Collectors prize deep blue azurite crystals, but faceted gems are extremely rare. However, azurite frequently occurs mixed with green malachite, and this material is commonly used for cabochons and decorative objects.
Azurites, malachites, and cuprites are all idiochromatic; they receive their color from copper. However, copper creates different colors in these different species. Azurites are always blue, malachites are always green, and cuprites are always red. When they occur mixed, these minerals appear as bands and/or “eyes” of their distinctive colors.
Azurite’s distinctive, intense blue color makes it a popular collector’s stone. However, even small azurites are extremely dark, virtually black. Since azurites have such low hardness (3.5-4) and great sensitivity to heat, faceting them is also very challenging. This combination of factors makes faceted azurites very rare.
Artists have used blue pigments made from azurite since ancient times. Perhaps not surprisingly, people have confused this stone with lapis lazuli, another well-known historic source of blue pigments. Sodalite, another gem material commonly cabbed and carved, is sometimes confused with azurite as well.