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The Bornite Identity

Image Credit: Sam Droeg

Image Credit: Sam Droege

Movie puns are obviously the best way to start the week. Well, second best. The best way to kick off this week is Mineral Monday.

Bornite is commonly known as Peacock ore, for obvious reasons.

See the resemblance? Image Credit: Vidhya Narayanan via Wikipedia

See the resemblance? Image Credit: Vidhya Narayanan via Wikipedia

The bright iridescence of Bornite (Cu5FeS4) is actually a tarnish on the surface of the mineral. If you cut into it, it would look brown or red, similar to the color of copper. That makes sense, because as you can see from the chemical formula, Bornite is a copper sulfide mineral. And a valuable one too. At about 63% copper, bornite is useful to humanity as a copper ore. It’s useful to the rest of the world as another beautiful shiny thing deep in the earth.

It was first described scientifically in 1725, but it had most assuredly been observed before that by copper miners throughout history. But they were too busy mining to write out a detailed scientific treatise on the shiny things they were digging out of the ground. Once mineralogists got their hands on it though, it started getting a lot of different names, starting with a string of latin names assigned to it in 1747 by Johan Gottschalk Wallerius (For the record, I am not making these names up), then shifting to the more practical ‘purple copper ore’ and ‘variegated copper ore’ by 1803. At one point in the 1790s it was also called buntkupfererz (bless you) by someone named Abraham Gottlieb Werner. Needless to say, that particular tongue twister didn’t catch on. In 1832 it was named “phillipsite” by Wilhelm Sulpice Beudant, presumably in honor of someone named Phillip. But poor Phillip didn’t get to keep his mineral for long.

Bornite didn’t get it’s current name until 1845, when the geological powers that be (apparently someone named Wilhelm Karl von Haidinger) decided to name the mineral after famed 18th-century mineralogist Ignaz von Born.




Can we all take a moment to appreciate that his name was Ignaz? Ok. Good.

Iggy von Born was born in a small corner of Transylvania in 1742, and managed to rise above his unfortunate name and became one of the leading lights of the Enlightenment (sorry, I can’t help myself.) He established the first Natural History museum in Vienna, at the behest of Maria Theresa, and studied minerals and invertebrates among other things. In his spare time Ignaz wrote satires that weren’t all that well received, at least according to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Thanks to Francie for suggesting this mineral! Is there a mineral you would like to know more about? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter @MaryBethGriggs



  1. Lockwood wrote:

    A relevant pun from nearly 5 years ago…

    Monday, December 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
  2. MBGriggs wrote:

    That’s amazing! Thanks Lockwood–great minds, I guess!

    Monday, December 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  3. Paul Lancaster wrote:

    A favorite of mine. It was probably one of the first minerals I bought in those little 1″ x 1″ containers for a quarter or so.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink