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Azurite, Bisbee, Arizona

Posted by Rock Currier  
avatar Azurite, Bisbee, Arizona
November 03, 2008 10:03PM
Click here to view Azurite, Australia to Zambia minus Bisbee & Tsumeb and here for Azurites from Tsumeb, Namibia and here for Best Minerals A,and here for Best Minerals A to Z. and here for Fast Navigation of completed Best Minerals articles.

Can you help make this article more interesting and accurate? If so we would like to hear from you. I know there are some guys out there that know more than I do about Bisbee and I hope that one of them will step up here and help whip this article into shape.

AzuriteCu32+(CO3)2(OH)2 monoclinic
Unites States
Arizona, Cochise County, Warren District, Bisbee, Copper Queen Mine
Azurite on Malachite ~15cm?

The great azurite specimens produced at Bisbee are probably the most sought after azurites by American collectors. “The types of azurite from Bisbee encompass a full range of forms and colors. Cerulean crusts and sparkling druses lined geode-like cavities in limestone, while botryoidal masses of crystals to ⅛ inch, perhaps lightly sprinkled with tiny malachite pseudomorphs after cuprite, entirely incrust the matrix. Somewhat less commonly, isolated, sharply-terminated crystals of greater size occurred. With lozenge, axe- and sword-like shapes, these crystals reached as much as three inches in length, and were often complexly modified, as perfect as if faceted. Beautiful rosettes of crystals, usually extremely brilliant, were found completely formed in clay seams. Some of these nodules the size of footballs were in use in many miner’s homes as doorstops. Many fine examples of malachite pseudomorphs after azurite were also found.”1 Some of the best of these pseudomorphs were long slender crystals up to 10 cm long flaring off of matrix.
1 Richard Bideaux, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 4, 1973, p4-5.

The best, big Bisbee roses were up to about 5 inches in diameter. Some of the smaller ones are breathtakingly brilliant and sharp. Even a small, fine one inch rose from Bisbee would probably bring at least $1000 today.

Azurite rose, 2.5 cm diameter
Azurite rose, 5 cm diameter

Azurite rose, ~10 cm across
Azurite & Malachite, 4.8 cm wide

Azurite rose, ~8cm across
Azurite 3.5cm wide

“No other mineral is more closely associated with the mines in Bisbee than azurite. From its beginning, this district has almost continuously produced fine specimens. At no time during the almost 100 years of mining was there a span of more than just a few years when azurite was not being mined. The array of forms, range of hues, and the wide variety of associations, combine to produce Bisbee’s most breathtaking masterpieces. Among the most common forms are: reniform masses, ranging from a very pale blue to near black; drusy or velvet; pisolitic sprinklings on malachite boxwork; spherical aggregates of crystals showing no point of attachment (rosettes); stalactites of up to 4 inches; tabular crystals to 3.1 inches; and bladed crystals to 4¾ inches”1
1 Mineralogical Record, Vol. 12, 1981, p259.

Azurite on Malachite 8cm across
Azurite, 6.1 cm across

Azurite on Malachite, 8.2cm tall
Azurite ~15cm?

Atlanta shaft-300 and 400 level. The great Atlanta orebody gave up deep blue, reniform masses commonly with equal amounts of malachite. These masses frequently weighed up to 220 pounds.
Campbell shaft-1600 to 2000 levels, found in the oxidized portions of the Campbell orebody along the Campbell fault. The area produced thousands of sharp singles and groups with individual crystals to 4 inches. Almost black, they always have the appearance of heavy alteration and are on or have included, angular, siliceous fragments. Associated minerals include fine cerussite, smithsonite and hematite.

Cole shaft-800 level, as small rosettes to 2 inches. 1000 level, bladed groups with malachite and minor cuprite.

