Lapis Lazuli / Blue Stone

Lapis Lazuli is one of the most important semi-precious stones in use since man’s ancient cultures began to develop. Its color is a deep, dense, celestial blue. The Blue Stone is always been considered a symbol of royalty and honor, gods and power, spirit and vision, wisdom and truth.

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What is Lapis Lazuli?

Lapis lazuli is an opaque gem stone that may range in color from brilliant, to medium royal, to dark blue. Its composition consists of a mixture of several different minerals including, the predominance of lazurite (25-40%), hüaynite, sodalite, noselite, calcite and pyrite. Small amounts of diopside, augite, mica and hornblende may also be present. Lapis lazuli generally occurs in crystalline limestone as the result of contact metamorphism.
Lapis lazuli gets its brilliant blue color from its sulfur content. The more evenly the color is distributed throughout the stone, the higher the quality, and the greater the value. Lapis generally occurs with a speckled and strained consistency, with glittering inclusions of iron pyrite. If the pyrite is well distributed, the stones beauty may be enhanced adding to its genuineness.

Too much pyrite however may cause the stone to have a dull greenish tint. The most costly and precious form of lapis lazuli is mined in Afghanistan, having a rich uniform deep blue color, and little to no white calcite veining (which may diminish the value), as well as only a few flecks of glittering pyrite. Lesser quality lapis lazuli is mined in Chile (Chile lapis) and also in Russia.

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How does Lapis Lazuli form?

In addition to lazurite, specimens of lapis lazuli usually contain calcite and pyrite. Sodalite, hauyne, wollastonite, afghanite, mica, dolomite, diopside, and a diversity of other minerals might also be present. To be called “lapis lazuli,” a rock must have a distinctly blue color and contain at least 25% blue lazurite.

lapis lazuli rockCalcite is often the second most abundant mineral present in lapis lazuli. Its presence can be very obvious, appearing as white layers, fractures, or mottling. It can also be finely intermixed with lazurite to produce a rock with a faded denim color.
Pyrite usually occurs in lapis lazuli as tiny, randomly spaced grains with a contrasting gold color. When abundant, the grains can be concentrated or intergrown into distinct layers or patches. It can occasionally occur as a fracture-filling mineral.

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What are the different types of Lapis Lazuli?

The following names are used in the American jewelry trade to refer to various qualities of lapis-lazuli:

  • Persian Lapis: This quality, which is actually from Afghanistan, is the finest color and is difficult to obtain. It is an intense, evenly colored, slightly dark violetish blue with little or no pyrite and no white calcite veining.

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  • Russian, or Siberian, Lapis: This type occurs in various tones and intensities of blue contains pyrite, and is usually of good quality.
  • Chilean Lapis: Material referred to as Chilean lapis contains numerous white calcite inclusions and is often tinged or spotted with green. It is usually the least valuable type.

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What are Lapis Lazuli Characteristics?

  • Color: Variously described as indigo, royal, midnight, or marine blue, lapis lazuli’s signature hue is slightly greenish blue to violetish blue, medium to dark in tone, and highly saturated. In its most-prized form, lapis lazuli has no visible calcite, although it might contain gold-colored pyrite flecks. If the flecks are small and sprinkled attractively throughout the gem, their presence doesn’t necessarily lower lapis lazuli’s value. The lowest-quality lapis looks dull and green, the result of an excess of pyrite. Lapis with white calcite streaks is less valuable.

  • Cut: For thousands of years, lapis has been fashioned to show off its rich, dark color. Typically, lapis cutting styles for use in jewelry are cabochons, beads, inlays, and tablets, as well as decorative carvings. Today, lapis is frequently fashioned into freeform and nature-themed sculptures. Some of these carvings become wearable art, others are purely decorative.
  • Clarity: Lapis frequently contains varying amounts of whitish calcite matrix—the host rock that surrounds the gem—or flecks or veins of glinting yellow pyrite, or both. The gem can also have a smoothly uniform bodycolor, free of visible pyrite and calcite.
  • Carat Weight: Lapis rough can be very large, so large fashioned stones are more common than with many other gemstones. Larger sizes are also more likely to be carved into art objects, used in designer jewelry, or cut into calibrated sizes.

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How was Lapis Lazuli used throughout history?

Historians believe the link between humans and lapis lazuli stretches back more than 6,500 years. The gem was treasured by the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Greece, and Rome. They valued it for its vivid, exquisite color, and prized it as much as they prized other blue gems like sapphire and turquoise.

Badakshan, a province in present-day Afghanistan, is a forbidding wasteland of mountains, bare of any vegetation. The sheer mountain faces rise as high as 17,000 feet, and are scored with treacherous ravines. Humans make their way there to seek one thing only: the azure treasure that is fine lapis lazuli.
For thousands of years, lapis has been fashioned to show off its rich, dark color. Typically, lapis used in jewelry has been cut into cabochons, beads, inlays, and tablets. But lapis lazuli’s use has never been limited to jewelry alone. It’s also a popular carving material. Throughout its history, lapis has been fashioned into practical objects, including game boards, bowls, dagger handles, hair combs, and amulets.

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Where can we find Lapis Lazuli today?

Lapis is an excellent stone for executives, journalists, and psychologists, stimulating wisdom and good judgment in the practical world. It aids intellectual analysis in archeologists and historians, problem solving for lawyers, and creates new ideas for inventors and writers.
Lapis Lazuli is a powerful crystal for activating the higher mind and enhancing intellectual ability. It stimulates the desire for knowledge, truth and understanding, and aids the process of learning. It is excellent for enhancing memory.
A stone of truth, Lapis encourages honesty of the spirit, and in the spoken and written word. Wear it for all forms of deep communication. It is also a stone of friendship and brings harmony in relationships. A Lapis grid brings calm and loving communication for a home with temperamental teenagers, or children with Asperger’s syndrome, autism, or attention-deficit disorder.
For fame in a creative or public performance-related area, wear or carry Lapis Lazuli to auditions. In the workplace, it attracts promotion, success and lasting recognition in your field.

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