Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gemstone Love: LAPIS LAZULI

Polished Lapis Lazuli Block
King Tut's Mask
Lapis Lazuli, also known as just "Lapis", is a semi precious stone that has been prized for its beautiful deep blue color since antiquity.  It has beautiful flecks of gold pyrite within the blue stone.  It is a stone, not a mineral and not a crystal.  It has been mined in Afghanistan since 7,000 b.c. and was used as the eyebrows in King Tut's mask.  In ancient times, Lapis along with Turquoise were considered the most valuable stones.

At the end of the Middle Ages, Lapis was exported to Europe where it was ground and used as "ultramarine" -- the finest and most expensive blue pigment.  It was used by the most important artists of the Baroque and Renaissance periods. Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring uses Ultramarine for her head scarf.
Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring

Today, most Lapis is still mined in Afghanistan, but is also found in Chile, Canada, the United States and Russia.

The name "Lapis" comes from the Latin word for stone, and from the Arabic word for blue, "Azul".   It literally means "blue rock" and it is a rock, not a mineral.  It is composed of a variable mixture of the minerals lazurite, pyrite and calcite. The finest Lapis Lazuli is uniformly deep blue in color, opaque to semi-translucent and consists almost totally of lazurite.

I see pendants made of Lapis that have been carved into "points" or even "double terminated" points, like naturally occurring crystals, on etsy and elsewhere.  This is weird because Lapis is NOT a crystal at all, and is merely made of stone (rock!) and is carved in this shape for some reason.  Very odd.

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