Lapis Lazuli was and always will be in trend as it is one of the most famous gemstones in use since man’s history began. Due to its deep, celestial blue in seems that it came straight out of the Arabian Nights and we are now about to start a post, dedicated exclusively to this amazing symbol of royalty and honor, gods and power, wisdom and truth.
Guiding you through its history, we will bring you back to the times of Egyptian pharaohs and Mesopotamian kings, Persian warriors and Greece philosophers, from Tutankhamen to Cesar, from Michelangelo to Catherine the Great. We will explore the world and its history with you; reveal the secrets of this stone and teach you a bit of chemistry. Join us in our adventure and you will learn all that is possible about Lapis Lazuli.
In ancient times, Lapis Lazuli was most highly regarded because of its beautiful color and the valuable ultramarine dye derived from it. Its name comes from the Latin lapis – “stone,” and the Persian lazhuward – “blue.” The English word azure, French azur, Italian azzurro, Polish lazur, Romanian azur and azuriu, Portuguese and Spanish azul, and Hungarian azúr all come from the name and color of lapis lazuli.
Lapis Lazuli by its composition is a heterogeneous rock formed by the dense fusion of grains of Lazurite, Sodalite, Calcite and Pyrite, sometimes with Diopside and Feldspar or Dolomite. Its crystals are very rare and usually exist in the forms of an octahedron or rhombic dodecahedron.
Lapis Lazuli is mined in Afghanistan (Badakhshan), Russia (Southern Baikal region), Argentina, Chile (Andes mountains), Italy, USA (California and Colorado), Myanmar, Tajikistan (Pamir), Mongolia, Canada, while mines in Badakhshan are the oldest. Sar-i-Sang mine deposits found in limestone in the Kokcha River valley of Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan have been worked for more than 6,000 years.
Today mines in northeast Afghanistan and Pakistan are still the major source of lapis lazuli. Moreover, Afghanistan was the lapis lazuli source for ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, as well as later Greeks, Romans, Byzantium and China. Afghan lapis lazuli from Sar-i-Sang deposits was discovered in the tombs of Pharaohs and on excavations of Troy.
This stone is usually regarded as one, representing the all shapes of blue. From lower-grade Lapis with its lighter blue with more white than gold flecks to royal blue with gold flecks (pyrites).
At the end of the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli began to be exported to Europe, where it was ground into powder and made into ultramarine, the finest and most expensive among all blue pigments. It was used by the most important Renaissance and Baroque artists, including Masaccio, Perugino, Titian, Michelangelo and Vermeer in frescoes and oil painting and was often reserved for the clothing of the central figure of the painting, especially the Virgin Mary. Its usage as a pigment in oil paint largely ended in the early 19th century when a chemically identical synthetic variety became available.
Lapis is widely used for jewelry as an inexpensive but beautiful ornamental stone. Lapis is rather soft and brittle mineral that is easy to process and polish. This semi-precious stone is used for decorative vases, jewelry boxes, figurines. In the form of thin plates, it is used for inlay in mosaic, as well as for cladding columns, fireplaces, etc.
In the dry, empty lands of the Egyptians, this deep cobalt blue color was a spiritual contrast to their killing desert sands. The gold sparks were like stars in their night sky and by meditating on these stones, they believed supernatural forces would enrich their lives. The garments of priests and royalty were colored with Lapis to highlight their status as gods themselves.
In ancient Persia and pre-Columbian America, Lapis Lazuli was a symbol of the starry night, and a favorite stone of the Islamic Orient for protection from the evil eye.
Lapis was widely used during Greek and Roman times as an ornamental stone, and in medieval Europe, Lapis Lazuli, resembling the blue of the heavens, was believed to fight the spirits of darkness.
Buddhists recommended Lapis as a stone to bring inner peace and freedom from negative thought, and during the Renaissance, Catherine the Great, adorned an entire room in her palace with Lapis Lazuli walls, fireplaces, doors and mirror frames.
Can you imagine, nowadays, you can buy a gemstone that may be derived from the same mine as those used for the Tutankhamen golden sarcophagus or maybe from the same mine as those enjoyed by Catherine the Great or even those that were ground into powder and used by the majestic hand of Michelangelo?
I want to invite you to discover the collection of rings, pendants, necklaces, stones, earrings and bracelets made of lapis lazuli at Nammu shop and get your own piece of history right out from the heart of Afghanistan like Ancient Egyptians were doing throughout centuries.
Until next time! 🙂