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Chemistry:  Cu  [Elemental Copper]

Discovered in Prehistory;   IMA status: Valid (pre-IMA; Grandfathered).
Copper is named from the Latin word cuprum which was derived from the Greek word kyprios, meaning metal of Cyprus, the location of ancient copper mines.





Mineral Classification:


Strunz 8th Ed. ID:


Nickel-Strunz 10th Ed. ID:



1 : ELEMENTS (Metals and intermetallic alloys; metalloids and nonmetals; carbides, silicides, nitrides, phosphides)
A : Metals and Intermetallic Alloys
A : Copper-cupalite family

Related to:

Copper Group. Copper - Cupalite Family. Copper - Silver - Gold Series



Crystal Data




Isometric - Hexoctahedral

Crystal Habit:

As cubes, dodecahedra, and as tetrahexahedra; rarely as octahedra and complex combinations. Commonly flattened on [111], elongated along [001]. Also as irregular distortions, in twisted, wirelike shapes; filiform, arborescent, massive; as a coarse powder. Masses weighing hundreds of tons have been found; crystals up to 15 cm.


On [111] to produce simple contact and penetration twins and cyclic groups.



Physical Properties




None Observed


Hackly, Jagged


Highly Malleable and Ductile

Hardness (Mohs):

2.5 - 3.0


8.94 - 8.95 (g/cm3)




Not Radioactive


Highly Conductive



Optical Properties




Copper-Red; tarnishes to Black or Green in air





Refractive Index:

R: (400) 45.0, (420) 47.9, (440) 51.3, (460) 54.4, (480) 56.9, (500) 58.9, (520) 60.5, (540) 63.0, (560) 70.5, (580) 86.1, (600) 95.9, (620) 98.4, (640) 98.7, (660) 98.7, (680) 98.7, (700) 98.7


None; Opaque








Geological Setting:

Commonly associated with porous zones in mafic extrusive rocks, less commonly in sandstones and shales, where the copper was probably of hydrothermal origin, precipitated as the result of oxidizing conditions; in the oxidized zone of large, disseminated copper deposits as a result of secondary processes. A rare mineral in some meteorites.

Common Associations:

Azurite, Bornite, Chalcocite, Cuprite, Iron Oxides, Malachite, Silver, Tenorite, many other minerals.

Type Locality:

Prehistic; possibly Middle East; possibly northern Iraq

Year Discovered:

Prehistic; possibly around 9000 BC

View mineral photos:

Copper Mineral Photos and Locations



More Information




Though Copper is not technically a gem, it is included here because of its use in jewelry and as ornamental spheres.
Copper was one of the first metals to be worked into implements and the first metal to be smelted from ores. It was known to some of the oldest civilizations on record and has a history of use that is at least 10,000 years old. It is estimated that Copper was first discovered around 9000 BC in the Middle East, possibly northern Iraq. A copper pendant was found in what is now northern Iraq that dates to about 8700 BC. It has been used in the making of tools, jewelry and ornamental pieces since ancient times and continues to be popular today. It is highly malleable and has excellent ductility and high conductivity. This makes it valuable in industrial and electronics uses also.

Copper occurs in many localities worldwide. Some of the most notable are the deposits of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Keweenaw and Houghton Counties, Michigan, USA; in several copper deposits in Arizona, USA including those at the New Cornelia mine, Ajo, Pima County; the Copper Queen mine at Bisbee, Cochise County; and at Ray, Gila County, Arizona.

gems for sale:

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