Copper Ore refers to carbonate and phosphate group stones forming in copper-rich environments.
Carbonates have CO3 as the basic structural unit, and phosphates have PO4 as the unit.
Malachite and turquoise were some of the earliest minerals mined from copper ore, used to adorn
Egyptian and Persian royalty. Azurite is a deep blue copper carbonate that often forms along with
malachite. Rhodochrosite is a manganese carbonate found near hydrothermal ore veins and owes its deep rose-pink
color to manganese and magnesium. Turquoise is part of the phosphate group and its color varies from sky-blue to green
depending on ratios of iron and copper. Variscite is a phosphate that commonly occurs with apatite.
Gem quality apatite most often forms in pegmatites along with other gemstones. Fluorite is neither a
carbonate or phosphate; it is a halide comprised of calcium fluoride and often associated with lead and
silver ores and gem-laden pegmatite cavities. Like other stones in this category, it is relatively soft
and cleaves easily.
•• a p a t i t e
Apatite's name is derived from the Greek apate, meaning "deceit" because it is often
mistaken for other minerals like aquamarine or blue tourmaline. It is the most common phosphate mineral
and generally used as a source of phosphorus. Because of its brittleness, it is not often cut
as a faceted gemstone but the deep blue-green colors make beautiful smaller stones. Apatite
is generally untreated.
•• a z u r i t e
Azurite is one of two basic copper carbonate minerals (the other being malachite) and due to its
softness and perfect cleavage, it is rarely found in jewelry component form. It may be assembled
with malachite and stabilized with resin. It has a lovely deep blue color and was used as a source
of pigment in European art from the 15th through 17th centuries.
•• f l u o r i t e
Fluorite has the widest color range of any mineral and can be colorless, white, purple, green, blue,
yellow or pink. Color variations are determined by proportions of trace elements substituting in the
CaF2 structure. Banded fluorite showing purple, yellow or white is known as "Blue John" and it
was first mined in Roman times in areas of England. The old Roman mines were rediscovered in the
18th century and are still in use today. Because of its easy cleavage, it is often bonded with
resin for greater stability. Despite this limitation, fluorite is a good party gem: it fluoresces in
ultraviolet light. How's that for a party trick?
•• m a l a c i t e
Malachite is the other principal copper carbonate and its brilliant green color is often an
indicator that copper deposits are nearby. Huge deposits were found in the Ural mountains of
Russia, leading to extragavant columns and furnishings throughout Russian palaces and churches.
Like azurite, it has been ground and used as pigment. It's been found in Egyptian wall paintings
and known to an eye paint. Today, some of the finest specimens originate from mines in the Congo.
•• r h o d o c h r o s i t e
Note: the tile of Brilliant shows dyed crazy lace agate, but the design contains
rhodochrosite like in the tile of Lovelies.
Rhodochrosite is a rose-pink member of the carbonate group and a relatively new addition to
gemstone jewelry, being introduced to the market around 1940. It is commonly found in hydrothermal
veins near silver and copper. Transparent crystals are rare, and most samples are found in aggregrate
form with alternating bands of dark and light. It is found in Argentina and the famous Sweet Home
Mine in Colorado; in fact, the prevalence of rare large red crystals lead to the stone
being named state mineral in 2002.
•• t u r q u o i s e
We have a long history with turquoise! Turquoise beads have been found with early
Mesopotamians and extracted from mines on the Sinai Peninsula for Egyptians. It is esteemed like jade in
Iran, and the turquoise found in Iran tends to be harder and a more uniform blue
color than North American turquoise. In North America, Pueblo Indians used turquoise for jewelry and
decoration, creating fantastic mosaics. Mexican metalsmiths introduced silver-working to the Navajo
in the mid 1800s and stunning jewelry has resulted since. Even the name has become synonymous with the
color itself. Southwestern turquoise is generally known by the name of the mine and varies in
color and degree of matrix. In Arizona, the Sleeping Beauty mine long produced lovely uniform deep blue turquoise.
Since the closure of turquoise mining in 2012, the prices commanded for Sleeping Beauty turquoise
have steeply risen. Though turquoise is soft and porous, it polishes beautifully. It is often
stabilized with resin to help prevent breakage, and this is a common well-accepted treatment
as long as it is disclosed.
•• v a r i s c i t e
Variscite is a lesser known member of the phosphate group and often mistaken for turquoise.
Like turquoise, it is porous and primarily forms in veins, nodules or crusts. It tends to be more
green in color than turquoise and contains more aluminum. The most highly prized samples come
from Utah and Nevada for their deep emerald color and black spider webbing.