Copper Queen Mine
Azurite, ~25 cm across

This mine was a prolific producer until its closure in 1888. From the 400 level, from the great Southwest orebody came masses of tabular crystals, intergrown to form small, open spheres dusted with tiny octahedra of malachite-coated cuprite. It occurs also as large plate-like groups of tabular crystals of up to 2 inches. They usually had a preferred orientation of limonitic matrix…Czar shaft, the most prolific and important locality in the district. It also exploited the Southwest orebody and produced groups similar to those of the Copper Queen mine. 100 level, in the Divided zone, yielded numerous, small (8 inches) pockets of drusy crystals. 200-400 level, in a heavy, plastic, hematitic clay, many dark blue glassy rosettes of up to 6 inches. Often, a dozen of these were in a single shovefull of muck. 300 level, as huge masses of many tons with malachite and psilomelane. The pockets within these masses frequently contained stalactites and well-defined solution level lines commonly indicated by malachite deposition, a change in azurite hue and/or habit. Holbrook shaft; because of its proximity to the Czar, many similar samples were produced. 300 level, as thin, bright-blue, reniform specimens typically with malachite (zincian)…400-500 levels, as pisolitic deposits with some siliceous inclusions on boxwork malachite. Also found as faithful replacements of fossils in the Martin limestone. 500-600 level, 2 to 2½ - inch crystals on a siliceous goethite.
Irish Mag shaft-1050 level, numerous groups of sharp brilliant, 4/5th – inch crystals.
Junction shaft – 770 and 900 levels, bright blue partial over-growth of reniform malachite in masses of up to 110 pounds. These striking specimens were on psilomelane which, when removed, revealed some unusual forms of exceptional beauty.
Lavender pit, large groups of pisolitic azurite on boxwork malachite and numerous reniform masses. Also, as 2/5 to 4/5 – inch rosettes on yellow smithsonite and fine 4/5- inch crystals with malachite and cuprite in siliceous goethite boulders.
Sacramento shaft; the largest and finest crystals from the district came from this mine is a series of small, unconnected orebodies, from just above the 1200 level to areas below the 1400 level. While the groups were seldom large, and the crystals were usually poorly secured to the matrix, many specimens were recovered. These crystals were either tabular or bluntly terminated blades to 6 inches, always with the appearance of altering to malachite. The most common matrix was a very compact and somewhat siliceous limestone or hematite.”1 See Dick Graeme’s excellent article on Bisbee in the Mineralogical record.1
1 (Richard Graeme, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 12, 1981, p292-294

Mr. Douglas, the mine manager, was a collector and when a cave in the Copper Queen mine containing fine azurite specimens was encountered about 1890 he put a crew to work there for several weeks to carefully collect and pack boxes full of exceptional azurite specimens. These were of the type that are described above as rosettes of crystals to ⅛ inch, perhaps lightly sprinkled with tiny malachite pseudomorphs after cuprite. These specimens were distributed all over the world. After forty years as a collector I finally managed to get my hands on one of these great Bisbee specimens and think that I will never be able to get a better one from any locality. I was thrilled to get a good Tsumeb azurite some years ago from the original find that was brought back by Sam Gorden before the second world war but it does not look so great when you put it along side a great Bisbee piece.

A fine large specimen of this type from the Copper Queen mine was offered for sale at the Freilich auction. The specimen measured about 35 cm in diameter. The low bid estimate on the specimen was $140,000 and it did not sell. A bid of $100,000 might have had the specimen. I think that Mr. Freilich probably paid about $200,000 for the specimen. Fine azurite roses from Bisbee can bring thousands of dollars. Has one been sold for over $10,000? Almost certainly. You rarely ever see the good ones offered for sale.

Azurite, Malachite 8.6cm wide
Azurite & Malacite, 14cm wide
Azurite ~20 cm
Azurite, 4.4cm wide

