Gem Profile October 11: Cuprite

By on October 11, 2013
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Article by Layna Palmer,

Today's Gem Profile is...


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When we think of copper it’s usually the shiny color of new pennies or the wire we carry here at or maybe it’s the weathered blue-green of the Statue of Liberty.  Unless you’ve been around raw copper as it is being mined, you probably aren’t too familiar with today’s gemstone; Cuprite (coo-prite).

Cuprite from Morenci, Arizona

Cuprite from Morenci, Arizona

What is Cuprite?

he name Cuprite comes from the Latin word “Cuprum” which means copper and is also known as “ruby copper” due to its red color. It was first identified in 1845 and is composed of copper oxide Cu2O that develops in isometric system hexoctahedral class of crystals that can be cubic (4-sides), octahedral (8 sides) or dodecahedral (12 sides). Cuprite crystals have imperfect cleavage with a brittle conchoidal fracture.

Cuprite Crystals

Lustrous red octahedral cuprite crystals from the Propretary Mine in Broken Hill. The largest is 2.5mm on edge.

Cuprite occurs as a secondary mineral forming within copper sulfide deposits.

Cuprite Crystal

Cuprite Crystal

What color is Cuprite?

Cuprite is a wonderfully brilliant rare gem the color of the most expensive of red garnets and can also have a deep maroon color with a metallic luster similar to that of hematite.  The brilliance and fire of Cuprite is greater than that of a diamond, but with a hardness of only 3.5-4 on the MOHS scale and the inclination to fracture, not a very durable material for jewelry and is usually cut as cabochons and beads though it can be faceted if the stone is over one carat.

Dark Red Cuprite Red Dome Mine Chillagoe Queensland, Australia

Dark Red Cuprite – Red Dome Mine
Chillagoe Queensland, Australia

Where is it found?

Some of the best Cuprite has been found in Southwest Africa in the 1970’s.  This Cuprite is a brilliant red and translucent.  Due to the color and quality of his Cuprite, it was in very high demand has been all but played out. Since then, new deposits have been found in Australia, Namibia, Russia, Japan and the United States.

Cuprite wrapped cab by Lisa Lemler

Native Michigan Cuprite wrapped cab, in a partial basket weave fashion. This Cuprite is mixed with copper and the tiny bit of green is malachite.

Unique properties:

Cuprite is a gem of high energy that is said to help with inner guidance, can aid with fertility and helps to overcome fear.  Cuprite is also associated with the base Chakra and helps to balance the heart as well as keeping us grounded.

Cuprite wrapped necklace in sterling wire along with amazonite chips and carnelian accents by Shawnea Hardesty.

Cuprite wrapped necklace in sterling wire along with amazonite chips and carnelian accents by Shawnea Hardesty.

Cuprite, a beautiful red gem valued for its rarity, fire and brilliance comes to us from the common copper sulfide yet if not for the softness of the stone would be more valuable and desirable than diamonds.  Do you see why I love rocks?

Sometimes you can figure out a lot about people just by looking at the beautiful material that comes from a common piece of stone.  How else would you describe those who have been through the heat and pressure of life, felt like they are being swamped by the waters of tribulations; sometimes weathered, twisted and beaten,  and yet come out as some of the most brilliant of gems?  In my opinion, people are a lot like rocks, and rocks are amazing.

Wrapping it up:

Do you have any jewelry you’ve created that you’d like to share with us? Send us pictures at and they could be featured!



Gem Profile by Layna Palmer

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  1. avatar

    DeLane Cox

    October 12, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Hello, Wire People,

    I have just discovered that I am not receiving your daily blog notes!!!! Don’t know why I’m not, but could you be sure and put me back on the mailing list? I miss my morning dose of wire jewelry information!
    DeLane Cox

    • avatar

      Narlene Allen

      October 14, 2013 at 10:17 am

      DeLane, I’ve taken care of it for you. You should start receiving them again. Thanks!

  2. avatar

    Susan Dunham

    October 15, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Wow and thanks for this article on cuprite. You helped me identify what I think I found this spring while rockhounding near a copper mine in Nevada. I had found lots of garnets that day but the crystal on one of the sample was different and it appears to be almost identical to the cuprite crystal photo you posted in this article. I research the crystal shape more on the internet and I now know what I may have. I sometimes wire wrap what I find when rockhounding but this sample I am keeping for display with my other display samples. Love reading about the gems on your gem profile.

  3. avatar


    October 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Wow! such a beautiful stone. I am wondering if this is the same cuprite in sonora sunset/sunrise? If it is then this is why I find it so beautiful, sonora sunset/sunrise is my favorite stone. I know it is also found near copper mines. I have wire wrapped several cabs of it and love how it looks in all metals including the dark bronze which is my current favorite metal color for wrapping. BeBeAz