Lapis Lazuli Gemstone Mined in Afghanistan for over 7,000 years, the “Armenian Stone” is an enduring rock – and yes it is a rock – unlike other gems it is a composite of several materials with sparkling flecks of pyrite, or fool’s gold, adding to its mystical allure.
Attributed with great healing, purifying and curative properties, Lapis Lazuli allegedly points the way to enlightenment, and aids in the opening of the Third Eye. Popular with ancient alchemists (who knew it as sapphirus), it was used in medicine, cosmetics and paintings. It was also believed to confer ability, success, divine favor, ancient wisdom and cure sore throats. No wonder it was as valuable as gold!.
The ancient city of Ur had a thriving trade in Lapis Lazuli Gemstone as early as the fourth millennium BC and it appears in various passages from the Book of the Dead as an inscription stone. It was one of the stones in the biblical ‘Breastplate of Judgment’ of Aaron (Exodus: xxviii, 15-30). But the Romans (typically) believed it to be a powerful aphrodisiac. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to keep the limbs healthy and free the soul from error, envy and fear.
When lapis was first introduced to Europe, it was called ultramarinum, meaning beyond the sea. Ground lapis mixed with oil was the secret of the blue in ultramarine, the pigment which painters used to paint the sea and the sky until the nineteenth century.
Among gemstones, Lapis Lazuli is the only “rock” – composed of several minerals rather than a single one. The characteristic blue comes from sodalite minerals, with any white coming from calcite, and its sparkling gold flecks from pyrite. All Lapis Lazuli is opaque.
Lapis Lazuli is the second most popular stone for men’s jewelry, second only to black onyx, whereas in women’s jewelry it most commonly appears as beads or earrings.
The finest quality is a dark, intense blue with no visible calcite and a mere sprinkling of pyrite. “Royal blue” is a descriptive term for fine material. As the color becomes lighter (indicative of more calcite) the value of Lapis Lazuli Gemstone drops, visible calcite is a definite detriment. Quality of cutting is also a value consideration.