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A stone that bursts into green flames

азурит
Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

This stone’s colour is generally considered as one of the most rare and beautiful. The world’s greatest artists and iconographers were inspired by its sky-blue colour. Its blue lustre has been brightening the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican for centuries. The mineral, whose short-lived beauty has left so many unsolvable mysteries to contemporary art historians, is called azurite.

It is hard not to notice the color of azurite stone. Its cerulean blue colour pattern was always of great interest to humanity. In Egypt, people used to grind this vivid azure mineral into powder and mix it with oil to make a paint pigment. Masters of Ancient Egypt made use of this paint to create frescoes illustrating the life of gods and rulers, while priests believed that azurite could help them get in touch with higher powers. The Celts used the stone for meditation practices. Being influenced by azurite new soldiers were put into the state similar to hypnosis. That ritual was a part of training required to prepare those young men lacking experience for future battles.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Azurite paint was popular both throughout the Middle Ages and through the Renaissance. Michelangelo himself turned his attention to the stone, thanks to its bright and wide colour palette. It is azurite pigment that was used to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. However, centuries later, Michelangelo’s painting turned dark green. The reason is that being exposed to moisture for a long period of time azurite becomes one of the most valuable gems - malachite. It was decided to restore the chapel - the decorations got their original azure colour back. Nevertheless, many art experts are still being misguided by this property of azurite, as it is quite difficult to guess what was the true idea behind those old paintings that had become green with time.

сикстинская капелла
Фото © wikimedia.org

In the twenty-first century, this stone found its way into pyrotechnics. Few people know that blue and green lights of fireworks are attributable to azurite. The mineral is also known for its healing properties. Lithotherapists claim that azurite can instantly take away the pain, relieve itching and ease the burning feeling. All that has to be done is to apply the stone to sore area from time to time. Copper sulfate is made up from azurite. The blue powder has antiseptic properties; therefore it is often used to free up premises from fungus and mould.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Despite the extraordinary beauty of azurite, its use in jewellery is quite limited, which may be explained by its fragility and low durability. This way, the stone has become mostly valued as a cheap ornamental material. Collectors, however, like this stone for its cerulean blue colour.

Azurite rarely takes shape of separate crystals. Usually it is found in combination with other minerals. One of the most widespread compounds is azurmalachite. Some of its samples extracted in either Namibia or the United States are very expensive. For instance, a sample of azurmalachite found in Arizona at the end of the last century was auctioned off for 100 thousand dollars.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей