Lapis Lazuli: From Ancient to Contemporary


Friday 13, 2018

Lapis Lazuli, often simply referred to as "Lapis", decorated the funeral mask of "King Tut", the famed young Egyptian pharaoh. In fact, it was first discovered in the area we now call Afghanistan, where it has been mined since possibly around 7000 BC. During these neolithic times, the brilliant Lapis Lazuli was used in ancient burials from South Asia to the Maghreb region of North Africa. 

Named for its color, (literally meaning: "The Blue Stone") Lapis is primarily a blue, opaque mineral called lazurite with a chemical formula of (Na,Ca)8Al6Si6O24(S,SO)4 (Sodium calcium aluminum silicate). What makes Lapis so special is the addition of calcite, pyrite, and other trace minerals to the stone. Calcite gives Lapis depth and character with the occasional white inclusion, while pyrite inclusions give Lapis a gold shimmer. This mixture of color and texture has been the source of admiration and desire for this stone by humans for almost nine thousand years.

While Lapis has been found in the United States, Russia, Chile, Italy, Myanmar, Canada, Argentina, and a few other locations, the largest deposits of the finest quality still come from Afghanistan. Location also has an impact on color. While Argentina yields dark and intense blues, the United States and Canada are usually sources for lighter colored stones. Depending on location and trace mineral content, Lapis can also take on greenish or purple hues.

Today, Lapis remains a very popular stone for jewelry, as its stunning blue hues are just as attractive and desirable in contemporary jewelry creations as it was thousands of years ago. It is as easily paired with blue jeans as it is with a little black dress, lending to its unprecedented longevity as a treasured gemstone. While it is a softer stone, ranking only 5-6 on the Moh's scale, when treated with care it works wonderfully in beaded bracelets, necklaces, or cabochons.