Metallic ore Copper
from unknown
United States mine
Azurite and Malachite
from the Democratic
Republic of the Congo
(formerly Zaire)

Next to Gold, Silver and Platinum, few base minerals (i.e. metals) are as intrinsically valuable as Copper.

The word copper is derived from the Latin word "cuprum", which came from the name of the island of Cyprus, where copper was found. The word cuprus is also used in regards to copper in mixture with other elements. The elemental designation of copper is CU.

Copper is not only the name of this heavy, opaque, pinkish colored metallic element, but it is the name used for the copper colored other things. Hence we may say that a woman has copper colored hair, or you comment on a copper colored sunset. Raw copper has the color which we have come to recognize as copper, i.e. the color of copper wire used in electrical wiring for instance. When mixed with tin, the new substance is called Bronze. Bronze is such an important metal in the history of humankind that after the "stone age", when humans learned to make bronze, we had the "bronze age", followed by the "iron age". These terms, i.e. "stone age", "bronze age" and "iron age" refer basically to the material used for weapons and tools made by humans. The word "bronze" may come from "birinj", which is Persian for copper.

When copper is combined with other elements, it often takes on other outstandingly beautiful colors also. This includes the cobalt blue of Azurite, the blue-green of Malachite, the turquoise color of Turquoise, and the rainbow colors of Peacock ore.

Copper is very important industrially and commercially. Copper is one of the very best electrical conductors. It is also used as pigment in paints, cosmetics, and material. Some of the copper based minerals are considered the most beautiful of the gemstones and decorative materials. Turquoise is used as a gemstone in rings, necklaces, bolo ties, and many other places. Malachite was used as a veneer on stone columns in Russia to make the entire interior of the room appear as Malachite colored--it is stunningly beautiful.

Copper today as replaced other metals, in some instances, since we have learned that some other metals are unhealthy and/or dangerous (lead, formerly used in water pipes, we have learned causes mental retardation and can be deadly, so copper is now used or plastic). In the U.S. police officers were (and rarely today are) called "coppers" because of the badges they wore, made in part from copper. In the U.K. old pennies were called "coppers" because they were made of a copper alloy, as they are in the U.S.

While we are building this web site, with examples of copper-based minerals from the PROCTOR MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE collection, we want to express our great appreciation to Jo Edkins of the United Kingdom for the use, with permission, of some of her graphics, from her her web site which is http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/minerals/index.htm.

Please note that the graphics below, for CHALCOPYRITE and DIOPTASE, were used by permission of Jo Edkins, above. Since the graphics have fewer pixels than ours, when you click to see a full screen view, the images are somewhat smaller.

The following sections are still under construction.


The name Azurite is derived from the Persian word "lajward" meaning blue. Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2 is the chemical composition for this usually dark blue mineral. It can appear as a veneer over Malachite; have flat crystals; be somewhat a chunk and have other appearance. Azurite may be pale blue to intensely dark blue in color. It is used as a pigment for paint and in cosmetics, as well as jewelry.

These two minerals are often found
together. Both are related to
and found where copper or copper
bearing minerals are present.

The name Chalcopyrite is a combination of two Greek words Chalkos, which means copper and pyrites which means fire. CuFeS2 is the chemical composition of Chalcopyrite. Chalcopyrite is silvery with a golden tinge to it. Chalcopyrites, or copper pyrites, have been mistaken for gold, just as iron pyrites have, so both of those minerals are called Fool's Gold. Chalcopyrite is more yellow than iron pyrite, and therefore more convincingly looking like gold perhaps. The yellow-goldish part of the specimen shown is the part which is chalcopyrite.

Dioptase is of Greek derivation: "dia" & "optazein" meaning "to see through" CuSiO2(OH)2 is the chemical composition of Dioptase. Dioptase has brilliant green transparent crystals. The author if this picture tells us that this stone is a far more vivid green than could be photographed. These lovely green crystals grow on the gray matrix. Dioptase, although as beautiful as an emerald, has a flaw in that it is quite soft. This precludes it from being a precious stone, not for lack of beauty, but it won't hold up to wear. Dioptase was used as a pigment by the Russians in their icons (religious paintings) since the mineral is found in Siberia.

The name is derived fro the Greek work "malache" meaning mallow leaves. Cu2CO3(OH)2 is the chemical composition for this dark green stone. Most Malachite is of a particular shade of green, which makes it is easy to recognize. The grape looking bumps (which are botryoidal, i.e. blobby), when cut, through, show layers of alternating dark green and light green. The layers themselves may be straight, curved or undulating in rises and falls. Malachite is an opaque mineral. Since it is formed by water, on occasions stalactites may form of Malachite. Malachite is used for ornaments, even furniture (such as in the Grand Trianon in Versailles) and a grand hall of a palace in Russia, is veneered with Malachite over base stone. It is a copper ore, and was mined in the Bronze Age on the Great Orme in Llandudno. The strong sea-winds helped the smelting process. You can still see the mines today. Malachite has been used as a pigment throughout history.

Peacock Ore is so called, because of the many colors which makes one think of a peacock's beautiful metallic looking feathers. Cu5FeS4 is the chemical composition of this mineral. Peacock, to miners, means the potential for many valuable base metals. Peacock often contains gold, silver, zinc, lead, and other minerals with an affinity for each other. The awesome iridescent color of this mineral comes from the oxidation of the base metals of which this ore is composed. As see here, the colors may include various shades of green, yellow, blue, red, pink, purple, gold and silver. Peacock ore, depending upon its composition, is known under several other names, Bornite, Erubescite and Variegated copper ore. Peacock Ore is an old miner's term, and it seems the best description. While the beauty of Peacock Ore makes every collector want a piece or five for their collection, it is actually a valuable source of ores, including copper.

The word Turquoise is Old French for Turkish. CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8.5H2O is the chemical formula for this light "turquoise" colored gemstone, which unfortunately is relatively soft and therefore often needs additional stabilization. All gemstone turquoise is not "turquoise" colored. Some are more greenish blue and some are very pale blue. Turquoise has been called the Turkish stone since the 13th Century A.D., possibly because the Turks used it so much. Turquoise was highly prized by the Aztecs. The Navajo people have used it for many years in jewelry making and they have high regard for this beautiful stone. Turquoise has been mined for thousands of years in the Sinai peninsula. There is a medieval legend that the color would fade if the stone was in contact with a sick person, but it would regain its color near someone who was healthy.

Once a piece of Malachite is cut and polished, it can be used for beautifully colored gemstones for rings, necklaces, pins, tie pins, bracelets, earrings and many other jewelry effects. This four pieces are about the size of a quarter to a half dollar in diameter and about as high.

Click on this graphic and the graphic will turn into a full page view of these four stones. You can then appreciate better the beauty of Malachite. Malachite is hard enough to make a good jewelry gemstone.