Malachite vs Azurite: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

Malachite and azurite are easily confused when folks first start learning about the two materials.

In this article, we’ll help you understand more about what these materials are, and how to tell them apart.

Malachite vs Azurite: Explained

Based on natural copper, malachite and azurite both exist in the same geological family.

However, the two in terms of appearance are very different types of rock.

Azurite vs malachite are very easy to differentiate on sight; azurite, similar to the name, tends to be very blue while malachite tends to be a deep to dark green with swirls.

Both rocks derived their names from Renaissance period Europe and particularly from Latin and earlier versions in Persian and Greek.

Ancient Linguistic History and Records

The primary stem word for azurite was first noted among Persian records to describe the color blue.

Malachite, on the other hand, comes from the Greek description of the mallow plan, or “molochitis.”

Interestingly, however, the oldest known mining source of azurite and malachite does not exist in either region.

Instead, a 3,000-year-old site owning the oldest title sits in Israel’s Timna Valley.

However, both stones were already being used in adornments and jewelry earlier than the Israeli site.

For example, the Egyptians utilized azurite in statues of the bird-faced god Horus.

The same culture also would grind malachite into a powder to then use as a form of eyeshadow and body coloring for ceremonies or public display.

Unfortunately, while doing so produced dramatic appearance effects, it was also extremely toxic to the users.

Ironically, the Egyptians believed that such makeup on their faces as well as arm body decoration would protect them from disease.

Source and Form

The two minerals are both found in copper deposits that are oxidized.

Essentially, the rocks occur when a copper deposit goes through an alteration process, such as oxidation, or some other type of geological change.

The coloring is influenced by crystal effects.

As noted earlier, both types of rock stem from copper as the base material.

However, at the chemical structure level, the copper atom is then bonded with oxygen atoms in a squarish form.

However, the shape of the atom is different from malachite versus azurite.

In the azurite atom, the shape of the atomic structure varies considerably from that of malachite.

This microscopic shape difference triggers a different position of the electronics.

That in turn creates the difference in color perceived by the human eye at the macro level.

Hybrids are possible.

Rock mixes of both azurite and malachite in the same stone occur regularly and create variations of the two distinct rock versions.

Many will be mixed, with spotting or erratic form, depending how they oxidize and are exposed over time prior to mining and removal from the ground.

These blends tend to be less common and provide a distinct difference in rock appearance versus standard forms.

In very notable forms, the banding stands out, and the given stones are prized for unique jewelry pieces.

Metaphysical Traits and Attributes

Because of the distinct coloring of both types of rock, azurite and malachite have both been prized for their spiritual aspects.

Azurite has since ancient times been associated with more than the physical plane, being referenced as a “stone of heaven” repeatedly in early times.

The blue stone is regularly aligned with intuition enhancement, creativity, negotiation, diplomacy and empathy for others.

Malachite, on the other hand, takes a far more recovery-oriented approach with help towards change, healing, fertility, and spiritual protection.

The green stone is also associated with emphasizing change and taking action versus being static or indecisive.

When the two stones are combined, as mentioned in the hybrid versions above, the aggregate version is often associated with a blending of metaphysical traits as well as a natural defense to deceit and arrogance, a repression of vanity, and improving flexibility in thought and ad hoc issue management.

Mineral and Geological Value of Malachite vs Azurite

In terms of chemical benefits, azurite tends to be one of the more flexible rocks between the two.

With well over 45 different applications, azurite can easily be considered valuable for industrial purposes as well.

Azurite can be mixed into compounds as well as used separately.

It’s oftentimes ground into a powder form in such applications.

Further, if left alone exposed to air, azurite also turns into malachite over time because of continued oxidation.

Malachite, on the other hand, is generally considered a jewelry or ornamental type of rock, predominantly used for stone pieces, decorations, statuettes, carvings and similar.

Warnings and Care in Handling

In any form, both azurite and malachite are toxic in their natural form.

Significant care should be used when handling, particularly with ingestion and inhalation.

Both contact and the dust from breaking and grinding can be poisonous (some folks like to “taste” rock to confirm its nature).

In terms of physical handling, both types of rock are relatively soft and easily broken apart and damaged.

Even when finished and polished, simple impacts or dropping of the rock can cause fractures or breaks.

The rocks are also notably influenced by heat and even sun exposure.

Generally, both types of stones should be kept out of prolonged direct light, which adds to their mystique and use only at night based on practice and experience.

To some extent, the rocks might be protected by anti-corrosion measures typically used with copper materials.

However, it’s simply far more effective to just keep either stone out of prolonged direct sunlight when possible. 

Source Locations

Both copper-based stones are found with significant frequency all over the continent of Africa.

For example, for decades malachite was illegal to remove from the Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) without a license.

However, the stone was so plentiful in the country that it could literally be found exposed roadside.

Obviously, given the jewelry value of the stone, it has become collectible over time for eventual sale, and instability in the country in the last few decades opened huge gray and black market channels to move malachite out to international markets easily.

Azurite and malachite are also found in Central America and China with notable availability, and minor deposits exist in the U.S. as well.

Specifically, malachite is typically found in the Southwest in the desert areas of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The availability has been present for thousands of years, proven by artifacts and remnants recovered from indigenous peoples in the area prior to European arrival and expansion into the region.

Similar items also traveled by trade up from Mesoamerica as well.

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malachite vs azurite