Arizona, the leading state in the production of copper ore, is also among the top gem-mining states. The Grand Canyon State is home to several world-famous mineral deposits that yield some of the most highly prized gemstones. Not coincidentally, several of the crystals and gemstones Arizona is famous for are associated with its vast copper deposits.
Arizona is best known for its production of turquoise, which is also the official state gem. Prized for the distinct shade of blue that bears its name, turquoise is an opaque mineral with a waxy sheen. It occurs exclusively in desert regions near copper deposits. In Arizona, turquoise is mined as a copper byproduct, which involves extracting the stone by hand. Native Americans used turquoise to make beads, carvings and mosaics. Today, turquoise figures in many different kinds of jewelry.
The peridot, widely regarded as the the birthstone for August, is yellow green to olive green in color. Commonly used as a faceted gem, peridots adorn jewelry, including rings and earrings, and serve as accent stones.
The peridot deposits in Arizona make the United States one of the largest producers of stone in the world. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona accounts for 80 to 95 percent of the world's peridot supply.
One of Arizona's most famous gem mines is the Four Peaks Amethyst Mine, located in the Mazatzal mountain range. Amethyst, which is Greek for "not drunken," is a purple type of quartz that gets its color from its manganese content. Varying amounts of iron in the mineral result in different shades of purple.
Arizona amethysts range in color and include pink, pale lilac, violet, deep purple and reddish purple. The latter is the most prized variety. Amethyst crystals can be long and prismatic, with a six-sided pyramid at either end.
Azurite, a mineral associated with the oxidization of copper, gets its name from its beautiful deep blue color. Azurite crystals are typically short and tablet-shaped with a prismatic quality. Its hue makes azurite a very popular ornamental stone, though its low hardness makes it a difficult one to work with.
Azurite, which turns black when exposed to heat, occurs in various parts of Arizona, including Mohave, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties.
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