Gem Profile July 20: Sonora Sunrise
by Rose Marion, Wire-Sculpture.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. If you cab stones yourself, you might find this discussion helpful: Cutting and Polishing Sonoran Sunset.
Now that we’ve touched on the stones found in the chalcedony family, let’s switch gears and take a look at aquamarine! (That is, unless I feel another Gem Profile contest coming on…) Have you made wire jewelry with aquamarine? Send your Aquamarine pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org, and they could be featured!
Resources & Recommended Reading
- Parrot Wing
- Sonora Sunrise on Beading Daily
- Sonora Sunrise discussion on Mindat
- Milpillas Mine on Mindat
- Cutting and Polishing Sonoran Sunset Chrysocolla
Gem Profile by Rose Marion