Lapis Lazuli - The Royal Blue Gemstone

Published: 28th January 2009
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Lapis is a beautiful royal blue stone often associated with royalty. The name lapis comes from the Latin word for stone and lazuli is from the Persian name for the place where the stone is mined. When the two words are combined, it means "stone of azure". In bead form, lapis lazuli is available in many shapes and sizes. Lapis lazuli spindles, drums, tubes, briolettes and round beads are readily available a reasonable prices. Round stones have been used for centuries in prized rosary beads. Beads for craftwork are often purchased in strings. Lapis lazuli strings in spindle shape can be less than 1 US dollar (USD) per bead. Larger beads, like large faceted tubes, may be around 3 USD per bead. A number of internet sites offer discounts on large purchases, and gem fairs are also a good source for finding strings of lapis. It was formerly made into vases and bowls and has been used from ancient times for beads and small ornaments. It was also extensively used in mosaics and was the "sapphire" of the ancients. Lapis Lazuli is particular popular in today's silver jewelry.

Lapis lazuli has and continues to have applications outside the world of jewelry. Lapis is always used for inlays, insets and intarsia. In addition to jewelry, this gemstone is used in the manufacture of radiant blue water colors, tempera or oil-paints by grinding it in to powder and mixing with binding agents. Lapis lazuli is one of the gemstones that used in commesso, also called florentine mosaic. Commesso is a technique of fashioning pictures with thin, cut-to-shape pieces of brightly colored, semiprecious stones, developed in Florence in the late 16th century. The stones most commonly used are agates, quartzes, chalcedonies, jaspers, granites, porphyries, petrified woods, and lapis lazuli. Commesso pictures used mainly for tabletops and small wall panels, ranging from emblematic and floral subjects to landscapes.

Lapis Lazuli is unlike most gemstones in that is not a pure mineral. Most lapis lazuli comprises a crystalline aggregate made up largely of blue lazurite (a mineral of the sodalite group), plus noteworthy amounts of macroscopic white calcite and pyrite grains. Some lapis lazuli contains one or more of the other minerals of the sodalite group -- hauyne, nosean, and sodalite per se -- along with or in lieu of the lazurite. In addition, some lapis lazuli also contains minor amounts of phlogopite mica, diopside, amphibole, mica, etc., each of which may or may not be macroscopically discernible. The lapis lazuli widely considered to be of highest quality contains relatively small, rather evenly distributed pyrite grains and relatively small percentages of or no calcite. Some lapis lazuli appears roughly color-laminated in different shades of blue. The golden pyrite inclusions give the stone a starry appearance. Lapis lazuli is is found in rather large deposits, but at few locations. The primary historical mining site was in Northern Afghanistan, and remains so to this day. Secondary deposits in Siberia, Canada, and Chile supplement the supply, but with generally lower grade material.

Lapis lazuli is the 7th and 9th wedding anniversary gemstone. Egyptians used lapis lazuli for cosmetics and painting. It is believed as a sacred stone and was buried with the dead in order to protect the dead ones and guide them in life after death. Interestingly enough, Christians, Egyptians and ancient Sumerians all associated this stone with motherhood. To Christians, the stone is associated with the Virgin Mary and Jesus. In Egypt, with Isis and her child Horus. Hindus believe Lapis Jewelry strung on gold wire and worn by children will protect them from all manners of evils, even night frights. Christian legend says God's throne is composed of Lapis, that the 5th stone of Aaron's breastplate was Lapis. Some believe that lapis can help expand the wearer's viewpoint as well as increasing awareness and spiritual love and evolvement. Some spiritualists believe that lapis lazuli will help to cut through superficialities to aquire truth and wisdom. Some people think lapis can bring about harmony in relationships and enhance love and fidelity within a marriage. Some think lapis will build self-confidence and self-awareness and allow the wearer to be open and truthful. Intuitive sources say that Lapis can assist in the opening of the third eye and the attainment of wisdom. It is associated with the 'royal' virtues of courage, insight, strength, clarity and compassion, and with their attainment.

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