Nonetheless, its stunning blue color has led it to be fashioned into beads and other wearable items.

Azurite specimens are highly prized by mineral collectors and museums for their beauty and the variety of crystal formations. Fine specimens come from Tsumeb, Namibia; Arizona, USA; and New South Wales, Australia. The intense blue color has led azurite to be used as a pigment for many centuries and it was particularly prized by ancient Egyptians.

So in summary, while azurite does not have the hardness required of most gemstones and is not considered a traditional birthstone, its captivating blue color has led it to be fashioned into jewelry pieces. However, azurite is technically classified as a soft copper mineral with good cleavage that exhibits crystalline properties. It sits in an intermediate position between traditional gems and crystals. Most mineralogists and geologists would classify azurite primarily as a mineral rather than a gemstone due to its chemical composition and crystal structure. Yet its beauty still adorns jewelry and inspires the imagination, blurring the lines between crystals and gems.