Sunday, November 11, 2012

Azurite: A Closer Look at Nature’s Masterpiece

Many of the pretty minerals and crystals used as accents in home décor are larger versions of the same gemstones used in making jewelry.  However, not all minerals are exclusively used as gems to decorate people and houses. Though they are all popular as accessories and collection pieces, astonishingly, some of them were significant materials to some famous paintings in the past. One of these minerals used to grace the world of arts is Azurite.
Azurite/Malachite Specimen
 from the Morenci Mine in Arizona
Azurite is a carbonate mineral famous for its deep blue color and has been popular since ancient times. Although it is considered as a minor copper ore, this mineral is a collector’s item because of its attractive royal blue color. The term “azure” came from the Arabic word meaning “blue”. The amazing blue color of Azurite is a very appealing characteristic and gave it a place in art history. 
The popularity of Azurite flourished during the Middle Ages and at the height of Renaissance era. Azurite was used to ad robust blue colors to paint used in Middle Age paintings.. It was mixed with oil and used to create different shades of blue in several masterpieces. One of these is Raphael’s painting Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints currently on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The artist used the Azurite’s pigment in giving life to the Virgin’s mantle in the painting. Though originally colored in Azurite blue, it is now darkened and greenish due to oxidation of the azurite.  Many of the notable renaissance paintings displayed in museums and art galleries today owe their distinctive azure color to paints colored by azurite.
Azurite Stone in Sterling Silver Ring
Azurite is formed through the weathering of copper ore deposits and is closely associated with Malachite. At room temperature, Azurite is stable, but when exposed to open air for very long periods oxidation will eventually convert it to Malachite. Azurite is sensitive to high heat so it is best stored in a cool environment.  Azurite is occasionally used in jewelry since it is considered a semi-precious gem.

Notable amounts of Azurite are found in Namibia, Morocco, France, Greece, Germany, Australia and Mexico. Excellent Azurite crystals often come from Tsumeb, Namibia and the Moroccan district of Touissit and Kerrouchene province. In the US, Azurite is found in the copper rich localities of Arizona. and Utah.
In addition to its impressive color, Azurite’s association to our artistic past makes this mineral an interesting find. Though rarely used in coloring nowadays, it still gave one of the most distinctive colors in our history. Touchstone Gallery, has a collection of Azurite specimens found in the state of Arizona. Get a chance to take a closer look at their Azurite collection and find out more by visiting their website.