Gem Profile- Sonora Sunrise
by Judy Ellis
Sonora Sunrise, or Sonoran Sunset

Sonora Sunset, also called Sonora Sunrise or Sonoran Sunrise (both are accepted), is Cuprite and Chrysocolla joined in a single stone. Chrystocolla is the bright green, even turquoise or sky-blue in some samples, and cuprite the tomato-red. Some lapidaries favor Sonora sunrise that has a third color, black, caused by tenorite, which is also a copper oxide (although I have heard some people refer to the black as manganese). The highest quality Sonoran Sunrise is somewhat translucent, for a beautiful effect. The stone is named for Sonora, the state in Northwest Mexico that borders Arizona and New Mexico and which is the source of the stone.
Bill Dettmer set this Sonora Sunrise in sterling silver wire, with two bails. Bill designed this to be a man's pendant, able to take a braided bolo cord through the two bails.
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Sonora Sunrise - , General Education, , Sonora Sunrise
The source of Sonora Sunrise is the Milpillas Mine, which is northwest of Cananaea, a city in Sonora. This mine is already renowned for azurite and malachite finds. However, the mine is rumored to be quite small, so production might not last - it was only planned to have an 11-year mine life when it opened in 2006.


Sonoran Sunset Pendant by Melanie Capps in 14kt gold filled wire

Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Sonora Sunrise - , General Education, , Sonora Sunrise pendant
Sonora sunrise, as a rough material for making into cabochons and jewelry, only came on the market recently from what I can tell, around 2007. Previously many copper mines had found a greenish stone that was a muddle of jasper, malachite, chrysocolla, and azurite: this vivid green stone was nicknamed Parrot Wing.



Sonora Sunrise pendant with matching Swarovski crystals wrapped in sterling silver by Gina Smith; cabbed by her friend, Carla Olson. This pendant took a blue ribbon in the 2011 state fair!
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Sonora Sunrise - , General Education, , Sonora Sunrise pendant
Parrot wing isn't typically an even color, but has specks and splotches of darker green to contrast with the bright green background. While some people confuse parrot wing with Sonora Sunrise, Sonora Sunrise is a distinctive material because of the cuprite and often tenorite.



Beverly Bishop wrapped this Sonoran Sunset cab in wire, accented with beads, and hung it on a matching silk kumihimo cord she made herself - perfect for customers with metal allergies!
Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Sonora Sunrise - , General Education, , Sonora Sunrise pendant
Sonora sunrise is frequently found called a jasper, but we know that jasper is an opaque type of chalcedony. While chrysoprase is a relative of chalcedony, the other materials present in Sonora Sunrise are all copper oxides.

What is cuprite? Cu2O ( Oxygen and Copper) "oxidization product of copper suphides in the upper zones of veins" according to Mindat. Cuprite is found all over the world, and it's also called Ruby copper, Red copper, and Ruberite. It was discovered in 1845 and is named for copper, which is cuprum in Latin.


Sonora Sunset Earrings wire wrapped in 14kt gold filled wire by Kathy Statton. The supporting rock is a pyrite crystal!

Judy Ellis's Gem Profile- Sonora Sunrise - , General Education, , Sonora sunset earrings
Cuprite has a hardness of about 3.5 - 4, while chrysocolla is a soft 2.5-3.5, so creating cabs from this material is hard not just because the stones are soft, but also because their hardness can be quite different. Additionally, the stone can be quite porous and have the texture of an orange peel unless it is high quality gem-grade material.
Resources & Recommended Reading

Cuprite on mindat.org
Sonora Sunrise discussion on Mindat
Milpillas Mine on Mindat

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  • Category: General Education
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