Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lapis Lazuli is the Gemstone of the Week

Lapis Lazuli is a deep blue gemstone that often has pyrite inclusions that sparkle like stars. It is a gemstone that has been prized for centuries. The legendary city if Ur, which was on the Euphrates River, is reported to have run a busy trade in lapis as early as 4000 B.C.. While researching lapis for this post, I came across two different meanings of the name. One said it is a combination of the Latin word “lapis” meaning stone and of the word “azul” which is Arabic for blue. The other source said it was Spanish for pencil since some cultures did use Lapis for writing.

Lapis is not a mineral, but a rock. It is composed of grains of several blue stones including sodalite and lazurite. It also has calcite and pyrite in it. If it only had one component, it would be considered a mineral. The deep, rich blue color is from sulphur in the lazurite. It is also flourescent. Lapis lazuli was created millions of years ago during a metamorphosis that turned chalk into marble. In spite of this, on the Moh scale, it has a hardness of 5-5.5, making it a fairly soft stone. It can be easily chipped and scratched, so care must be taken when wearing it. Clean it only with a soft cloth and never use harsh chemicals on it. Some lapis is treated by dyeing it. If you are offered deep blue lapis for a low price, be wary, as it is probably dyed. As will all treatments, this should be disclosed by the seller when purchasing.

Lapis is mined in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Canada, Siberia, South America, Chile, and the U.S.. Afghanistan has been a source for lapis for over 6000 years.
Lapis Lazuli was the traditional birthstone of December, but the American Association of Jewelers listed the offical Dec. birthstones  as Turquoise and Blue Zircon as early as 1912.

Lapis is the source of the pigment ultramarine. In ancient times, the Egyptians ground it to make eye shadow, and for paint. It was also carved into seals, vases and small statues. In the Middle Ages, monks ground lapis, mixed it with beeswax, linseed and resin and used it in illuminated manuscripts. Lapis lazuli is one of the gemstones used in commesso, also called florentine mosaics. Commesso was developed in Florence in the late 16th century. It is the fashioning of pictures with brightly colored, thin, cut to shape pieces of semi precious gemstones. Commesso was mainly used for table tops and wall pictures.

Today, lapis is considered to be a stone of friendship and truth. It is believed to help with insomnia and stress. It is said that it aids in helping the aura absorb spiritual energy. Lapis is also said to increase psychic ability.

I am editing this to add that the Amazonite collecton I curated for last weeks' gemstone made it to the front page of Artfire.

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