To mineral collectors, probably the most tantalizing description of the specimen wealth of Bisbee is that of Frederick Ransome of the United States Geological Survey in 1904; The Geology and Ore Deposits of the Bisbee Quadrangle, Arizona. Here he is talking about malachite “In the older workings of the Copper Queen mine this mineral was abundant, occurring in large and beautiful masses with azurite and calcite in limestone caverns. The walls of these caves were covered with velvety moss-green malachite, and sparkled with the blue crystals of azurite, while from the roofs hung translucent stalactite draperies of calcite, delicately banded and tinted with the salts of copper.”1 Other reports of the abundance of azurite and malachite in the great copper carbonate deposits of Bisbee describe the ore belts running green and blue for days on end. “The immensely rich copper carbonate orebodies of the Copper Queen mine at Bisbee, Arizona, were discovered in 1889. The first body, enclosed in limestone, was about 60 feet in diameter and 400 feet deep, and produced 20 million pounds of copper entirely from copper carbonate ores before it was worked out in 1884. Other carbonate bodies, even larger and richer, were found on extension of the Copper Queen workings, but by 1910-1920 carbonate ores were in the minority.”2
1 Frederick Ransome of the United States Geological Survey, Professional Paper 21, 1904, p125, The Geology and Ore Deposits of the Bisbee Quadrangle, Arizona.
2 Dick Bideaux, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 4, 1973, p5.

Azurite & Malachite, ~9cm across
Azurite on Malachite ~9cm across

Azurite on Malachite ~20cm
Azurite xl cluster ~5cm

Azurite, polished ~2.5cm
Azurite ~13cm

“Active mining began late in 1877 and continued with only minor interruptions until mid-1975. During the last century, hundreds of millions of tons of ore and waste were removed from two open pits and nearly 2000 miles of underground workings. All of this was done within a zone approximately 2 by 3 miles, with an overall depth of 4000 feet… roughly 4.6 cubic miles…Metal production through 1975…Copper 7.7 billion pounds, Zinc 355 million pounds, Lead 324 million pounds, Silver 100 million ounces, Gold 2.7 million ounces, Manganese 10,989,900 lbs.1
1 Richard Graeme, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 12, 1981, p259.

You think we have forgotten about the wonderful malachite pseudomorphs after azurite? No we have not, its just that most of them are in the Malachite article. But just to show you our hearts are in the right place, here is a taste.

Malachite after Azurite, Campbell shaft, Bisbee ~15cm across

Click here to view Azurite, Australia to Zambia minus Bisbee & Tsumeb and here for Azurites from Tsumeb, Namibia and here for Best Minerals A,and here for Best Minerals A to Z. and here for Fast Navigation of completed Best Minerals articles.

Edited 26 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/2011 10:21AM by Rock Currier.
Phil Persson
Re: Azurite, Bisbee, Arizona
May 01, 2009 09:22PM
Wow, fantastic article Rock! Really enjoyed reading that. While it seems much has been written on Bisbee and the Warren District and it's various minerals, specific important species like Azurite lack concise documentation. Thanks for the much needed insight. The only slight suggestions I might provide would be to discuss the various crystal habits, colors, and matrix/associated species a little more, just to give the reader a better idea of how many different Azurite occurrances and distinct assemblages occur in the Bisbee mines.
A relevant article as well, as Phelps Dodge successor Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold has made plans to re-open and expand the Lavender Pit workings in Bisbee in early 2010, which will include a number of high-grade targets in former underground workings that will be open-pitted. While this is not public information, I do not think it is exactly proprietary either, and feel that having worked for Freeport I can share a limited version of what I know with you guys. Anyways, great article ans insight rock. I recently acquired a great little Azurite "geode" from the Czar Mine with midnight blue curved xls. to 1 cm. lining a hollow solid azurite "nodule", very interesting specimen.
Best regards,
Phil Persson.
Re: Azurite, Bisbee, Arizona
January 12, 2010 05:55PM
they started leeching on the opposite side of the highway sometime near october of 09 now or at least in december there was a blue liquid seeping from the cliff face forming what seemed to be copper sulfate crystals
Re: Azurite, Bisbee, Arizona
May 15, 2011 11:38PM
Hi Phil Persson,
Are you located in or near Bisbee, AZ?
I am interested in azurite as a result of the Edgar Casey readings.
Please email me also regarding the Lavender Mine, did it open in early 2010 as you referenced?
Thank you!
avatar Re: Azurite, Bisbee, Arizona
February 17, 2012 04:52PM
I thought this would be a fitting place to post this photo I composed yesterday.
open | download - Copper Queen Bookshelf (2).jpg (955.7 KB)

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